Aro Home: Box It Out review

11 months ago

First, I refuse to blame anyone’s phone addiction for lack of self-control. Now it is almost impossible for me to complete even the most insignificant task without the help of my smartphone. My iPhone is not only my alarm clock and kitchen timer, but also my calendar and shopping list. I text my husband, check my work on Slack, look up recipes, and listen to podcasts while I cook.

So if you’re having trouble lowering yours, I don’t blame you. Our entire infrastructure revolves around everyone who uses any mobile device. I was going to install a landline phone in our house so our kids could call emergency services, but then it occurred to me that I could just repurpose an old Apple Watch for my kids to use. Moreover, there is debate about whether phone addiction actually exists.

However, I find it hard not to fall into black holes. One recent morning, I accidentally logged onto TikTok while brushing my teeth and got totally immersed in watching videos of little dogs sitting on big mushrooms instead of getting my kids ready for school. If you can pay the company for block websites and apps on your computer while you’re at work, it starts to seem more reasonable to pay a company to help you put your phone away.

Pack it up

Photograph: Taralynne Lawton/Arlo

Aro is both an object and a membership. You can join for either $18/month or a cheaper annual or two-year subscription. Each subscription covers every member of your family.

Once you join, you will receive your Aro Home, which is a large white box measuring 12.5 inches by 8 inches. The soft-opening bamboo lid with metal tab reveals four internal slots for four phones, one wireless charger, and four Lightning connectors. (App and Android version coming soon.)

The app connects to your phone via Bluetooth. As soon as you put your phone in the box, it automatically starts tracking your phone-free session, which ends when you remove your phone from Aro. When you check out the Aro app, you can tag your session with a label. My most used tags are Breakfast, Work, and Family Time.

Aro starts with the original goal of putting the phone down one hour a day and adjusts when you spend more time, but after a few weeks I haven’t noticed any change. The subscription also seems to cover the issues and let you view the accumulated data, but so far it’s pretty basic. For example, I’ve currently earned challenge badges for a seven day streak and 10 sessions. You can also compete with groups, but I don’t know anyone who has Aro.

I put our Aro in the kitchen as that’s where I tend to juggle most things and find it hard to focus on what’s at hand. But I would probably have more or more sessions including night sessions if I kept Aro in my bedroom. Luckily, I have no problem putting my phone away to sleep. (I’m not better than you, just exhausted.)

Free hands

Placing Aro Home in such a prominent position had one immediate effect. My kids, who don’t have phones, could see that I was eager to get rid of mine. More importantly, they had a safe place to put it when they forcibly ripped it from my hands.

I know what you’re thinking. “One hour a day? Haha, pfft.” But it’s not as easy as you might think, especially for a mom of two younger students who also works full-time from home. There were so many times I put it in the box only to find that I had to pick it up after a few minutes.

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