Checky founder Alex Tew, who created the app in 2014, says he is addicted to his smartphone. The National
Checky founder Alex Tew, who created the app in 2014, says he is addicted to his smartphone. The National

Checky app helps curb smartphone addiction

How often do we check our phones? Twenty-seven times a day if you’re in the United Kingdom and a shocking 46 times if you’re in the United States, according to a Deloitte study.

If you want to find out how often we do it here in the UAE – where each person has an average of 1.7 smartphones – it's time to download Checky and get a handle on your mobile addiction.

An addiction it is. It seems most of us feel the need to check our email every hour to feel we are on top of work. Then we take a photo of lunch, add it to Instagram, see who’s up to what on Facebook and Twitter.

Who looked at your profile on LinkedIn? What’s coming up in your diary? Then a breaking news alert goes off. Then a WhatsApp comes in, an SMS. Then the phone actually rings …

Checky answers a simple question: how many times a day do I check my phone?

Available for free on ioS and Play, one user says: “It’s not 100 per cent accurate, but it gives you an idea. It makes you stop and reflect on your daily device usage”. Like many of us, Checky founder Alex Tew, 32, from the UK, who created the app in 2014, says he is also addicted to his smartphone.

“Most days I check my phone over 100 times. In fact, yesterday I checked my phone 124 times. Today I’m at 76, so far,” he says. “Having this new awareness makes it easier to control my phone usage. My new goal is to check less than 100 times a day.”

Checky tells you how many times you’ve looked today and how many times you checked yesterday. It’s that simple. There’s little else on offer – but it is free, after all.

After a week I had forgotten to keep Checky open (and it doesn’t work unless it runs in the background), but I had the gist by then.

The results are not pretty – I’m at around 60 times a day. And of course that doesn’t begin to cover the number of times I check my laptop, tablet and even my fitness tracker. Time for a digital detox.

q&a helping to curb addiction

Suzanne Locke expands on the usefulness of Checky for curbing the addiction to smartphones:

It sounds simple – why hasn’t it been done before?

It has – there is another app called Moments. But rather than the number of checks, Moments tells you how many minutes you're spending on your phone and can set goals to decrease the time spent.

If it’s free, how’s Checky making money?

Effectively it works as a reminder to use its sister app Calm, a meditation tool which has raised US$1 million in funding.

Is the app any good?

It’s been given four stars on the Google Play store by more than 4,700 people, so it can’t be all bad.

What are the most popular smartphone brands in the UAE?

According to the app creation platform appmakr, Samsung rules supreme in the Emirates, followed by Apple and BlackBerry.

So how many smartphones are there in the UAE?

The UAE has 17 million mobile phone users, according to the Telecommunications Regulatory Authority, and a 200 per cent penetration rate, making it the highest in the world. According to appmakr, almost 74 per cent of the population are smartphone users.

Does Checky have any other features?

You can ask it to notify you at noon how many times you checked your phone yesterday, or when it stops running.

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Mercer, the investment consulting arm of US services company Marsh & McLennan, expects its wealth division to at least double its assets under management (AUM) in the Middle East as wealth in the region continues to grow despite economic headwinds, a company official said.

Mercer Wealth, which globally has $160 billion in AUM, plans to boost its AUM in the region to $2-$3bn in the next 2-3 years from the present $1bn, said Yasir AbuShaban, a Dubai-based principal with Mercer Wealth.

Within the next two to three years, we are looking at reaching $2 to $3 billion as a conservative estimate and we do see an opportunity to do so,” said Mr AbuShaban.

Mercer does not directly make investments, but allocates clients’ money they have discretion to, to professional asset managers. They also provide advice to clients.

“We have buying power. We can negotiate on their (client’s) behalf with asset managers to provide them lower fees than they otherwise would have to get on their own,” he added.

Mercer Wealth’s clients include sovereign wealth funds, family offices, and insurance companies among others.

From its office in Dubai, Mercer also looks after Africa, India and Turkey, where they also see opportunity for growth.

Wealth creation in Middle East and Africa (MEA) grew 8.5 per cent to $8.1 trillion last year from $7.5tn in 2015, higher than last year’s global average of 6 per cent and the second-highest growth in a region after Asia-Pacific which grew 9.9 per cent, according to consultancy Boston Consulting Group (BCG). In the region, where wealth grew just 1.9 per cent in 2015 compared with 2014, a pickup in oil prices has helped in wealth generation.

BCG is forecasting MEA wealth will rise to $12tn by 2021, growing at an annual average of 8 per cent.

Drivers of wealth generation in the region will be split evenly between new wealth creation and growth of performance of existing assets, according to BCG.

Another general trend in the region is clients’ looking for a comprehensive approach to investing, according to Mr AbuShaban.

“Institutional investors or some of the families are seeing a slowdown in the available capital they have to invest and in that sense they are looking at optimizing the way they manage their portfolios and making sure they are not investing haphazardly and different parts of their investment are working together,” said Mr AbuShaban.

Some clients also have a higher appetite for risk, given the low interest-rate environment that does not provide enough yield for some institutional investors. These clients are keen to invest in illiquid assets, such as private equity and infrastructure.

“What we have seen is a desire for higher returns in what has been a low-return environment specifically in various fixed income or bonds,” he said.

“In this environment, we have seen a de facto increase in the risk that clients are taking in things like illiquid investments, private equity investments, infrastructure and private debt, those kind of investments were higher illiquidity results in incrementally higher returns.”

The Abu Dhabi Investment Authority, one of the largest sovereign wealth funds, said in its 2016 report that has gradually increased its exposure in direct private equity and private credit transactions, mainly in Asian markets and especially in China and India. The authority’s private equity department focused on structured equities owing to “their defensive characteristics.”

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