Mobile and Desktop Apps

Do you feel anxious when you’re not able to check your smartphone for a long period of time? Do you feel compelled to snap and share a photo of every meal? Do you find it hard to escape that cold, blue glow at night while you’re lying in bed?

If you or someone you know seriously needs to get unplugged, here are some mobile and desktop apps that can help you start your cyber cleanse, or at least snap you back to offline reality:

Digital Detox

Digital Detox Android app(Screenshots credit: Digital Detox)

Device type: Android
Price: Free

What it does: Digital Detox disables your phone for a length of time you specify, from as short as 30 minutes to as long as one month!

Once you start the detox, your phone will be locked down until the time is up, so make sure you’re ready for the commitment, because once you start a session, you can’t cancel it. The only function you can use during a detox is the emergency dialer (by pressing the call button), otherwise, the only way out of a detox is a factory reset (scary!).


Moment iOS app(Screenshots credit: Moment / App Store)

Device type: iOS (coming soon to Android)
Price: Free (with paid upgrade options)

What it does: Sets time limits for your daily usage of your phone or tablet and notifies you when you're near or over that limit. A paid upgrade lets you “force yourself” off your device so that when you’re over your allotted time an annoying buzzer goes off telling you to put your phone down and look away. 

The goal of the app is to help you achieve the perfect balance. Its slogan? “Put down your phone and get back to your life.” The developer of the app, Kevin Holesh, said he created it for himself because he found he was ignoring his family and friends in favour of his phone. He even admits that he was in denial at first of his own smartphone addiction. “I had a lot of excuses when I first realized my problem.”



Offtime app(Screenshots credit: OFFTIME / Google Play)

Device type: Android (“Light” version in development for iOS)
Price: Free for personal use, pricing plans for business use

What it does: OFFTIME is an app that lets you customize your (dis)connectivity. For a chosen period, you can choose to block calls, texts and notifications that might disturb you, but you can also make exceptions for important contacts so that they can still get through

Since going off the grid completely is not an option for most of us, this app can send out custom auto-replies to let them know when you’ll be back. It also lets you restrict access to apps that distract you the most. OFFTIME also provides analytics of your phone and app usage to help you identify your habits.


Flipd app(Screenshots credit: Flipd / Google Play)

Device type: Android
Price: Free

What it does: Flipd is a user-friendly app that helps you control the habit of excessive device use, not just for yourself but for others around you. Flipd’s website says the app is “best used by parents with distracted kids, girlfriends with attention-deficit boyfriends, and teachers with device-attached students.”

If you often find yourself talking to the back of a smartphone when you’re out with a friend, it might be time for them to get “Flipd off.” Its two-way locking feature allows you to lock your own device for 12 hours, or lock a friend’s or loved one’s without being invasive.

The app is also planning to release a reward system so that you can even pick up some perks for getting Flipd off.


Freedom app(Screenshots credit: Freedom / Google Play)

Device type: Android
Price: $5.20

What it does: Choose what service you’d like to block (phone, cell data, wifi data, Bluetooth) and how long you’d like the blocks to run. 

If you ask some people what a smartphone is without cell and wifi data, they’d probably describe it as nothing more than a brick. But the folks behind the Freedom app call it “1995 cell phone mode.”

The best part is Freedom is hard to stop. You have to wait until the timer ends so you can get back online! If that makes you feel antsy, there is a preference setting that allows you to reboot the phone and clear blocks — but you have to remember to choose this setting before starting a block.

Freedom is ideal for enforcing distraction-free work — such as writing deadlines or taxes —or offline periods of quality connection with loved ones. It’s also perfect for parents who want to let their children use a device without access to the Internet.


Anti-Social app(Screenshots credit: Anti-Social)

Device type: Desktop computer (Windows, Mac, Ubuntu)
Price: Free trial version for 5 uses, $15 for full version

What it does: Anti-Social can block those social media sites you find most distracting for a specified block of time.

Anti-Social knows that constantly refreshing your Twitter timeline, creeping your third cousin’s best friend’s sister on Facebook, and pinning those recipes (that you’ll probably never get around to trying) on Pinterest are also still big time sucks on a desktop computer.Just be warned: once you flip the switch, you can’t turn it off, so make sure you’re ready to have an actual productive work day. 

Native Features on iOS or Android devices

*Alternative options: If the idea of downloading an app to get off apps seems a little silly to you, your device may already have similar built-in functions that could help you control your obsessive digital habits. Below are a couple native features you can find on iOS or Android devices:

Do Not Disturb

Do Not Disturb on iOS(Screenshots credit: Apple Support)

Device type: iOS

What it Does: The Do Not Disturb feature on iOS devices allow you to keep collecting all your alerts, but in a quiet manner. It’s ideal for when you’re in a meeting, on a romantic date, or just need to get a good night’s sleep without having to completely turn off your iPhone, iPad, or iPod Touch.

You can turn Do Not Disturb on or off manually, or set a schedule (for example, your usual sleep times). You can also set it to accept calls from everyone, from no one, or from a list of your pre-defined favourite contacts.

Then, when you’re ready to see what you’ve missed, you can find all your alerts waiting for you on your lock screen or in Notification Center.

Priority Mode

Interruptions on Android(Screenshots credit: CNET)

Device type: Android

What it does: The Priority Mode feature on devices running Android 5.0 Lollipop silences your alerts based on settings you choose. It allows only the most important alerts or “Interruptions” to get your attention, including calls and messages from anyone on your contact list (or even non-contacts), and events and reminders.

You can also set your “downtime” for specific days and times, and to last indefinitely or for time increments ranging from 15 minutes to 8 hours.

To find out more about both digital addicts and data haters, catch the documentary Deluged by Data on Thursday at 9 p.m. on CBC.

Also on CBC