The quantified self movement relies on the understanding of what you are doing with your precious time. Do your expectations match with your reality? Although there are many business options available which include invoicing features, we will focus on those more widely applicable and which can help you reclaim your time and take back your life. Using time tracker apps on your phone allows you to collect data to conduct experiments and get feedback on how your actions match up with your vision. Here we review the best free Android Time Tracker apps available in 2017.
Each of them have their own speciality and will be judged on several criteria: How well they’ve achieved their Purpose, the Ease of use in collecting data, the Usefulness of describing that data through charts or metrics, and an age-corrected Rating* from their reviews on the Google Play store.
- SaveMyTime – A tenacious time tracker that goes straight to the point
- Purpose – Use your unlock screen to record the time of what you’ve been doing into 9 customizable categories. It fits the niche for individuals who need to be vigilant or have consistent reminders to track their time, whether that’s to stay on task or trying to find a balance between various categories. You are limited to 9 different categories that can be grouped as: Life, Work, Other. This forces you to choose which areas of your life are important to have data on, which in turn reduces the amount of superfluous book-keeping you could do to creatively procrastinate.
- Ease – It is really good at keeping you accountable because it won’t let you into your phone until you’ve told it which category you’ve been doing. The window of when it asks this of you can be increasedIt starts with notifications and vibrate on, and prompts you frequently. I found this potentially annoying because it can distract you from whatever productive things you were doing that were not on your phone. It also does not seem to interrupt you as you are wasting time on your phone (checking Twitter and reviewing other apps, hehe). You also must remember to turn it off at night if you have reminders on, or it will continue to check-in with you.
- Usefulness – It provides a set of pie charts which are effective in showing you the distribution of your time usage over the course of today, yesterday, this week, this month, and this year. In addition to the 9 categories pie chart you also have a Work/Life/Other chart which can help you maintain a balance.
- Rating – 4.6 * 1314 / 508 days (Sep 1 02016) = 11.9
- It’s still a relatively young app, so you can expect to see improvements as long as the userbase keeps up.
- Verdict – If you’re fighting avoidance behaviours or you want constant reminders of where your time is going, the consistent repetition of this app will get you back on track quickly. If you want something that is not in your face, pass on this one.
- aTimeLogger – a full featured tracker app that allows multiple timers on the go and detailed categorization, statistics and objectives
- Purpose – aTimeLogger is a bit more similar to the business-style time trackers but does not have automated invoice creation, though it does allow export of the data for you to use as such should you wish. It has no limit to categories (called activities) in the free version, and these categories can be grouped for further sorting. Groups allow you to nest activities to facilitate organization. It allows for multiple concurrent timers.
- Ease – Manually starting timers means you have to remember to use them. But they can be paused and stopped from your lock screen, or notifications which allows you to keep running them through the day. It also has a widget for quicker launching. The ability to create many activities and group them could lead to unnecessary micro-management, so as with all apps, it’s good to know what you’re trying to achieve with these tools before investing too much fiddling. The extensive amount of icons and colouration options allows a personalization of activities which makes it fun, and perhaps more meaningful. It also retains the ability to go back and reassign an activity to another one, or delete that time, allowing again for a lot of detailed use.
- Usefulness – Given the amount and flexibility of the data it is surprising that there are not more detailed analytics available for you. The main ones are a pie chart and the goal setting. The pie chart could suffer from having too many activities (not shown here, see their site), but this can be mitigated with settings for which activities to display, or by some thoughtful use of complimentary colour groupings. The goals section allows you to set ones to reach, or stay under (limit) and provide simple but effective progress bars.
- Rating – 4.6*9054 /1393 days (March 31 02013) = 29.9
- Verdict – aTimeLogger offers flexibility and detail in how you configure it. You have to ask yourself if you need to have a timer running for every single activity, but with the ability to track time for habits AND projects it is an excellent tool for individuals with a diverse set of needs to amongst which to distribute their time. Even having one positive habit with a goal to reach, one negative habit with a goal to avoid, and any billable or volunteer projects in one place is very useful indeed.
- Time Meter – a single task switchable time tracker with detailed notes for activities
- Purpose – to be able to track more diverse projects and tasks with detailed information and incorporates a few time-saving features for the recording thereof. It allows voice input for descriptions of tasks and categories. It will autocomplete with previously entered values – trying to learn your habits for more automated input of details. It also boasts more integration options than the others on this list, allowing it to be a part of a more complicated workflow. Clearly it is designed for a more dedicated power user of time tracking.
- Ease – You are limited to one activity at a time, which is either a good thing, or a bad thing, depending upon your needs. This makes switching between tasks easier, avoiding the need to start and stop multiple timers, but does not allow for over-lap. Time Meter has a set of widgets, notification bar access and general app UI design accessibility which do allow switching of the timer between activities quite rapidly, but although it shows up on your lock screen, they cannot be interacted with immediately (without opening your phone).
- Usefulness – The line charts are only available in the pro version. The pie charts are only available in the pro version. The only statistics available in the free version are the bar chart percentages in the ‘total time spent’ area, which can still have a variable window of day, week or month.
- Rating – 4.4*3192 /936 days (June 1 02014) = 15.0
- Verdict – For the amount of upkeep necessary to create the information in this app, it is a fairly big disadvantage for it not to have the visually stunning graphs available when compared alongside free apps. If you have outgrown other apps this may be the one for you, but if you are new to time tracking this may be more work than returns for you.
A big trade-off in these apps is finding the level of detail and convenience. One that provides you with the feedback you need in terms of data, statistics, charts or analytics must be balanced by the amount of upkeep necessary to get useful information. Whether or not these apps will save you time is dependent upon how you use them, and what your goals and motivations are. If you have never tracked your time before, it is a worthy experiment, even if only for a week. You may surprise yourself and get a spark of motivation to adjust your habits to be more alignment with your purpose.
My personal choice is clearly aTimeLogger, though there is clearly some unexploited territory in this niche available for a time tracker app for habit building that optimizes these trade-offs better. I’ll be on the lookout for others, but if you have a suggestion for one to review, please leave a comment.
Stay tuned for future posts where we will review the top paid time trackers of 2017, the best habit-building android apps and methods on how to make the most out of quantified self apps. >Sign up for the newsletter here to be notified of our top posts<
* = Score is a modified review rating from the Google Play app store using their rating out of 5, times the number of downloads, divided by the number of days since first release. This rescales it a bit to allow for newer apps to compete where their rating might not put them at the most visible on their category list. Numbers taken from the store as of January 22nd.