Forest is a productivity app that combines the Pomodoro technique and gamification strategies with a cute design and a unique environmental aspect. Set the timer for how long you plan to concentrate (which means not opening any apps or checking your email), and a virtual seed will be planted in the app. If you leave the phone alone it will start to sprout, gradually growing into a tree by the end of the session.
If you give into temptation and start using your phone, or browsing the websites on your blacklist, the tree will just wither and die. All trees that you manage to successfully grow are kept in a (virtual) forest and you're awarded (virtual) coins for your efforts. The app can also be set to run in the background and give you detailed statistics of how many hours each day, week and month, you spend with your smartphone screen.
What about the environmental part?
In a nice twist, Forest allows you to turn your "virtual" forest into a real one, cashing in your virtual coins to pay for real tree-planting in the real world. They partner with the organsation Trees for the Future which improves the livelihoods of farmers by revitalising degraded land in East and West Africa. They currently have 14 projects underway in five countries and Forest claims to have so far planted over 200,000 trees.
Apart from the fact that it might seem tragic and ridiculous to some that we need a smartphone app to help us stop using our smartphones so much, there is another drawback too. Apparently, due to budgetary constraints, users can only plant five real trees, which means the impact of each individual is severely limited. But the company claims they are working on a way to allow people to plant more than five via some special time-limited events.
This short video lets you see Forest in action, alongside a couple of other productivity apps.