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New App Reveals Levels of Mobile Addiction

Wed 29 Jan, 2014 // Firstnumber Team
Smartphone addiction

A team of German computer scientists and psychologists from the University of Bonn have developed an app to allow people to monitor their smartphone usage and detect signs of mobile addiction.

This free Android app, called Menthal, will allow users to see how much time they spend on the phone and which apps they use the most. The app is part of a wider research project into the use of mobiles. Most studies to date have relied on users reporting their own usage, but this method of data collection is unreliable.

“If you would like to go on a digital diet, we will provide you with the scales,” says Alexander Markowetz, Assistant Professor of Computer Science at the university.

Users who download the app can agree to let their usage data be sent anonymously back to the German scientists, who are using the information to track the mobile phone usage habits of the average person.

“Menthal will provide reliable data for the first time,” says Makowetz. “This app can show in detail what someone's average mobile phone consumption per day looks like.”

In a study that has yet to be published, the researchers used Menthal to examine the phone behaviour of 50 students over a six-week period. “Some of the results were shocking,” commented Dr Christian Montag, Psychology Professor at the University of Bonn. A quarter of the study participants used their phones for more than two hours a day. On average, they activated their phones more than 80 times a day – every 12 minutes on average. For some participants, this number was twice as high. 

Although the participants only used their phones to make calls for about 8 minutes a day and sent less than 3 text messages on average, most of their time was spent using other applications. The most frequently used app was WhatsApp, accounting for roughly 15% of the daily smartphone-time of each user, followed by games with 13% and Facebook with 9%.

“We would like to know how much mobile phone use is normal, and where 'too much' starts,” Montag explained. Although not yet recognised as an official addiction, researchers have evidence that excessive use of smartphones could result in addiction-like symptoms, including neglect of daily responsibilities or social withdrawal.

Have you tried out the Menthal app? We would love to hear what you think of it.

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