In a Catch-22, This App Rewards People for Setting Down Their Phones

Former Staff Writer
2 min read

Call it a Catch-22: Smartphones are both a key source of addiction in our rampant mobile era and also -- hopes a trio of Singaporean app developers -- a solution to the problem.

To curb excessive use, the team has devised an app called Apple Tree, one that encourages friends to engage with one another instead of with their phones. Once the app is activated, users are prompted to touch their cell phones together, whereupon apples begin to grow from trees onscreen, reports Channel News Asia. The trees only proliferate, however, when other apps aren’t in use, thereby encouraging users to savor face-to-face interaction.

In our uber-connected world, why would anyone do this? Well, there’s a tangible payoff. Harvested "apples" can be redeemed for various rewards, such as discounts. Less phone usage yields a greater reward.

Related: Soon, Almost Everyone Over the Age of 6 Will Have a Mobile Phone: Report

The team was selected as the winner of a competition themed "Bringing Singaporeans Closer Together" and ended up taking home the top cash prize of $30,000. The prize money will fund the app’s development and launch early next year, when Singapore will host a national celebration in honor of its 50th anniversary of independence.

One of Apple Tree’s creators, Libern Lin, told Channel News Asia that the idea for the app came when he and his friends collectively decided to put aside their phones one day while spending time together.

Other mobile addicts, however, have resorted to more drastic measures. This Google employee, for instance, reimagined his entire iPhone home screen to make it “distraction-free,” and this theme park in China recently implemented a separate walkway for phone-addicted pedestrians. Furthermore, to stave off distractions at work, tech researcher Fred Stutzman created a software system entitled Freedom that prevents users from going online for predestined periods of time.

Related: This Major Hotel Chain Now Lets You Access Your Room by Smartphone

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