Overusing our smartphones is an ongoing concern for everyone. However, it’s often very difficult to judge whether we’re using them too much, particularly because sometimes, our usage can amount to only 30 seconds or so. If you’re interested in a way to measure how much you use your smartphone, then take a look at the Menthal app, developed by a team of scientists and psychologists from a German university. It could prompt you to change your ways.
The app came about because previous studies into smartphone usage were unreliable, as they relied on people writing down when they used their devices, which meant not everything got noted down, and times weren’t exact. The Menthal app watches everything you do, and keeps track of which apps you use the most.
Once installed, setup is simple and takes just a few moments. If you want to get the most out of the app though, it’s worth spending a few minutes completing the questionnaire, which is hidden under the settings menu. There are 20 questions, most of which are multiple choice and concentrate on your personality, outlook on life, and satisfaction with your situation.
Your answers are consolidated into the Personality section, which gives a run down on what it thinks your character traits are. It’s fun to see, and certainly in our case, surprisingly accurate. Don’t worry, the app doesn’t take your name or anything, and although it requires an email address to register, it’s otherwise anonymous.
So, this is all very well, but it doesn’t tell you if you’re addicted to your phone or not. For this, Menthal tracks which apps you use and for how long, how many calls you make and receive, and the messages you send. By looking under the Me section, the app breaks these figures down, and adds in the amount of times you unlocked and swiped the screen too. A Tops section shows how long you’ve used your favourite apps, while Time on Phone gives you a total time for each day over a 30 day period. You can also log your mood twice a day, and let the app track your location too.
All this comes together as an M Score, which summarizes all these individual pieces of data and gives you a single, easy to digest number. The higher it is, the more you’ve used your phone. The results can be fascinating. but it’s unfortunate it only keeps score for four days, with no way to see how the data compares to the week, month or year before. It’s also a shame it doesn’t quantify its results – there’s nothing to say you’re using it too much – and doesn’t compare them to averages or recommended times. This lessens Menthal’s usefulness considerably, and makes it seem like more of a distraction than a serious app.
It’s still interesting though, and it quickly becomes obvious, provided you check at the end of each day, just how much time you spend on the phone. If you’ve already got a vague idea about your usage, then three hours in a day returns a 70 out of a possible 100 M Score.
If you’re worried about any invasion of privacy, it’s possible to remove apps from Menthal’s tracking, and stop the app from keeping tabs on where you go. The less access you give it though, the less meaningful the end result will be.
Menthal is a free download for Android only at the moment, and it worked perfectly on the LG G3, although installation on a Moto G proved to be a pain but worked eventually. It’s worth a few minutes of your time if only for the personality test, but its ability to prompt you to curb any smartphone addiction is doubtful.