The student developers who want you to stay off your phone – or face the cost

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Photograph: epSos.de

Resist is an app designed by students and intended to get you to put away your smartphone while you study; or face financial consequences. We spoke to developer Rob Van Den Bergh, a recent graduate from the University of Bristol, about the app before it’s April launch.

 

So first things first, could you give us an overview of the app?

Essentially the idea behind the app is that I spend way too long on my phone, as most of my friends do, and exams are coming up. So I thought why not try and create something, or see what’s out there, that will allow me to get off my phone and get some work done. But what can incentivise us to change that? Money.

 

Adults spend on average three hours a day on their phone, which is unhealthy. Every ten minutes I’m checking Facebook, Snapchat. Losing £2 or £4 is enough to force me not to go on my phone. We thought, what can we do with that money? Let’s have it sent to a charity of the user’s choice. Although it’s a punishment, it’s a soft punishment – it’s a nice thing to know it’s been given to a good charity

So once you’ve set the amount up, there’s no override?

Exactly. So every time you use it you can set the amount. Let’s say it’s three pm, you don’t want to be on it till five so you set two hours. You think this deadline is due tomorrow, it’s worth a lot to me so I’m going to set £10. Once you set it you have three seconds to cancel it, but once it’s set in motion the app will be running and you don’t be able to click off it. If you do go on another app, you will have lost that money.

 

Once that two hour period is up, you get your money back. In the long term the plan is to gameify it slightly. We challenged ourselves to see if we could make this in a week, and we did. Now it’s completely ready, we just have to launch it. If people find it valuable, we will add more stuff to it.

 

There’s a maximum limit of £20 on the app, do you think anyone is actually going to risk putting that on?

 

Originally we had a £10 limit, but we thought you know if, someone’s got their exams and they’ve tried the other amounts and they just can’t get it to work, then we thought £20 for those people. The people who are at wits end, who really want to get off their phones. For people of different wealth and backgrounds £5 might not be that much money to someone. So we thought we’ll give them the option to do £20, allowing them to set the time and the amount of money they want – you have control over all of the elements.

 

You are students or recent graduates; do you think students might need this more than other groups.

I think students, to an extent more than the older generation, are more addicted to their smartphones and spend longer on their smartphones. So I think this app could be potentially more useful to them.. If students don’t necessarily have the self discipline, it’s a way to give them some artificial discipline. It has to come from both the student and the app – the student has to say “I’m not likely to be getting any work done”.

 

The charity aspect seems to be an attractive part of the app – with no commissioning fees what do you get out of it?

 

I suppose we see two benefits for ourselves and for users of the app. One; help people stay off their phones, to be more present, and two , to raise money for good charities. The idea is eventually we plan to allow users to put forward charities of their choice, ones that are local to them or dear to their heart. It would be great to see less people on their phones, you go to any gig you’ll always see someone on their phones. If it does go big, we will just look to cover our cost, and the infrastructure costs that will come if lots of people use it.  We’re not looking to gain anything commercial out of it, we just want to create something cool and hopefully raise some money for charity out of it.

 

Resist launches on Android devices in April