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Czechs Developing an App- & Web-Blocking Phone App to Slash Phone Use

Translated by Milo Dvorak

8. 2. 2024

Good morning,

Here is your next Business Newsletter.

I've recently read somewhere that IT expertise in the Czech Republic is pretty much at the same level as in the almost hallowed Silicon Valley, albeit our weakness is supposedly our own inability to present ourselves as splendidly as Americans do. It's not my place to be the judge, but sometimes there are really interesting products developed and created here. Might this be one of them?

Anyway, those of you who take or have taken some of my classes might know I think phones are distracting and addictive.

Enjoy the read!

Published by Czech Crunch on 5 February 2024.

AppBlock is somewhat stricter than the built-in solutions from Apple and Google – and that might be a good thing. Thanks in part to this, the app tripled its revenue last year.

On average, a person spends three hours and fifteen minutes using their phone daily, picking it up or unlocking it almost sixty times a day. Often, we use it for unnecessary things that only distract us from productive work. However, newer versions of iOS and Android operating systems offer screen time management features. Yet, not everyone finds them suitable, especially those lacking strong willpower. For them, an app directly designed to minimise distractions could be beneficial. It is being developed in Hradec Králové, but it is used by people all over the world.

Instagram, TikTok, a new YouTube video popping up that you must see... Social networks are instantly accessible anytime, anywhere. While it may be a source of income for some, many spend their time on these platforms that could be used differently. If there isn't enough willpower to stop, tools that do it for us become necessary. The Czech app AppBlock started focusing on screen time management even before it had become a trend, and before Google or Apple incorporated it into their operating systems.

"AppBlock was originally inspired by web blockers for browsers that I used. Then I realised that even if I had them blocked on my computer, I could still access them on my phone. That's when we started working on the mobile app. It is largely inspired by my need not to be distracted by the phone at work," says Miroslav Novosvětský, head of the development studio MobileSoft, to CzechCrunch.

When properly configured, AppBlock restricts all apps on the phone and websites in browsers that could distract you. The success is evident from the numbers the team presents, which grow year after year. "Last year, we managed to triple our revenue to about one million dollars, and we have fifty thousand users subscribing to the premium account," emphasises Novosvětský. "Altogether, six million people have tried our app in the last nine years, saving them tens of millions of hours," adds the app's co-creator.

AppBlock even made it to the selection of the best apps by the well-known magazine TechCrunch for New Year's resolutions. Its broad language support, serving users across continents, played a role in this success. AppBlock is most represented in the United States but also quite popular in Brazil and India.

AppBlock is not limited to apps and specific websites – you can input keywords to avoid in browsers. Users can create schedules, essentially making a calendar. Some apps are blocked after waking up, others are disabled upon arriving at work, at a family dinner, and certain keywords cannot be searched at all.

All of this is great, but what if you have a weak moment and manually allow a blocked website in the set time window? It happens – and will continue to happen. For such moments, there is the Strict Mode, possibly the greatest added value of the Czech tool. "It is the main reason why people stay with us," clarifies Novosvětský.

Once you enable Strict Mode and set the time, you can't change it. AppBlock won't allow you to edit the blocking; in fact, you can even choose an option that prevents uninstalling the app while the Strict Mode is active. Developers aim to prevent occasional user tendencies to go into settings and modify blocking, even though they know they shouldn't.

"Our goal is to change the way people use phones. We want to provide them with tools for effective digital management so they can prioritise their life goals and mental well-being over digital distractions," describes Novosvětský. "We aim to become the most well-known app blocker in the world to positively influence as many people as possible. And we believe we're succeeding."

In the future, the creators will focus on strengthening existing features and are also working on support for desktop browsers, specifically for Opera and Firefox. AppBlock is already installable and usable on Chrome, Safari and Edge similarly to mobile devices. It's not just about phones – people often procrastinate on computers too.

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