Education Work

The app that helps students put down that mobile

Maths Mathisen, the CEO and Co-Founder of Hold explains how the app came about, and the benefits of using it and get students to put down that mobile.

Each year, we become increasingly reliant on our smartphones – from ordering our favourite take-out, to checking for news (true or fake) and, of course, looking for entertainment.

However, mobile phones aren’t great when for those in full-time education, those who need to concentrate – whether it be it during a lecture, or as in the scramble to finish an assignment on time. This is the gap that Hold is trying to fill.

Hold is a Norwegian app that rewards students for choosing to ignore their mobile phones while they are on campus. The free-to-use app allows students to collect points for every 20 minutes that their phone isn’t used, and once enough points are accumulated they can be exchanged for rewards, such as Amazon vouchers, scholarship prizes and cinema tickets. 

Evidence behind Hold

The idea for Hold came about during my time as a student, as I knew first-hand how difficult it is to concentrate on studying, when you have the option to text, Snap or play games on your phone. I also knew that for a student to give up their phone for any length of time, there needs to be a good motivation, which is why instead of penalising students for using their phones, Hold rewards them for choosing to ignore it.

Numerous studies have been conducted on the effect of smartphones and studying. For example, a 2017 study by the University of Texas, found that smartphones have a ‘brain drain’ effect, as they can affect intelligence and attention span, just by being on the student’s desk. Similarly, the University of California Irvine found that if we get distracted from a task by a mobile phone notification, it takes us an average of 23 minutes and 15 seconds to fully regain our focus. All of which suggests that smartphones, while fundamental to day-to-day life, are detrimental when it comes to studying.

Norwegian success
We launched the Hold app in Norway in 2016 and accumulated 50,000 downloads in the first three months alone, with 40% of all Norwegian students onboarded currently. The average student will use Hold for 2 hours each day, ensuring that during those 2 hours their productivity is at its height, which in turn, leads to higher engagement and better grades. We have 120,000 users across Scandinavia and are partnered with major brands such as Coca Cola, Microsoft and Scandinavian Airlines, and aim to replicate the same success in the UK.

London pilot
As part of our launch strategy in the UK, we partnered with the School of Management at University College London, offering the students the chance to trial the app, boost their productivity and improve their grades.

At the start of the launch, Richard Pettinger, Principal Teaching Fellow at UCL School of Management said:

‘My initial interest in the app stems from my belief that technology is an essential part of daily life, as well as business, which can’t exist without it. By rewarding students for ignoring the distractions of social media notifications, Hold has been hugely successful in both Norway and Denmark, and I am very interested to see how the model will translate to the UK market. Phone addiction is a global issue, and using the phone to solve this issue is an innovative and unique way to combat this. I am looking forward to seeing how the UCL pilot will go, how much improvement the students will see in their work, and how Hold will develop and grow in the UK’.

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