An App to Organize Information Overload on Your Smartphone

Defumblr, a new lock-screen app, thinks it can make your smartphone smarter and more efficient.

A startup is trying to make it simpler to access the most important stuff on your smartphone by serving up apps on a special lock screen that considers factors like where you are, the time of day, and your regular phone usage patterns, and it also tries to make smart decisions about appointments you might want to make with friends.

Called Defumblr, it’s a free Android lock-screen app that was made by a startup called Delvv. The app, which comes out Wednesday, is hardly the first to try to make the smartphone lock screen smarter—an Android app called Cover (which Twitter purchased in 2014), for instance, also figures out what apps you use when and plops them onto the lock screen so you can open them quickly.

But Delvv cofounder and CEO Raefer Gabriel says Defumblr is different from Cover and other lock-screen apps because in addition to paying attention to which apps you open and when, it also analyzes the notifications that come in to your device to find messages from people you know. Then it can use natural language processing to mine those messages for details about events (a proposed coffee date, for instance), and allow you to do things like tap on a notification from a friend that has shown up on the lock screen to add a 3 p.m. coffee with him your calendar.

The point, Gabriel says, is to come up with a better way to organize and prioritize the ever-growing flood of information that comes in to your phone.

“There’s clearly a need right now for more products that help us figure out what we should be paying attention to right now, that help guide us toward the things that we really need to know about most,” he says.

Gabriel recently showed me Defumblr running on a Motorola smartphone at my office in San Francisco; when the lock screen lit up, a bunch of circles on the display illustrated things like the next appointment on his calendar, a mail app he uses a lot for work e-mail, a Kindle app, and so on. Users can keep up to 12 of these circular widgets on the lock screen.

You can tap or swipe to launch an app (which simultaneously unlocks the phone), and if a notification comes in—like a text, instant message, or e-mail, the latter of which Gabriel got while he was showing me around—it will pop up in the circle for that app, its circular outline glowing.

Defumblr does anonymously aggregate information about a user’s app usage patterns; Gabriel says that over time it may help the app make better predictions about the apps that people may want to access.

Eventually, Gabriel returned to the lock screen, where I noticed Google Maps popped up in one of the circles. Defumblr determined, apparently, that he’d need to use it soon—not a bad guess, since he admits he got lost on his way to my office.

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