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The Apps to Control Apps
[ Issue 158 Page 15 ] Wednesday, December 27, 2017, 21:29:53 Kun-Woo Song Staff Reporter kwsong0725@kaist.ac.kr

With exam results out, it isn’t easy to recover from the shock and disappointment. All that time spent studying instead of sleeping, was it all worthwhile? Maybe it wasn’t the number of hours but the quality of those hours. In the blink of an eye, finals will be around the corner and it would be foolish to make the same mistakes. So, what to do? To answer this question, in this edition of App Comparison, Forest: Stay Focused and The Fabulous, two very distinct apps with the same goal of improving productivity, will be compared.

Forest: Stay Focused takes a new approach to these productivity apps and turns the act of not using your phone into a game with collectibles. Just like your average productivity app, Forest locks the user from using their phone, but with a twist. As the name suggests, the user grows trees by locking their phones for a certain time. After the user chooses which type of tree to plant and the amount of time to lock their phone for, the app locks it. The user can unlock their phone before the time expires in case of emergencies or if they give up. However, the tree that was growing withers and dies if they choose to do so. So, it is up to the user to motivate themselves to keep growing trees and create a forest; the app also leaves a record every day on when and for how much time the user locked the phone.

A feature I found interesting was the in-game currency system. Like so many other game apps, there is in-game currency, which users can obtain through locking their phone and growing trees. These coins can be used to buy new trees for variety. With this system, it made me wonder if I was playing a game or stopping myself from opening my phone to play games on it. Even though the trees are very expensive, this integration of play and patience may serve to be very effective on children or even people who can’t keep their hands off their phones.

The Fabulous is unlike any app I’ve seen before. Organized and well-planned, the app helps the user fully form successful habits that can last a lifetime, depending on how well the user follows them. The Fabulous has four “journeys” currently. Each one focuses on a different area to form habits: work, life, sleep, and eating. Newer, longer journeys are on the way. These journeys have varying lengths with rituals each morning, afternoon, and dinner. In those rituals, the user receives letters and has goals to achieve to create a lasting habit. For instance, they may have to make a to-do list in the morning and make sure that the list is completed by the dinner ritual. To help the user and motivate them, the letters for each ritual inspire the user through anecdotes and quotes from successful people. Although it sounds corny, the app itself is very impressive in overall design and how it plans on making users to keep those habits even if they stop using the app.

The only problem: this app isn’t free. Some people can see the monthly 11,000 KRW payment as motivation to follow the goals and steps the app provides, but others may just give up before using it at all. Personally, I find the price worthwhile, but only if the whole package is done for a month. To complete all four journeys, it takes at least four months, which is overpriced for the content it provides, no matter how good it is. Perhaps if the app allowed multiple “journeys” to be completed at the same time, it would be more appealing. However, as this is just a personal opinion, I recommend people to experiment with the free seven-day trial and continue to use the app if they think it’s worth it.

Unlike previous editions of App Comparison, this one doesn’t have a clear superior. The two apps approach the same goal of increased productivity through phones very differently. Forest: Stay Focused helps users reach productivity faster in the short term, but doesn’t solve the fundamental problem. It keeps the user away from their phone, but that is all. On the other hand, The Fabulous helps users form habits, and, albeit the higher chance of users failing to follow through, it can help the user be more productive in the long run. So which one should you use for the upcoming finals? Who knows? You decide.

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