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Minimalist Phone review: Good enough for social and phone detox?

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  • 9 min read

As social media algorithms keep improving, we’re progressively spending even more time on our phones. As you can probably guess and have experienced yourself, that leaves you with less time for everything else and hampers productivity. 

Many apps on the Google Play Store claim to help you increase productivity by reducing distractions from your phone and helping you spend less time on social media. However, just like a lot of apps on the Play Store, they don’t quite work as well. 

In this article, we’re talking about the Minimalist Phone app from QQ Labs, which has more than 470,000 downloads on the Play Store, and seeing how much the app actually helps you reduce screen time.

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Also read: Android 13 review: Privacy, Security and Interface updates

Who is this app for?

If you’re struggling to keep your phone away and are looking for extreme measures to cut down on your screen time, this is one of the best apps you’ll find on the Play Store.

To put it simply, the app replaces your default launcher with a custom launcher with only two shortcuts — phone and camera. Other than that you only get to pin a few favourite apps to the home screen and the time with a battery indicator. Your app drawer turns into a rather cumbersome list and you’d want to touch your phone far less the second you install this app.

QQLabs claims that the app is designed to make you use your phone in a more mindful way, but the way they’ve tried to achieve this pattern of usage is rather aggressive. The app is clunky to navigate at best, and you won’t be able to get rid of it even when the app is closed. That said, it does do what it advertises rather well. 

Setting up the Minimalist phone app

Before you can get any good out of this app, you need to take the time to set it up properly. When you open the app for the first time, you have to go through a small, interactive tutorial as well as give the app the following permissions as of Android 13. 

  • Notifications: To keep track of bogus notifications and track social media notifications.
  • The ability to display over other apps: For in-app reminders.
  • Track app usage: For in-app usage reminders.

That’s all the access you need to give the app. While it doesn’t access more sensitive parts of your phone like the camera, mic or location, the permission to display over other apps means the app knows what’s on your screen and that can be a privacy concern. More on this later. 

Once you’re done with the tutorial, you’ll be asked to replace your current launcher with a rather simple, black screen. You can’t skip this step either as the app forces you to use its custom launcher before you can do anything useful. 

Minimalist Phone review: Good enough for social and phone detox?
Your home screen is replaced with a rather simple one.

Once in the launcher though, you’ll see shortcuts for your phone and camera, so at the very least your phone doesn’t become an inconvenience. Using any other app will require some patience as you initially have to scroll through the app list (or search for the app you want) and either add it as a favourite so it appears on the home screen, hide it so you have to work extra hard to get to it, or totally ban the app from your phone so you’re not able to use it anywhere from one hour to 30 days. 

Minimalist phone app user experience

Once you’re all set up and ready to go. You can start using your phone as usual. With most social apps, as soon as you open them you’ll be greeted with a message asking you how long you’d like to use the app. You can choose options from one minute all the way up to 15 minutes. 

Minimalist Phone review: Good enough for social and phone detox?
The in-app usage reminders are a bit over the top.

As mentioned before, the app is very aggressive in terms of making you hate your phone. Not only does the clunky interface make you want to use the entire phone less, but the in-app usage reminders almost become annoying at one point, with you having to beg the app for more time on your social media. For an app that claims to help you get rid of excessive screen time, that annoyance could very well be by design. 

The default launcher is a black screen with your favourites and two shortcuts along with the date, time and battery status. The app drawer becomes a list with no icons. In fact, there are no icons whatsoever in the entire launcher. 

Minimalist Phone review: Good enough for social and phone detox?
Your app drawer is replaced with a simple list.

Other than the repulsive interface it gives your phone and the in-app usage reminders, you can either rename, hide or block apps. Hiding apps requires accessing a different menu to open them, adding a few taps and some intentional hassle for you to get to a particular app. Blocking an app is exactly what it sounds like — you’re totally blocked from using the said app for whatever period you’ve chosen. 

Minimalist Phone review: Good enough for social and phone detox?
Hidden apps require some effort to launch.

The interface does have a few gestures you can set for your notification shade and app drawer by swiping down and left, respectively. However, the swipe-down gesture rarely ever worked, and anything other than a tap on a shortcut on the home screen would take you straight to the app list. There’s a swipe-up gesture, but it didn’t seem to work for us. 

There’s not much to the app other than the aforementioned features, and probably for the better. The combination of these three features (four if you count the launcher) will already make you either remove the app and get back to your ‘usual’ phone or effectively cut down on your screen time. 

Minimalist Phone review: Good enough for social and phone detox?
The paid version lets you choose a preset or custom colour theme.

The app’s available in paid and free versions, the only difference being added colour options for the background and an unlimited number of favourite, renamed, and hidden apps; there are three paid options if you’d like to try out the paid version before committing to it for life.


Overall, it’s not exactly an easy app to use, especially for the technologically handicapped. The menus, though direct, are cumbersome to handle and the settings gear icon is way too small to tap on in the first go. Despite being rather effective, the launcher will be a bit of an inconvenience in the beginning.

However, once you’ve gotten used to it and set up the app the way you want, it can really make a difference to your phone usage. The app is still in early access, so we expect to see constant improvements and updates delivered over time.

Drawbacks of being too minimalistic

While the app may be effective at cutting down your screen time, it does miss out on a few key features that would’ve made it perfect. 

First up, there’s no timer to enable or disable the app. It’d be great if you could schedule a time for the app to kick in, let’s say the beginning of your work day, and have it revert your phone back to normal when you’re done with work.

Minimalist Phone review: Good enough for social and phone detox?
The settings menu and overall interface could’ve been better.

Another rather annoying thing is that even after you close the app, you switch back to your default launcher, and the app will continue pestering you with in-app usage limits. You can disable these reminders completely, but then it defeats the purpose of having them in the first place. Just like everything else in the app, you’ll have to enable or disable these manually every time you need to make a change.

When inside the app’s launcher, the only two ways to get back are to either go to your phone’s settings and revert back to another launcher or navigate the rather clunky menu to quit the app. 

Minimalist Phone review: Good enough for social and phone detox?
Closing the app requires an effort too.

Speaking of closing the app, that’s a whole other issue in itself. Currently, the only two ways we found to close the app were either to uninstall it completely or force stop the app so that it would stop showing reminders and controlling the phone when not actively in use. 

Is the Minimalist phone app safe?

For an app that takes over your phone completely, QQLabs has done a good job of maintaining the privacy of its 102,000 monthly active users. Since the app projects over your screen, security can be a big issue.

As stated in their privacy policy, the app collects usage information, personal data, UUID, trackers (cookies, tracking IDs) and device information for performance optimisation and overall user experience enhancement. QQLabs also states that they don’t sell any data to third parties, and their privacy policy seems in line with the claim. 

Since the app doesn’t really take over any hardware on your phone, you’re protected at that end. The only permission it requires is notification access, which, unless you’re on Android 13, isn’t even controllable permission for most devices yet. 

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This article was created in collaboration with Candid.Technology's Advertisement/Affiliate Team. You can read more about our Editorial Policy here. You can contact our advertisement team here:

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Yadullah Abidi

Yadullah Abidi

Yadullah is a Computer Science graduate who writes/edits/shoots/codes all things cybersecurity, gaming, and tech hardware. When he's not, he streams himself racing virtual cars. He's been writing and reporting on tech and cybersecurity with websites like Candid.Technology and MakeUseOf since 2018. You can contact him here: