Get your nose out of your phone with these simple tools
While smartphone apps are certainly as popular as ever, there’s also a revolt brewing against these attention-grabbing, notification-slinging programs. People are tired of being tied to their handsets and falling down the rabbit hole of their touchscreen every time an alert dings.
Don’t believe me? Just look at the Apple Watch, an entirely new product put out by the world’s biggest smartphone manufacturer, that’s main goal is to keep us from using (yet also keep us tethered to) our iPhones. But you don’t need a 21st century calculator watch to escape the tractor beam pulling your eyes to your phone. These six apps will help you cut back on your screen time, while making you more productive than ever.
Hooks: What do you look for when you fall into the Internet? Do you drift over to Twitter to see what someone’s most recent tweet was? Do you check your team’s score, or even look to see when your favorite band is coming to town? Instead of chasing all those things down, just set up Hooks to do it once, and the app will reward you with timely alerts when the moment has arrived.
The free, iPhone-only app makes sure you’re on top of your game — whatever game that may be — by notifying you whenever the prompt of your choice gets triggered. That means never having to look up lottery numbers or forgetting Game of Thrones is about to start. Oh, and if you’re a weather-watcher, Hooks can probably tell you when winter is coming, too.
Do Button: Even with smartphones, sometimes it’s unnecessarily hard to do easy things. For instance, if you’ve got a connected lightbulb, you have to swipe, tap to open the app, tap to access the bulb, then tap to turn it on or off. Do Button, a free Android and iOS app made by IFTTT, cuts those steps down to just one. Tap the app, and you’ve got a simple, programmable button staring you in the face, ready to do your bidding, whether it’s turning on your WeMo plugged in device, setting your Nest thermostat to a predetermined temperature, or tracking your work hours on a Google spreadsheet. A little tap goes a long way.
Launcher: Swipe down on your iPhone’s home screen, and be prepared to never look at your smartphone the same way again. The drawer that comes down from the top of the display is your notification panel, and if you optimize it, you can cut down your app usage considerably. Launcher helps you do this by placing tappable shortcuts right on the notification panel.
Just place the functions that you perform most frequently here (call your husband, email your boss, get directions home), and tapping on the tiles Launcher creates will springboard you into action. The app is free, but a paid version provides a lot more functionality, from changing icon sizes to letting you put more of them on the panel.
Overboard: Whether it’s tapping on weather, then the news, then your Twitter — or a another routine entirely — there’s no reason, in this age of customization, to go from app-to-app to gather all your vitals. Overboard, a personable dashboard of pertinent information, lets you pull all your most current information together in one easy to read place.
A great app for media mavens, you can check everything from the top trending stories on BuzzFeed and The New York Times without tempting yourself with one of the publications’ other articles. Social media fans will appreciate being able to monitor their follower count on Twitter and Instagram without loading those apps. And with a clean interface, the $.99 app keeps it simple and distraction free, which is worth the price of admission.
Magic: Anything you desire, delivered on demand — that’s not an app, that’s practically magic. But there’s no genie in the bottle with this free (to use) service that’s so incredible you already have it on your phone without knowing it. Just text what you want to the number 83489, and as long as it’s not illegal, the operators manning the line will work on getting it for you, 24 hours per day, seven days a week.
Available anywhere in the U.S., the service will source whatever you ask for — a pizza, a hotel reservation, a new car — and set up payment via a secure web link (powered by payment processor Stripe), quoting a price to complete the purchase, with tip included, before sealing the deal. The service uses the likes of DoorDash, Instacart, and Postmates to fulfill your orders, but in figuring out all the logistics for you, you’ll never even have to open those apps (or even sign up for them, necessarily). Now that’s quite a trick.
Clara: Technically speaking, Clara isn’t an app. She’s an assistant, powered by artificial intelligence, but since she exists solely in your email, she’s fair game for this roundup. Just enter your customizable Clara email address into the CC: field of one of your email exchanges, and she can coordinate between the parties in the message to set up a meeting on your calendar. Automatically responding to emails within an hour, the platform-agnostic service will correspond with your contacts, determining the best time for everyone, and then put the event on your calendar. Between $119 and $399 per month, her services don’t exactly come cheap, but hey, that’s the cost of convenience. On the bright side, she works 24 hours a day, seven days a week — which breaks down to a very low hourly rate.