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Building a more mindful mobile phone interface

with Andrew Dunn, Co-founder & CEO at Siempo

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When was the last time you looked at your phone? Chances are, your answer might be anything from the last minute to the last hour.

It’s inarguable that technology is everywhere these days. It pretty much mediates everything, which is amazing, but it’s also starting to get in the way of work and personal relationships. The result is that people are feeling distracted, stressed, and are multitasking more than ever.

In personal relationships, people are not as present with family and friends as they should be. They’re also having trouble disconnecting from all these tech gadgets and living in the moment.

Our guest in this episode of HealthRedesigned is building a tool that encourages people to resist digital dependency. Meet Andrew Dunn.

Andrew is the Co-founder and CEO of Siempo, a company based in San Francisco with a mission to help people build better relationships with technology. Dubbed as the “phone for humans”, Siempo encourages people to gain control over their time and attention while living more in the present.

The company’s first product is an Android app that transforms the entire interface of a phone, making it more intentional and less distracting. It acts as a powerful filter that protects users from unconsciously looking at their phones and gives them visual cues to achieve their personal goals. This helps them curb the habit of mindlessly giving their time and attention to various apps that might disrupt their focus and foster unhealthy habits.

Becoming conscious of digital dependency

More and more people are starting to realise how dependent they’ve become on technology. Some are taking action by attempting to digitally detox, using apps that encourage productivity and mindfulness. While some are even setting rules to prevent them from using their phones when spending time with family and friends.

“People might lose or break their phone on vacation and suddenly it gets 10 times better because they’re actually present and enjoying themselves.”

Young parents or digital natives who grew up with technology and are now starting a family, are becoming more aware that they need to get their habits in line because they’re going to be role models for their children. This has sparked conversations in various communities on how we can achieve a better balance with digital tools.

It’s estimated that some four billion people around the world use smartphones now. It’s also likely that most of us are using the same apps, which means we’re experiencing a lot of the same dilemmas.

A need for less digital dependency

People have really resonated with Siempo’s product idea, especially those who have gone through a similar journey of creating better digital habits. They understand how challenging it can be to identify the right strategies that work. That’s the perspective that Andrew relates most to.

“I was in a lot of pain from digital dependency that was getting in the way of my studies, my personal life, my work, and just my overall wellbeing.”

Siempo wants to help create a balance that prevents users from using their phone mindlessly every time they pick it up by changing the environment and changing the relationship users have with their device.

Modifying behaviour through design

By partnering with Behaviour Delta, a team of behaviour designers and neuro scientists, Siempo is building an interface that focuses on using behaviour for positive outcomes. A lot of the tech companies that rely on constant engagements actually use these same techniques to increase engagements, get the attention of users and hold it for as long possible.

Instead, Siempo wants to use them to remedy digital distraction problems. When a user opens their phone with Siempo on it, they’ll see an intention field which asks, “What is your intention?”.

Pivoting towards an operating system

Initially, Siempo had plans to build a physical mobile phone that was minimal in nature. But when they got feedback from the users that a software solution would be preferred instead, the team started working on an operating system that users could easily run on their phones.

Siempo is now a home-screen experience that reduces leaky interactions and prevents users from getting sidetracked and doing something that they didn’t plan on doing when they opened their phone.

Minimal features for minimal distraction

At the moment, users can save notes, send text messages, open apps and add contacts. Siempo is working on expanding that functionality to let users search within maps and send messages through Snapchat and other apps.

Siempo’s Pause feature is a do-not-disturb timer that users can be activated to only allow them to become contactable in case of an emergency. Users can also set auto-responder messages, explaining what they’re currently doing so that they have have less anxiety over putting down their phone while they’re doing an activity or are attending a meeting.

There are also plans for Siempo to be used in teams to help improve work-life balance for employees.

Siempo plans to beta-test their Andriod app in the next few months. While the iOS app is still a work in progress, iOS users who are interested can still access their content and be the first to know when the iOS app is released by signing up on their website.

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