Looking to become more conscious of your digital activity and intentional about how you use your devices? Step into the world of app usage tackers. Beyond showing you how long you spend on your computer and phone, app usage trackers can help you qualify your digital time. They provide an illuminating picture of what's dominating your attention—from time on email and websites, to social media apps—to help you manage it more effectively.
Do you need an app usage tracker?
Without our phones or laptops, many of us feel lonely, lost, disconnected—and even mentally exhausted. It opens us to a world of incessant social sharing, communication and entertainment. The effects of social media on our mental health are already well documented, but these stats offer an eye-watering snapshot of our broader digital behaviors:
- 85% of people admit they have no problem using their phones while spending time with friends or family
- The average American scrolls through 300 feet of mobile content every day - the equivalent to the size of the Statue of Liberty
- Although 60% of Americans think they touch their phone 100 times or less per day, the reality is that a typical user taps, touches, or swipes their phone a staggering 2,617 times per day
- 41 % of Gen-Zs stated that social media platforms make them feel anxious, sad or depressed
We all need to be more mindful of our relationship with tech—especially where our attachment is erring on the side of unhealthy dependence. Capturing the time you actually spend on different digital activities using an app usage tracker is essential for building greater digital self-awareness. Ultimately, by being more conscious of how you use your devices, you can become more intentional about how you do and don’t want to use them.
Our favorite app usage trackers
There are a variety of app usage trackers out there—both to cover the diversity of operating systems and devices, as well as the level of detail you're interested in. Some focus only on reporting on your digital time, while others provide tools to act upon your data. Here's our pick of the best app usage trackers across the spectrum to help you access the insights you're looking for.
iOS’ Screen Time is a well-known feature found alongside Notifications and Do Not Disturb in your Settings menu. It tracks exactly how you use your device, providing a high-level evaluation of the time you spend on it in a single day, as well as a more detailed look at time spent in certain categories or apps. But we wouldn't recommend using its Mac counterpart on Catalina right now, which can't distinguish between active and inactive app usage...
This usage tracker sets daily limits on your app intake and sends you automatic notifications when those limits are exceeded. Take it one step further by enabling repetitive alarms whenever screen time is fully exceeded. Aside from alerting you to your behavior, this app also tries to help you actively address it: its daily ‘Moment Coach’ exercises teach you how to be more mindful when using your devices.
Released in 2018, Digital Wellbeing offers a bundle of clever tools to place limits on when and how you use your Android device, helping you to strike a positive balance between your digital and physical worlds. Similar to Screen Time, the tool picks provides insight on how much time you spend on different apps, like Spotify, YouTube and Whatsapp. Obviously, this tracker’s effectiveness depends on how open you are to actually policing your phone habits once they’ve been identified.
With over 1 million downloads, it’s easy to see why Quality Time is so popular. An intuitive, clean layout shows your digital actions in chronological order, totalling up individual app utilization as well as device use frequency. You can up the ante with a more judicious approach, too – setting up pop-ups for when you’ve been on Instagram too long, muting notifications or blocking apps when you’re at work.
When it comes to the time you spend on your laptop—both in web and desktop apps—Timely has your back. Offering a native experience for both Windows and Mac users, Timely automatically records all the active time you spend across web and desktop to a secure, private timeline. Websites, emails, meetings, Slack messages, documents, video calls – everything is captured for you. It’s especially handy for understanding how you work, since you can see exactly where your day goes, how long different tasks take, where you get distracted and where you’re most productive. With slick planning features, you can then feed this information directly into your schedule to create a more rewarding and focused week.
Dewo - Mac, Windows, Web
Using the same automatic time tracking technology as Timely, Dewo is an app for taking back control of your thinking space. Aside from being able to automatically schedule meetings and block distracting apps to protect space for uninterrupted deep work, Dewo helps to surface your unconscious work behaviors. It shows you exactly how long you spend in different app groups—from time on email and chat, to design work, writing and coding. Dewo also maps how often you move between apps to help you address unhealthy context switching habits.