Have you ever wondered which apps consume most of your time? Sure, you can assume what you use the most, but seeing exactly what you use (and how often) can be pretty telling. The best part is that finding this info is as simple as installing an app from the Play Store.
To track app usage, we’re going to use an app called Quality Time. It’s a simple app that’s easy to use and provides a lot of good information in an intuitive interface—and it’s also free. You really can’t ask for more than that.
Setting Up and Using Quality Time
To start, install Quality Time and set up and account. You can log in with Facebook if you want, otherwise just set a new account up from scratch.
Once you’re logged in, you’ll need to grant Quality Time app usage access. Tap the “Permit” button, then “Quality Time,” then toggle usage access to On. This is what allows Quality Time to track your usage patterns—without this setting, the app can’t do what it’s designed to do.
From there, Quality Time will start tracking your usage. It can’t see anything from before the app was installed (or before usage access is granted if you installed it and didn’t set it up), so you’ll start with a clean slate.
As you use your phone from now on, however, Quality Time will track your behavior. This includes how much time you spend in all your apps, how many times you open those apps, and how many times you unlocked the screen. It tracks this information on a daily and weekly basis, so on a longer timeline it gets very useful.
The layout is a little different than what you may be used to in most Android apps, but once you understand how it works, it makes Quality Time very efficient at what it does. The app opens on the Today screen, which shows all of your activity from the current day in a nice timeline format.
The breakdown here is pretty simple: tracking starts each day the first time you open your phone—so generally when your alarm goes off. The app keeps usage sorted into clusters since most of us don’t turn the display off before launching each new app, but it also tracks idle time. To get a minute-by-minute breakdown, tap on one of these clusters.
To get a bigger overall view of your day, swipe down from the Today screen. This will take you from the Today view to the Daily Usage view, which gives a quick look at which apps you’ve launched the most and how much time you’ve spent in each one. Additionally, you can swipe left to cycle through various bits of information about your app activity, like how many times you opened each app and unlocked your phone. You can also swipe through days using the section at the bottom.
If you swipe down on the screen from the Daily Usage, this will bring up the Weekly Usage view. This shows your collective usage for the week, where you can again swipe through frequencies and unlocks on the top half, as well as various weeks at the bottom.
Tapping on any single app in either the Daily or Weekly view will show you the respective details just for that app. From this view, you can swipe over one screen to the left to also see how many times you opened the app. I feel like this is information that should really just be shown on the same screen, but whatever. Again, you can swipe through days at the bottom.
Also on the Daily Usage page, you can tap on the day itself to display a usage graph. This is a pretty cool thing to see when you’re most actively using your phone. Note that the app usage chart doesn’t change here, just the line graph at the bottom.
Quality Time’s Extra Features
That’s all there is to Quality Time’s primary interface—it’s very straightforward. It does, however, have a few extra features under its sleeve, like a nifty “take a break” feature that “forces” you to put your phone down for a little while.
To access this feature, scroll all the way down to the bottom “page”—the Today view—and tap the three lines at the bottom to open the menu. From there, tap on “Take a break,” which will prompt you to set up a Quality Time Profile.
You’ll need to give your profile a name to start, then choose how much of a break you want to take by choosing to block notifications and/or calls. You can also allow certain apps to bypass the break.
NOTE: If you choose to block notifications, you’ll have to grant Quality Time notification access, and if you want to block calls, you’ll have to allow the app access to the dialer. Both options will be presented to you if you try enable either feature.
Lastly, you’ll need to define a “Early Manual Exit Penalty,” which is a sort of cooldown timer that disallows you from using your phone if you choose to end your “break” early. Quality Time is mad serious about you actually putting your phone down, you guys.
Once you’ve set your particular parameters, tap the “Create” button at the top.
NOTE: Once you create a profile, you can’t delete it without first creating a second profile. In other words, once a profile has been created, you have to keep one at all times.
With your profile set up, open the menu and tap “Take a break” to use this feature. A new screen will show up asking you how long you want the break to be (and which profile, if you have more than one). Once set, just tap the “Start” button to start your break.
At that point, your phone is borderline useless. You can still press the home button to go to the home screen, but that’s it—whenever you try to launch an app, Quality Time will take over and launch the “break” screen. Unless otherwise specified, the only app allowed to bypass this screen is the dialer. Intense.
You can, however, end your break early by tapping the X in the bottom right. You will, however, have to wait out the “Early Manual Exit Penalty” that you set earlier, so keep that in mind. And once it’s over, you’ll also be force-fed an ad. Yuck.
Otherwise, there are a few other things tucked in Quality Time’s Settings menu, like alert specifications for usage, unlocks, and even specific apps; IFTTT integration, and a Daily Recap notification (which is enabled by default).
There’s also an option to block specific apps from being tracked under Settings > Tracking. I omitted my alarm app, Timely, because I don’t need to see how long I let it alarm before snoozing it…three or four times. Every day. Seriously.
Overall, Quality Time is a nifty app that lets you quickly see how damn much you use your phone. Seriously, it’s a lot. Too much. Put it down.
Of course, it’s not the only app that does this—there’s also App Usage—but I found Quality Time to be a bit more intuitive and offer a bit more info than App Usage. Still, they’re both excellent apps, and if Quality Time isn’t doing it for you, give App Usage a shot.
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