BRITTANY GEROW/THE VARSITY

In the current age of technological advances, it’s hard to avoid getting distracted by the countless notifications and messages that we receive on our mobile devices.

As part of a Toronto-based startup, third-year U of T computer science student Andres Moreno has come up with a solution to help control the excessive use of our mobile devices. Moreno is the lead developer of a new mobile application called Flipd, which advocates “freedom from mobile distractions.”

Moreno, like us all, has noticed the very visible phenomenon of people being glued to their phones. “I think that everyone would be much more productive if they could put it down and focus on their work or go out and have some fun,” he says.

In essence, Flipd allows users to lock their devices so that they are unable to access them in order to avoid distractions.

Many apps for this purpose are currently available on the market; Flipd, however, comes equipped with many additional convenient features, taking the prevention of excessive device use to a new level. Users can choose to completely lock their mobile devices or tablets for up to 12 hours. With a feature called “smart lock screen,” users can still make emergency phone calls, receive notifications, and enable auto response text messages so that they won’t be completely disconnected from the social world. Further, Flipd can be used in groups — a person can limit another person’s mobile device usage in a non-invasive way.

Moreno is more interested in seeing a behavioural change in users than in just providing a lock screen.

“For example the app provides 60-second breaks while you’re locked in case you need to use [your phone],” he says, adding, “There’s also an auto response feature that provides a personalized response so that you don’t get the feeling that you need to respond right away.”

After taking courses on mobile application development and network communication, Moreno became interested in both areas and learned more about them on his own time. “[W]hen the idea for this app came along it was a great opportunity to put them in practice and learn more,” he says.

The Android version of the app has been in beta since December and was launched in late February. Moreno is currently working on an iOS version of the app with his team, which they are planning to launch in the summer. “Following that, we have ideas to expand our market and release a version geared towards businesses or schools,” says Moreno.

The app is already gaining momentum, with over 1,000 downloads. “It feels great knowing you’re creating an app that people from several different countries are using right now,” Moreno says.

Teamwork is key for Moreno, and he would recommend that to all new developers as well. “I would advise them to be part of a team when creating the app,” he says, adding, “You get a lot more ideas and different viewpoints that will make your app much better.”

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