Over the past year, I have looked at a couple of apps intended for helping with using your and your kids’ Android devices less (QualityTime and DinnerTime Plus) and spending more time with family and friends etc. Novel concept, right? Spending time with family.
More apps that cater to the screen cutting crowd (as compared to the cord cutting crowd) have started to appear and as a result, this particular segment does deserve some attention. Just this past week, I was made aware of an app in this same category that I had not yet seen, an app that launched earlier this year for our dear Android devices. Introducing Flipd.
The concept of Flipd is simple: you can keep focused on whatever it is that you really need to do (no, that might not be Facebook, Instagram or any other social media platform….I know, shocking…) by locking yourself out of your phone, essentially. As the developer says, it’s time to flip off. Flipping off your device could involve setting aside time for your kids homework to make sure they actually do it. Perhaps “freezing” your phone while you are at work so you keep working instead of being tempted to post an unflattering photo of a co-worker. Maybe just making sure you go to bed at an appropriate hour and don’t stay up all night?
Flipd centers around flipping either yourself or others off. Flipping off yourself is as simple as tapping the “Flip OFF” button on the main screen of the app and then setting the time limit you want to impose on yourself (max 12 hours). Then you go for it.
Before and during you flip off.
Once flipped off, there is very little you can do. Your digital life becomes refreshingly simple (or possibly frustrating, depending on how hooked you are). You can make emergency calls to a few contracts you designate as such (911 included). You can turn on auto SMS responses that are directed at those that try to contact you. You can turn sounds on and off. Finally, you can unlock yourself for 60 seconds should something urgent come up during your time off that you need to handle (no, Facebook is most likely not considered urgent).
Who you can call while flipped off and the canned auto-responses.
To flip off others, the general idea is the same but in order to do so, you first have to create a group and invite the others to join. When creating a group you set an expiration date as well, at which time the group will dissolve. Once your victims…err, friends have joined your group, you can at the flip of a switch lock all members of the group from using their device for the timeframe you dictate and they are left with the functionality noted above.
Once you join a group, there is no way out unless the creator of the group has mercy on you and deletes you from the group. The only option at this point, one would imagine, would be to uninstall the app but alas, since the app ties into the administrator mode of your device when the app is in group mode, you can’t even do this (I tried) once you have joined a group.
All of this is tied to an app login, either Google Plus or Facebook. If you have multiple Google accounts on your phone, you can pick which one it is you want to tie to Flipd. It should be noted that deleting an account through device settings won’t log you out of the app and thereby bypassing the security features (I tried)…which does make sense. It would defeat the purpose of the app.
Flipd also takes a stab at using gamification to reward you for your flipped off time. One aspect of this is the hour counter that lets you see how well you are doing while the other is a series of offers that are shown on the screen after completing a session. Advertising, basically, but with immediate rewards.
Rewards for flipping off? Also, the main menu.
I do have a few gripes about the implementation of all of this, primarily with how the app is associated with an account as opposed to a device. For example, I have multiple devices that I would like to try this on, for various people. Since they are all within the family, I would not want to use a separate login for each…it would defeat the point of being able to buy an app once and load on multiple devices with the same login for my kids. Currently, if I wanted to create a group for kids, I would need one login per device used. To me, this decreases the usability of the app for my particular scenario although I can see this being less of an issue with teenagers and up.
Also, the “rewards” feel obligatory as opposed to rewarding when you look at it from the perspective of using the app just for yourself. The whole point of gamification is to feel some sort of accomplishment, to have some sort of reward, to motivate you to continue. Sure, I can stare at 345hrs of flipped off time within the app but if I can’t compare that through some online scoreboard of some sort, to me it is not much of a motivator and I can’t really tell how accomplished I am (except compared to how I used to use my phone myself). Tie it into Google’s Play Games so you can see how well you are doing against the rest of the world, then suddenly there is a whole other dimension of motivation.
The ad offers also fall a bit flat. What I have seen so far has not been worth the time to even add an email address to and is not something that would motivate me to continue using the app. Of course, that does not mean the offers are bad, it just means that they have not appealed to me personally.
Flipd suffers from the same problem any app like this does, including the excellent QualityTime app reviewed previously on Android Parent. On your own, it is only as good as your determination to actually put your phone down and willingly disconnect. The group feature I can see being very useful in certain contexts, whether it be study groups or work settings where people take it upon themselves to be more productive (assuming that the admin is not an evil jerk that starts flipping you off randomly). This, I feel, is really the strength of Flipd: collectively focus on getting things done, without interruptions. The individual aspect to me needs a little bit of fine tuning.
Having said that, in a society where everyone from teens to the elderly can be glued to their devices, where texting takes the place of conversation and Facebook takes the place of calling or visiting family, I think we all need to flip off our devices every now and then. We work eight hours a day, sometimes more by taking our phones home and answering emails all night. How often do people check theirs phones on a daily basis? How many minutes are wasted? Quite a few. I see it every day. How about family time? How often do kids and parents end up sitting there, all on their devices, not interacting with each other? Trips: we could be having conversations in the car, instead we are glued to our devices. Flipd may be a bit rough around the edges but if you commit with your friends, family or co-workers to just turn your attention to what is more important, Flipd will do that for you and does it well while also making it hard to skip out on your commitments.
Now…flip off for a bit, spend time with your kids!