Ironically, Apple's Latest App Keeps You Off Your Phone

Ironically, Apple's Latest App Keeps You Off Your Phone

Ironically, Apple's Latest App Keeps You Off Your Phone

  By Justin Biel, trends editor at Grow Wire

In short:

  • Apple has unveiled a new app called Screen Time that helps users track and control how much time they spend on their phones.
  • The app addresses a major wellbeing concern: During their nearly six hours of screen time per day, American adults see tens of thousands of messages. 
  • Whittling down screen time is the key to boosted productivity, especially if you use that newfound time for "deep work."

On Monday, at Apple’s annual World Wide Developers Conference (WWDC) in San Jose, Apple CEO Tim Cook previewed some new software features including an app called Screen Time which helps users track phone usage.

According to Apple, Screen Time’s goal is to empower users by showing them how they’re spending time on their iPhones and iPads.

This may sound counterintuitive: Apple created an app to limit the use of its best-selling product. But as Apple is stronger than ever -- the company is nearing a $1 trillion valuation -- it’s refreshing to see the tech giant prioritizing consumers’ wellbeing.

What does the Screen Time app do?

Screen Time tracks the time you spend on individual apps, as well as websites. You can see detailed daily and weekly snapshots of your phone habits in the app.

(Credit: Apple)

You can also use Screen Time to set limits on app usage: Set a time limit on Facebook for the week, and Screen Time will block the app once you’ve hit your limit. (Of course, you can re-open Facebook by unlocking it or adding more browsing time if you want.)

It also allows parents to manage their kids’ phone use. Parents can view an Activity Report on their personal device that shows where their kids spend time on their own phones. The app also lets parents set limits for their kids, blocking certain apps at certain times.

Phone users are inundated with messages… and worried about it.

Apple’s new control features come at the right time. U.S. adults log 5.9 hours of screen time per day, per Mary Meeker’s recent Internet Trends report. Plus, the number of “mobile addicts” -- defined as those who launch apps more than 60 times per day -- is on the rise.

Most of us have experienced the messaging overload firsthand. Surveys show that consumers see somewhere between 4,000 and 10,000 ads daily. Even on social networks like Facebook and Instagram, ads now play a prominent role. Phone users around the world send more than 18 billion text messages per day, 45 percent of which come from the U.S. And globally, we send a daily total of 269 billion emails. The average office worker receives 121 of those emails and sends out 40.

Even the "tech elite" (i.e. Facebook execs) are worried about technology addiction. Specifically, they realize the online “likes” system, like the ones on Facebook and Instagram, create a social-validation feedback loop that can be difficult for people to resist and mentally harmful if they don’t.

Clearly, tech users need strategies to cope with this world of distractions and notifications. Apps like Screen Time are a step in the right direction. There are plenty of other apps beyond Apple’s, such as Escape and Rescue Time, that can help you remain focused on life beyond the screen.

Here’s a more productive way to spend your time.

Once the myriad messages are cleared, you can boost your productivity by setting a schedule for deep work. Deep work is a strategy by which you set undistracted hours aside to focus on your most challenging cognitive tasks like complex thinking, creative projects, and development of new ideas.

Georgetown professor and author Cal Newport details how to create a deep work schedule in his book “Deep Work: Rules For Focused Success In A Distracted World.” Newport suggests blocking time in your calendar to focus exclusively on tough tasks, designing a work environment that promotes deep concentration, and making space for more uninterrupted chunks of time in your day. He even goes so far as to recommend quitting social media altogether.

Newport is likely onto something: a recent New York Times article cites open-office plans harm our ability to concentrate, and creative individuals do their best work alone.

Limiting your time on the screen is hard to do, especially when the rest of the world appears to stay plugged-in. But step away, and you just might meet the most creative version of yourself.

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