Apps Reviews

Forest app review: the best (free) way to beat smartphone addiction?

Forest app review
Keep your sapling safe by working

If you’re sick of constantly checking Instagram, trawling through Facebook posts and posting on WhatsApp, it might be time to take drastic action. Luckily, the Forest app promises to help wean you off your phone by locking you out – but does it actually work?

A note before we begin: this is a review of the free version of Forest. There’s also a paid-for tier with extra features that I outline below.

Forest app review: How it works

Forest app review

The premise is simple: if you need to zone out and get some serious work done, open the app and plant a tree by hitting the button in the centre of the screen. You can adjust the amount of time you’re off-grid by running a finger around the button: the minimum is ten minutes, the maximum 120.

Once your tree has started growing, you’ll be given a countdown (see the screenshot above) and a timelapse of the sapling becoming an upright pine. While the timer steadily ticks down, you’ll also be given cat poster-style motivation messages such as “Stop phubbing!” (a term I had to look up), “Keep up the good work” and “You can do it”. There are even soothing noises – rain on leaves, birdsong and so on – to help you be as productive as possible (although they’re easily muted). So far, so peaceful.

However, woe betide if you try to exit the app during the allotted time period – the phone will vibrate aggressively and Forest will tug on your heartstrings with the following notification…

 Go back to Forest immediately to prevent the tree from dying

It’s gruesome stuff and, sure enough, if you try to shirk off to check Slack or order a pizza, your sapling with wither and die. If, on the other hand, you see the countdown through and regularly use the app, you’ll build up a lush forest. Here’s my feeble effort…

Forest app review

And that, more or less, is that – it’s a simple app with a simple purpose. But there are a few extra features hiding away.  

Forest app review: Extra features

Forest app review

As you can see from the screenshot, Forest has a few tricks up its wooden sleeve. First, you can mark trees with tags such as work, study, social, rest and sport, or add your own (“write Forest review”) to see a breakdown of your time.

Moreover, you can look over all of your activity by tapping on the Timeline section, connect with friends and, as every app now has to be gamified to the gills, unlock achievements… but only if you upgrade to the Pro Version for £1.79.

One feature that might make you reach for your bank card is the ability to plant up to five real trees around the world.

Of course, there are also coins to be earned and put towards new varieties of trees, bushes and sounds in the store. I’ve got my eyes on this beauty – although the caption is unnecessarily creepy…

Forest app review

Forest app review: Verdict

Without gushing too much, Forest is truly brilliant. Not only does it look beautiful, but it’s also the only productivity app that’s really worked for me – although I’m not sure whether that’s down to the minimalist design or the terrifying vibrations when I try to interrupt a growth spurt. 

If you often find yourself absentmindedly reaching for your phone when you really should be doing something else, download Forest now.  

Forest app
  • Design
  • Features
  • Use
4.7

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About the author

Max Figgett

Max has written for numerous websites and magazines over the years. Whether it’s about ancient hardware or software secrets, no Big Tech Question is too obscure for him to tackle.

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