Are Apps Causing Smartphone Addiction?

June 2, 2017 • Devin Partida


Smartphones are remarkably convenient, and they make our lives easier for sure, but is it possible they could also be making us unhealthy, too? Let’s explore smartphone addiction. Just look around the next time you’re out in public, at an event or family gathering. Pay attention to how many people are staring down at their phones, invested in the digital world instead of the real one.

People seem to have a difficult time putting their smartphones down. There are terms that even exist to back up this theory, such as phantom vibrations or screen withdrawal.

Can you be addicted to a smartphone? What about installing apps? Do they play a role in smartphone addiction?

Yes, Technology and Smartphone Addiction Is Real

Adam Alter, the author of a renowned addiction book called Irresistible: The Rise of Addictive Technology and the Business of Keeping Us Hooked agrees that addiction to technology is real, and most of us actually suffer from it.

Over “75% of people say they can reach their phone, [for 24-hours a day] without ever having to move their feet.”

Alter claims the average person — we’re looking at you — spends at least 3 hours and 42 minutes per day staring at a screen. It doesn’t take a genius to see that number is rising. This can be attributed to smartphones, tablets, laptops, computers, TVs, game consoles and so much more. We even have a display embedded in the dash of our vehicles now.

Worse yet, Alter says most people underestimate how much time they actually spend on their device. If you want to know, truly, there are apps you can install on your phone to track your usage stats.

Half of all smartphone users check their phone several times an hour, some even more frequently. Even more alarming, 50% of teens say they’re addicted to their smartphones. Of course, that doesn’t mean the teens are actually addicted in medical terms, but they feel an obligation to their devices, and that’s still important.

Apps can be a problem, too.

As of March 2017, there are over 2.8 million apps available in Google Play, and 2.2 million apps in the Apple App Store. The average person probably never even sees half those apps or knows what they do.

Still, the app market continues to grow and more services are made available.

App Fatigue Is Real, Too

Remember that old ad, “there’s an app for that?” You probably have because it’s true. There is an app available for just about everything from ordering flowers and food to keeping a personal journal. There are hundreds of calculator and flashlight apps, which turn your phone into a flashlight thanks to the camera flash. Then there are games, launchers, media streaming apps and much more.

The list is endless, if only because so many more apps keep launching each and every day. And there are so many that it is creating something called “app fatigue” among consumers. What’s even more surprising? Most users don’t even open the apps they have installed on their phone, let alone new ones they download.

Up to 77% of users never open an app again 72 hours after installing it on their device. A month later, 90% of those users have stopped using the app completely, and at the 90-day mark less than 5% continue using the app.

New apps aren’t providing enough value to stick around, and old apps aren’t adding enough value or content to return. App fatigue is happening, maybe even at a faster rate than the apps can be created.

How Can I Fight Smartphone Addiction?

Now that you know both smartphone addiction and app fatigue are real, it’s time to do what you can to combat both problems.

For starters, sort through the apps you have installed on your device and remove the ones you don’t use daily or rely on. If you haven’t touched it in weeks or months, get rid of it. Make a push to actively reduce the amount of time you spend on your phone and other devices, at least when it comes to entertainment.

Make a point to check your phone only once or twice in an hour instead of multiple times. Try to stick to a schedule where you only use your phone for a certain amount of time. For example, allow yourself an hour to browse social media and newsfeeds after you get home from work, and then stop there.

Larry Rosen, a psychology professor at California State University, says most of the anxiety we feel from not interacting with our phones or devices is “self-induced” and can be avoided.

When you’re doing something else, put your phone on silent. Most smartphones include a unique sound profile that allows the phone to still go off if it’s an emergency, and you can specify what is and isn’t an emergency alert. Take advantage of this. Keep your phone quiet so it doesn’t distract you when you are taking a break.

If you have to, place your phone out of reach somewhere you cannot see or hear it. You can always get up to check it at certain intervals for updates and notifications if you must.

The key takeaway here is that you should do anything and everything you can to actively reduce screen and device time, especially if you feel “addicted” in some way.

As for app fatigue, cut down on the number of apps you use and refrain from downloading or installing new ones unless it is absolutely called for.