How time spent in apps can give you back time in real life

With three hours a day on average worldwide spent in apps, it’s no wonder that our smartphones have become intrinsic to our everyday lives. With the multitude of apps available, our smartphones are overwhelmingly personal – glancing at a few pages of someone’s chosen apps provides a uniquely intimate snapshot into their daily life and personal interests. From mobile banking and retail shopping apps, to Google docs, social messaging and publisher apps, our smartphone is the primary platform for expediting an ongoing list of needs.

However, there’s a healthy rise in awareness of our relationship with technology today and how we’re benefitting from its use. Whether its apps that temporarily disable your phone, for the friends with a FOMO-driven itch to scroll, or the trend of gray-scaling your phone for easily distracted users, there’s a move towards people trying to regain control of their smartphone habits. In fact, to quote Samsung’s VP Mobile and IT (UK/Ireland) Conor Pierce “phone should be slaves, not masters… When your smartphone becomes your remote control or your concierge, knowing where you are, what you want when you walk up to your house, for instance, you can create a very different world”. The smartphone app has become one of the most impactful accessible tools in everyday life, but it’s up to the user to design its impact.

We’re experimenting with apps more than ever before, but the plethora of apps available on the app store can be overwhelming. The number of apps on the app store available across Google Play and the iOS app store reaching more than 6 million, meaning discoverability is an issue for both users and publishers. However, it hasn’t put people off searching and experimenting with apps.  In Q1 2018, global iOS and Google Play combined downloads grew more than 10% year-over-year to 27.5 billion – the highest of any quarter.

Spending your time purely on social media and killing time on Candy Crush is absolutely fine - if that’s what you love. But, with today’s choice of apps and the sophisticated technology of today’s smartphones, it’s like owning a Ferrari and just driving it to the supermarket every week. Your phone can quite simply put convenience into your pocket. Here are a few apps I like to use to personalise my life:

Managing money

  • Everyday banking: Most retail banks have their own apps, which means you can do everything from check your balance, transfer money, make payments and more on the go, securely. Features like facial recognition and mobile account opening means that banking apps are more popular than ever. With the rise in consumer choice, from product to banks, apps like HSBC’s new banking app offers to show your bank accounts, credit cards, mortgages and loans from 21 different banks in one place.
  • Getting the best rates abroad: Mobile-first UK challenger banks are changing the way we use money, with apps like Revolut allowing users to spend money free of charge abroad, offers the best exchange rates
  • Kids pocket money: apps like GoHenry allow for automatic pocket money transfers to your child’s cash card and the funds are unlocked after certain tasks are complete.

Staying focused and organised

  • Staying focused: The ForestApp is similar to FocusList, because you can also set it to work with the Pomodoro technique. Forest differs slightly in that it encourages you to stop ‘phubbing’ around on your phone. You set a timer (e.g. 25 minutes as per the Pomodoro system), lay your phone down and, during that time, you can’t check messages, answer calls or browse the mobile web or apps. If you stick to your task without getting distracted by your phone, you grow a tree. If you fail, the tree dies. The point of the app is to build a forest of trees and look back later to see how productive you’ve been over the weeks
  • Organising thoughts, key points and plans: Imagine if you had a second brain, stored in the cloud, that you could remotely access and organise at anytime, anywhere. Well, enter Evernote. Evernote, app with an already loyal fanbase, likes to refer to itself as your ‘second brain’ – a space to capture, organize, and share notes from anywhere. “Your best ideas are always with you and always in sync.” A step up from the native notes app on your phone, Evernote enhances your notes with links, checklists, tables, attachments, and audio recordings. Even handwritten notes are searchable.

Self-improvement on the move

  • Learning a lot in a little time! If you’re short of time to read, or even listen, to full books, but still hungry for knowledge on the go, then Blinkist is where to go. The app provides access to key insights from over 2000 bestselling nonfiction books, transformed into powerful packs you can read or listen to in 15 minutes. Perfect for reviving the deadtime of the commute
  • Learning new, good, habits: The Habitica app lets you treat your life as a game to keep you motivated while accomplishing goals. You can simply go ahead and enter your daily goals, to-do lists, habits, create your avatar and you’re good to go. Your avatar level will go up as you go on to complete your goals and tasks. You will also unlock various features like pets, armor, skills and quests, which you can use to compete with other people. Pretty cool, right? Habitica makes you work as well as keeping track of your habits fun.

Staying healthy – body and mind

  • Running: If you find that you set out on a run with the best intentions but lose the will to live after less than a mile, or just want to make the time you have work better for you, a fun app to keep you motivated is Zombies Run. The app sends virtual zombies after you while you run, promoting you in your ear if they get closer, to keep you running as fast and as far away from them as possible.
  • “Hustle more mindfully”: Shine aims to destress and keep calm. Shine’s first product — Shine Text — is simple. You sign up by submitting your name and mobile phone number, after which you receive a message each day of the week (excluding weekends) that may include articles, quotes, and actions you can take to improve your mental wellbeing.
  • In a fast-paced and always-on world, it pays to train yourself to be more centred. The Calm and Headspace apps have helped raise awareness of the benefits of mindfulness and made meditation mainstream. It’s okay to spend 15 minutes doing nothing, providing you keep your thumb in check.
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