Mike's NBC-TV stories

Screen time management apps

If you or someone you know always seems to be wishing there were more hours in a day, you might want to look at smartphone usage.

That’s because a few – or a lot – of wasted minutes can add up, and cut into productivity. But by putting some special apps to work, however, can help you stay on track.

Offtime is a comprehensive app that monitors and controls your smartphone use. Set it up to block specific social media or game apps, or set it to tailored modes, such as “work time” or “family time.” Check out an analysis of your phone and app usage to clearly see if you need to adjust usage. The Offtime app is $2.99 for iOS and Android.

Flipd takes a more aggressive approach to breaking smartphone use. Users lock their phones for a set period of time and that’s it – there is no way to use the device for the time period set. Even shutting the device off and turning it back on won’t allow access. Flipd also can be shut down remotely, say if parents want to control kids’ use of apps. Flipd is free for iOS and Android with premium features available for additional cost.

The app called Forest uses more of a game-like approach. You plant virtual tree seeds that grow over time – as long as the app stays open. Leave the app to use others, and trees planted in the Forest app start to wither. Keep the app open for the longest possible time to earn additional trees and grow your own digital forest. The idea is to use incentives to stay on track. The app is $1.99 for iOS and Android, and 99 cents for Windows Phone.

Mike is a veteran journalist whose video "PC Mike" reports have been distributed weekly to all 215 NBC-TV stations since 1994, making him one of the most experienced tech reporters in the country. His tech stories and videos have appeared on MSNBC, CNBC, the Today Show, The New York Times, USA Today and in numerous national newspapers and magazines. In addition to the PC Mike tech blog, he also publishes the Roadtreking.com RV Travel Blog in which he travels North America in an RV reporting about interesting people and places.