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Stay focused with these apps, grow a forest

From Morph to Unlock Clock, Lounge tried four digital well-being apps that track smartphone usage and promote healthy digital habits

Unlock clock
Unlock clock

UNLOCK CLOCK:How many times a day do you unlock your smartphone, using either fingerprint recognition, face recognition or the old-fashioned passcode? It’s a simple data point that can tell you a lot about your phone usage, and that’s just what this super-simple app from Google Creative Lab (part of its Digital Wellbeing Experiments) does.

Pros: It’s an extremely light app that doesn’t take much space or clutter up precious home screen real estate. For once it has been downloaded, you can set it as live wallpaper and see the counter go up each time you check your phone screen.

Cons: The app doesn’t seem to work well with some Android phones that have a custom user interface (UI), such as Xiaomi phones, which use an inbuilt Android-based MiUI.


MORPH: We use different apps at different times of the day or in certain settings —for instance, you might be using a number of gaming, podcast or streaming apps during your commute but once at work, you want minimum distractions, which means keeping the likes of Candy Crush at bay. Morph, another Google app, helps you customize your phone, with the relevant apps for a particular environment upfront and centre.

Pros: Cool automation. Over time, Morph learns your usage patterns and automatically switches between modes like “work", “travel" and “home". Given access to location data, it also learns how to do this based on your location.

Cons: This switches your current inbuilt launcher to the Morph launcher, changing the look and feel of your phone. Also, user reviews indicate that some people find it too easy to switch between the restricted and all-access modes, defeating the purpose.


SPACE: This is a versatile app that incorporates many of the features of other, more specific apps, such as the Unlock Clock. It tracks your screen time/phone usage and helps you recognize addiction patterns, and identify the kind of phone user you are: “boredom battler, social sticky-mitt, rabbit hole wanderer or a busy bee". It helps set goals and timers to track phone usage/screen time and number of unlocks, and tracks your progress with these goals. It has tools to exclude apps and notifications, and features like screen dimming.

Pros: It’s an all-in-one package that gives you a lot of customizable features to measure, monitor and restrict screen time.

Cons: Some good features are behind a paywall, though the free version is useful.


FOREST: This is one of the zanier apps to help you stay focused and away from your smartphone screen. It has a cute gamified timer—the theme, as you guessed from the name, is arboreal—involving staying on the app without opening anything else on the phone in order to grow trees, and, eventually, forests. The longer you go without doing so, the better your forest does. This doesn’t mean you have to keep staring at the app—you can put the phone down and as long as you don’t open any other app, your trees will continue to grow.

Pros: It’s challenging to see how long you can go without looking at your phone, and at 25 minutes at a time, this feels doable, giving you a feeling of achievement and purpose.

Cons:You have to change several settings to give the app access to advanced usage data on your phone, which might be challenging for not-so-tech-savvy users. Also, the free version has advertisements.

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