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Internet heroes: 

Meet the app developer helping us to live in the moment

Moment app Kevin Holesh

Man of the moment, Kevin Holesh

When we talk about smartphone addiction it’s generally spoken in jocular tones. It can come in the form of a playful poke in the ribs aimed at a friend who isn’t paying attention, or a matter-of-fact comment on the last hour spent staring into a little black box. It won’t be long until we’re back, though – eyes down, face in a screen.

Don’t worry, you’re not the first to turn to your smartphone to occupy idle thumbs. Moment creator Kevin Holesh is no different, except when he realised how much time was passing him by he developed an app. Moment is a simple tracker that runs in the background, designed to log the time you spend fiddling around with apps and not much more. It won’t shut your phone off when you go past a certain number of minutes, but it will show you that number so that you’re aware of it. It can also send you notifications to remind you when you’re approaching your daily limit, but only if you want it to.

It’s this hands-off approach which makes the app such an interesting prospect. Moment is not anti-technology. It doesn’t want us to throw our smartphones into the sea, but if we happen to be sitting by the seaside it wants us to notice the waves. We caught up with Holesh to find out more;

How did you first come up with the idea for Moment?

It was when I first moved in with my then-fiance. I found us choosing staring at our iPhones instead of engaging in a conversation. My wife and I usually have iPhone free dinners now, something that didn’t exist before. I enjoy every one!

How else have you managed to cut-down your smartphone usage since developing the app?

I’ve set up better rules for myself. No iPhone in the bedroom. It stays in the office in my iPhone dock with the alarm set. Also, no iPhone before I get out of bed. That was a big problem for me.

Moment app kevin holesh

Cutting down on contact minutes is about setting new rules. No smartphone before bed, for instance.

Do you think smartphone addiction is something people genuinely worry about? Do you think it could get worse?

I think it’s something that not too many people are thinking about, but once you start noticing your own habits, you notice other people on their phones too. I have a habit now of pointing out people who are on their phones. I just saw a young Mom on her phone when her little girl was playing in Trillium Lake. Literally, the most gorgeous view ever, and she was on her phone texting instead of watching her 2 year old splash the ducks. It was sad to me.

Which apps do you personally find hardest to cut out?

I liked catching up with news on Twitter using Tweetbot. I still peruse my stream a bit too much, but it’s less frequent now.

Why did you want the app to track your movements as well as the time you spend on your smartphone?

I want people to realize where they are using their phone as well. Also, part of it is a technical limitation in the algorithm Moment uses to detect your phone use. Apple doesn’t have an easy API to tell if a person is on their phone, so I’ve had to develop one.

Moment app Kevin Holesh

After 14 days of using Moment, about 79% of people cut 20 minutes off their daily time

What have you learned from the activity of Moment’s users?

I haven’t drawn too many conclusions yet because Moment’s only been out for a few months. This is a tricky problem and it will take a long time to solve. I have seen a noticeable decline in usage after using Moment though. After 14 days of using Moment (!), about 79% of people cut 20 minutes off their daily time, going from 62 minutes to 42 minutes per day. I was super surprised about how fast it worked for some people.

What sort of feedback have you had on the app so far?

I’ve gotten a lot of parents saying “Thank you for making this. I just installed it on my kids phone and I’m working with them to lower their dependence on their screens.” That makes me smile!

Is there anything you might like to tweak or change about Moment in the future?

I have many things planned for Moment, some of the big features will be coming out in a few months. They’re secret until then, but watch this space!

For more information visit the Moment website, or download the app from iTunes. An Android version is on its way.

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