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HindustanTimes Sat,26 Jul 2014

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New app to track how much time you spend on your smartphone every day
PTI
Berlin, January 28, 2014
First Published: 16:40 IST(28/1/2014)
Last Updated: 01:58 IST(29/1/2014)

Obsessed with your smartphone? A newapp can tell!

A new app that allows people to measure their smartphone use has been developed.

The app, called Menthal, has also shown that the average users activate their phones every 12 minutes.

Researchers from the University of Bonn in Germany developed the app to help users see how much time they spend on the phone or which apps they use most frequently.

"If you would like to go on a digital diet, we will provide you with the scales," said Alexander Markowetz, junior professor for computer science at the University of Bonn.

The app is part of a larger research project regarding the use of cellphones. Most studies have so far relied on user self-assessments for this purpose. But that information is unreliable, researchers said.

"Menthal will provide reliable data for the first time. This app can show us in detail what someone's average cellphone consumption per day looks like," Markowetz said.

In a study, researchers used Menthal to examine the phone behaviour of 50 students over a period of six weeks.

A quarter of the study subjects used their phones for more than two hours a day. On average, study participants activated their phones more than 80 times a day - during the day, every 12 minutes on average. For some subjects, the results were even twice as high.

Typical users only spoke on their phones for eight minutes a day, and they wrote 2.8 text messages. And yet, the main use of phones was still for communication: over half of the time, the subjects were using Messenger or spending time on social networks.

What's App alone took up 15%, Facebook 9%. Games accounted for 13%, with some subjects gaming for several hours a day, researchers said.

"We would like to know how much cell phone use is normal, and where 'too much' starts," said Dr Christian Montag at the University of Bonn.

Montag explained that excessive smartphone use might result in neglecting essential daily responsibilities or one's direct social environment.

"Outright withdrawal symptoms can actually occur when cellphones cannot be used," he said.

Researchers also believe monitoring a person's cell phone use may help in early detection of depression.

Depression is signalled by social withdrawal and an inability to enjoy activities, among other symptoms.

"We suspect that during a depressive phase, cellphone use will change in a measurable way," said Dr Thomas Schlapfer, a psychiatrist from The University Hospital Bonn.

"Patients will then make fewer phone calls and venture outside less frequently - a change in behaviour that smartphones can also record thanks to their built-in GPS," Schlapfer said.


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