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This article was published on January 26, 2021


Opal cuts off your apps’ internet access to help you stop doomscrolling

Opal cuts off your apps’ internet access to help you stop doomscrolling
Ivan Mehta
Story by

Ivan Mehta

Ivan covers Big Tech, India, policy, AI, security, platforms, and apps for TNW. That's one heck of a mixed bag. He likes to say "Bleh." Ivan covers Big Tech, India, policy, AI, security, platforms, and apps for TNW. That's one heck of a mixed bag. He likes to say "Bleh."

The coronavirus pandemic has had us spend more time on our phones. Last year gave birth to doomscrolling and it was hard to take your eyes off the screen.

Now a new app called Opal has a novel approach to disconnecting your apps from the internet to help you save some time from mindless hours of browsing. The iOS app uses a custom VPN to manage all these connections. So, once you start a session on Opal, you’d be able to open the app, but you won’t be able to refresh your feed.

Opal home

This is an interesting approach, and it kinda worked for me. I open Twitter as if I’m opening my fridge thinking I’ll marginally find something new and incredible there — and that takes up a lot of my time. However, when I saw that Twitter was disconnected, I remembered that I don’t really need to see anything on the app for now.

If you desperately want to use an app, you can set an intention by typing why you want to do it and the amount of time you need. Opal lets you block different categories of apps such as social media (Twitter, Facebook, Instagram), messaging(WhatsApp), and work (email). Currently, Opal lets you block more than 100 apps and hundreds of news, adult, and gambling sites.

It can even block websites for you on any browser, thanks to its VPN-based implementation. Plus, you can set different schedules to block a varied set of apps based on your daily routine.

Customize apps you want to block in Opal

Opal’s CEO, Kenneth Schlenker, said that in the near future, the company wants to extend this functionality to your work machine by a Chrome extension and Mac app. Down the line, it also wants to develop an Android version of the app. 

In 2018, Apple and Google both launched their solutions to help maintain good digital health and improve your focus. Both screen time and digital wellbeing give you stats about your app usage and some tools to manage it.

Some companies such as OnePlus have introduced custom implementations such as Zen mode which allows you to only manage calls and take photos. Opal’s approach is slightly different, and it may work better for people who want to have focused work sessions or distraction-free time with family.

You can download Opal from here. The app is free to use, but to unlock premium features such as custom and recurring scheduling, you need to pay $59.99 per year.

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