Actually, the principle behind screen time apps is absurd: they want to get rid of the ghosts that society called up with digitization. At least a bit. And of all things with an app. Anyone who measures their screen time and then guiltily acknowledges that they spend too much time on social media apps and games has to admit that they have at least caved in once. Because the easiest method would be to simply put the smartphone down. Screen time is the nicotine patch of the digital world, so to speak. The attempt at gradual weaning.
Apple itself has been offering a screen time function integrated into the system for five years. The iPhone manufacturer is thus taking into account the fact that young people in particular are spending hours in front of the device every day. Since iOS 12, graphics and numbers can be viewed in the settings. If you want to discipline yourself or your own offspring, you can set time-outs and limit individual apps and app types. But the truth also belongs: The screen time in iOS is very reserved, apart from the locks – actually far too subtle to see the necessary raised index finger at the moment of excessive smartphone use.
A spicier version
The Berlin developer Perjan Duro has now programmed a sharper variant. The name “Screen Time Realtime” already promises the big difference to the system solution: Users are shown the running clock in real time and how often a certain app was called up that day. The effect on digital well-being is, is our interim conclusion after a few weeks, a completely different one – not to say: we are plagued by the guilty conscience of having opened X (formerly Twitter), Facebook, Instagram and Co. so often. We hardly pay any attention to the statistics in the app, the real-time effect is much stronger.
For the display, Duro uses the Dynamic Island, the display recess in the iPhone 14 Pro (Max) that houses the camera and sensors. Apple lets them look like an extra display via software. “Realtime screen time” shows the time of the current session in the respective app. On devices without Dynamic Island, the time is displayed in the form of a notification at the top of the screen.
Reached deep into the bag of tricks
In order for a third-party app to be able to measure screen time at all, the developer had to dig deep into Apple’s bag of tricks. Usage data about app use is actually taboo under Apple’s data protection rules. Therefore, the user’s own commitment is required: Using the automation app shortcuts, workflows must be set up for each individual tracked app: once for opening and once for closing. The setup is easy after the second app at the latest, but is tedious overall and ensures that newly installed apps or those that have not yet been tracked do not initially land on the app’s radar. Also, the developer only offers a limited catalog of app names. However, you can request the addition of more by e-mail.
The app can measure across devices via iCloud. However, the manual setup process must be gone through on each individual device for each individual app.
Unlike the factory screen time, the app also costs something. The prices range between 1.99 euros per month and 9.99 euros per year. If you are sure that you will use the app in the long term, you can get it for just under 50 euros for life. For all the usefulness of the app, simply putting your smartphone aside is still the cheapest option for maintaining digital well-being.
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