Mark, thanks for your response. Your success at building habits depends on your ability to successfully habituate a certain behavior. If my goal is to use my phone less, then setting it to grayscale and making it less pleasurable to use is a way to disincentivize habituating picking your phone up a lot. This is true whether I use my phone 2 minutes a day, 2 hours a day, or 20 hours a day. As it so happens, I was not a heavy phone user at the time of writing this article, so this intervention is not only for the desperately addicted. I’d counter that the desperately addicted would be in too deep to tolerate a black and white phone.
As for colors being vibrant or wanting to go outside, that’s an artifact of where we direct our attention. If we are directing our attention to our phones, we don’t notice the other things in our surroundings, like the room we are in or the nice weather. Put your phone away and suddenly you sense these things. Different people may notice different things, but it is universally true that when we are focusing on our phones, we are missing out on something. That’s an opportunity cost of phone use.
As for scheduled use, that’s one strategy, and it may do more for certain people than for others. I prefer to direct my energy into 1) getting fewer notifications altogether and 2) making my phone less pleasurable to use. My goal is not lower device usage, but more intentional device usage. Merely scheduling device usage will restrict the amount of time I waste on devices, but devices will be time wasters all the same.
As for the shiny icon… I used to work in app design. App designers are taught principles like color scheming and how to use color to direct a user’s attention. This is done in the service of ‘raising user engagement.’ So yes, well-designed icons do increase user engagement. You can test this theory in two ways: 1) remove icons from your home screen. One week later, you will be using some apps less often. 2) Look on your current home screen — are any icons ugly?