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Offtime app wants you to stop using your phone

In a world where everything - from dog collars to shoes – can be connected to the Internet, one company wants you to switch off… literally.

Berlin-based start-up Offtime has developed an app that lets people stop themselves using their phones at certain times of the day, in a bid to free people from technology.


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"What we try to do is offer a different service to help people unplug easily and find more balance between work and life and tech usage," Offtime's 32-year-old co-founder, Alexander Steinhart, told CNBC by phone.

Users can restrict access to apps and the Internet at certain times of day, and only receive calls or messages from certain people. Steinhart said that users can initiate an option to make sure that they can't override the Offtime app and access apps during a restricted time.

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Despite the world becoming a more connected place, with a growing number of smartwatches and home devices, Steinhart said he was convinced this is not what consumers want.

"I don't know if everyone wants more connectivity -- that is one element that the tech industry has failed at," the German entrepreneur said.

'Digital detoxing'

Offtime is the latest in a line of apps and products looking to detach users from their screens.

RescueTime and QualityTime are two others apps that let you check your usage -- so you know, for instance, how much time you have spent watching videos on Facebook. Others, like Checky, tell you know how many times you've checked your phone.

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And some companies are taking it even further. Britain's Kovert Designs creates jewellery which connects to a smartphone and vibrates when you get a message.

This may seem like just another way of being connected, but founder Kate Unsworth told CNBC earlier this year that it can actually help people leave their phones aside and only be notified of important messages.

"Digital detoxing is a huge trend, mindfulness is a huge trend. The mindfulness space is really untapped," Unsworth said.

Business use?

Steinhart said he wanted Offtime to be a tool businesses can use in an effort to make workers more productive at work, by ensuring they're not bothered by emails after they leave the office.

In 2012, carmaker Volkswagen agreed to stop its BlackBerry servers sending emails to employees out of work hours -- a case Steinhart cited for showing the appetite for an app like his.

But analysts said it would be difficult for this to become mainstream given the number of different apps that people rely on.

"You would have to be a person heavily engaged with apps to want to use that service," Jack Kent, senior technology analyst at IHS, told CNBC.

"It is targeting a focused and engaged app user and one that actually wants to be less so. It might have some popularity but is likely to remain fairly niche."