TECHNOLOGY
11/05/2014 07:43 EST | Updated 11/05/2014 07:59 EST

These Apps Help You Realize How Much Time You Waste On Your Phone

AP

How many times a day do you check your smartphone? A dozen? Fifty? As several new apps on the market will tell you, the number is probably much higher than what you guessed.

Moment tracks how many minutes you spend on your phone each day, along with how many times you unlock it. You can set your own limit on phone usage, and the $4.99 iPhone app will send you a notification when you've reached the threshold.

Kevin Holesh, a 25-year-old iOS developer, launched the app in June after realizing he was eating up time scrolling through Twitter on his phone.

“Right away, I noticed that I was way off in my own estimation,” Holesh said. He estimated he was spending 45 or 55 minutes a day on his phone, and his fiancee thought her use was around 60 minutes. They both ended up clocking in around double those numbers, he said.

“There’s a perception when you’re using your phone that time goes by fairly quickly,” he said. “You can easily burn 15 minutes on Twitter and have it feel like five.” Using the beta version of Moment, Holesh was able to cut his daily use back to around 60 minutes a day on weekdays and 10 minutes a day on weekends -- a number he said he’s happy with as someone who uses his phone for work.

According to data from Nielsen, adults in the U.S. spent an average of more than 30 hours a month on their phones at the end of 2013. That figure was up from 18 hours a month at the end of 2011. Some people, like Holesh, spend longer stretches of time on their phones, and others unlock their phones hundreds of times a day to quickly check texts, Facebook or email.

If you want to get a one-number read on how many times a day you check your phone, a free, simple app called Checky, for iPhone and Android, can tell you how many times a day you unlock your device.

The app’s creator, Alex Tew, also runs Calm, a free guided-meditation app that is advertised on Checky. Tew, 30, said that when he first launched Checky in mid-September, he unlocked his phone 180 times one day. Now he tries to stay under 100.

Checky allows users to share their scores on social media, and Tew noticed a few scores well over 200.

“That’s pretty insane,” Tew said. “That’s every couple of minutes. People are really addicted.”

Checky also tracks the locations where you check your phone -- which can be a wake up call for some people. Dr. Larry Rosen, a psychology professor at California State University, Dominguez Hills, who studies people’s attachment to technology, uses Checky to monitor his own behavior.

“I’m blown away when at noon it tells me I’ve already checked my phone 73 times,” Rosen said. “It shows on a map where you check your phone, and even though I know better than this, I checked multiple times when I was on the freeway.”

Another free app called Menthal shows Android users their “information weight,” a summation of their phone use that is charted against other users’ scores. Methal, which was designed by a team of German researchers at the University of Bonn, will also tell you how often you unlock your phone, open apps like Facebook and receive calls, among other metrics.

It may seem silly to add an app to free up time for interacting with the real world. Do you really need to check your phone to see how often you’re checking your phone? Holesh said friends were skeptical at first.

“Until I explained it a little bit, people were like, ‘Wait, so I install this app and it helps me use my phone less? That sounds really stupid,’” he said. “But I designed Moment to be as invisible as possible.” Once you set your daily limit on Moment, it works in the background so you don’t need to open it -- you’ll just get a notification if you hit your limit.

Becoming aware of just how much your use your smartphone is the first step towards making a change, Tew said.

“I definitely reduced my own usage,” he said. “Just by having a statistic, it allows you to make a change.”