App can monitor cellphone use, indicate possible 'phone addiction'

Jan. 27, 2014 at 2:12 PM

BONN, Germany, Jan. 27 (UPI) -- German researchers have unveiled a free smartphone app to measure how much time people spend on their phones, which could signal cellphone dependency.

Computer scientists and psychologists from the University of Bonn created the app dubbed Menthal will run on Android 4.0 and above, and have made it available as a free download from Google's Playstore or http://www.menthal.org.

"If you would like to go on a digital diet, we will provide you with the scales," computer science Professor Alexander Markowetz joked.

The app is part of a larger research study on the use of cellphones. While most previous studies have relied on often-unreliable user self-assessments, Menthal is different, the researchers said.

"Menthal will provide reliable data for the first time," Markowetz said. "This app can show us in detail what someone's average cellphone consumption per day looks like."

The relevant key data from the app is sent to a server anonymously for the scientists to analyze, the university reported Monday.

The researchers said they've already used Menthal to examine the phone behavior of 50 students in a of six-weeks period.

"Some of the results were shocking," Bonn psychologist Christian Montag said. A quarter of the study subjects used their phones for more than two hours a day, and study participants on average activated their phones more than 80 times a day, around every 12 minutes.

"We would like to know how much cellphone use is normal, and where 'too much' starts," Montag said.

While cellphone dependency or addiction is not yet an officially recognized disease, he said, "we know that using a cellphone can result in symptoms resembling an addiction.

"Outright withdrawal symptoms can actually occur when cellphones cannot be used."

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