Beyond showing how long you spend on your devices, app usage trackers can help you qualify your digital time. They provide an illuminating picture of where your time is really going – from time spent in work and social apps, to the websites you visit – to help you manage it effectively.
It's all about being conscious of your digital activity and becoming more intentional about how you use your devices. Here's our pick of the best app usage trackers across the device spectrum to help you get there.
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 in particular on our mental health are already well documented, but these stats offer a snapshot of our digital connection more generally:
- 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 digital tools – especially where our attachment is erring on the side of “unhealthy”. Tracking the time you spend on your devices is a central means to 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.
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 private timeline. Websites, emails, meetings, tools, 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. Essential if you bill work by the hour, too!