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New startup helps smartphone users cut down on screen time

Zenscreen blocking entertainment sites
Zenscreen blocking entertainment sites. Photo: Zenscreen

The allure of the modern smartphone is too great to resist without some help. That's the idea behind ZenScreen, a new service from serial entrepreneur Nitin Bhandari, who previously founded Skyfire, a mobile browser company that was sold to Opera in 2013 for $150 million.

The details: The basic service, which lets users see what apps they are using and pause usage for a set period of time, is free. More advanced features are part of a $4.99/month paid service.

"Screen time is a modern health crisis that affects individuals and families all over the world. Apps and websites today are designed to entice rather than empower -- turning people into glassy-eyed zombies."
— Nitin Bhandari

A food pyramid for apps: One of the premises behind ZenScreen is that not all apps, like not all foods, are equally healthy. Using a GPS or background music app isn't the same, it posits, as browsing through social media.

  • "ZenScreen provides the structure and smart nudge needed for people to master technology, rather than being mastered by it," Bhandari said.

Timing is everything: ZenScreen is debuting as people are starting to pay more attention to the negative impacts of smartphone use.