While smartphones stand accused of a variety of misdemeanors—from shortening our attention spans to invading our privacy—these pocket computers can certainly be a force for good. Case in point: Changing our bad habits into good ones.
Your phone is always with you, which makes it the perfect device to nudge and cajole you into a more wholesome way of living, whether you're looking to lose weight or quit smoking. Here are some of the best apps that can help.
The Streaks app is, quite simply, intended to help you keep streaks going, whether that's successive days of flossing your teeth, eating enough fruit, going without smoking, or tidying the kitchen.
The streaks don't have to be measured daily—they can be weekly, or several times a week, so just adapt them for what you need. You'd be surprised at how much of an extra boost to your willpower it is to see those circles in your calendar gradually get filled over time.
Productive follows the same sort of template as Streaks but adds a few more options (like pausing a streak) and a more varied interface—it's more sophisticated than Streaks, which may or may not be what you're looking for as you try and turn your daily habits around.
The app lets you go back and view your statistics over time, set up habits for particular times of the day, and customize your smart reminders so you're gently nudged in the right direction. Paying for the app adds more habits, more reminder options, and improved logs.
Streaks and Productive are iOS-only, but HabitHub does a similar job over on Android: The interface is based around a calendar where you keep track of your habit-forming progress. You can track five habits for free, or an unlimited number of habits for $5.
What really impresses about HabitHub is the wealth of features on offer. Habits can be split up into categories for easier reference, for example, and you can put together some pretty detailed graphs on how well (or badly) you've been doing.
Habitica turns the goal of forming good habits into a game, with its own characters and scoring. It's a lot of fun, and the app also lets you build habits with friends and family. An optional subscription gives you more customization options and other benefits.
In addition to regular repeating habits, you can add a more general to do list (handy for getting the house chores done), and the rewards you get can be customized too—you could treat yourself to a meal out or an extra hour of video gaming, for example.
Habitica, free or $5 per month for Android and iOS
5. Smoke Free
If you've got a specific habit in mind, then you'll usually find specific apps to help, like Smoke Free. If you're determined to give up smoking, then this is one of the most comprehensive apps for giving you that extra push you need to make a permanent change.
The app offers a host of useful features for people wanting to go smoke-free: The ability to see your progress over time, charts showing how your health is improving, day-by-day encouragement, and (for a small fee) some advice on techniques for giving up smoking.
Smoke Free, free or $1 per week for Android and iOS
Remente takes a more holistic approach to forming (or breaking) habits than a lot of other apps. It encouraging users reflect on their lives, situations, and goals. You can track your progress toward certain goals of course, but Remente also includes tools for getting the work/life balance right in your life, and for planning out your days so you can make sure there's space for both work and pleasure.
Remente, free or $10 per month for Android and iOS
Fabulous takes the basics of habit tracking and adds useful extras, like articles and advice on the science of changing your habits and personalized advice and plans.
You can see what you need to do each day, as well as check up on past progress. The short exercises and challenges built into the app are really useful too. It'll cost you, but you get a much more guided path toward an improved you.
Fabulous, $50 per year (free trial available) for Android and iOS
You can find a ton of health and fitness apps for your phone, but MyFitnessPal stands out not just because it is easy to use despite its many tracking features, but because it makes suggestions for you and gamifies the route to your goals.
It can take in a host of data, from the calories you're taking in to the number of swims you're doing per week, and has cool features like a barcode scanner for easy food tracking and reports on calorie consumption and macronutrient breakdown. It's almost like having a personal trainer in your pocket, especially if you take out a premium subscription.
MyFitnessPal, free or $9 per month for Android and iOS
9. Google Fit and Apple Health
Don't neglect Google and Apple's own apps: Apple Health comes built into iOS, and Google Fit usually comes with Android (if it isn't on your phone, download it here). They'll count steps using your phone sensors, and can accept a host of other data from other apps too.
Importantly, both built-in apps have goal-setting and reminder features that can make sure you're doing enough walking or running in the day, or that you're not sitting down for long stretches, and so on. If you've got a smartwatch, these apps work on your wrist too.