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App that encourages friends to put their handsets down and talk to each other wins prize

We’ve all seen it. Friends in bars and cafes apparently taking more interest in their smartphones than each other. Maybe you are that person.

Perhaps the phenomenon is getting out of hand in Singapore, as three students there have just won funding to develop an app aimed at getting friends to reconnect in the real world and once again make eye contact when out socializing.

The app, called ‘Apple Tree,’ taps into people’s penchant for discounts and bargains. It works like this: When two or more friends put their smartphones together, a virtual apple tree begins growing on the display. The longer the friends spend time chinwagging with each other, the more the tree grows, and the more apples you get.

Once your meet-up’s over, count up your digital fruit and exchange them for rewards such as money-off vouchers at participating establishments.

The idea for the app was selected as one of the winners in a contest with the theme, ‘Bringing Singaporeans Closer Together.’

The prize includes S$30,000 ($23,000) in cash to help the three friends develop the mobile software in time for a March 2015 launch during Singapore’s 50th-birthday celebrations.

Phone Stack

Apple Tree isn’t the first attempt at encouraging people to put their handsets to one side at social gatherings. Several restaurants have tried offering discounts to get people to engage with one another, while a guy from California hit the headlines a couple of years back for inventing a game he called Phone Stack.

To play, friends pile up their phones on the table at the start of an evening, with the loser being the first person who grabs their device. And the consequence? They have to pick up the tab.

[CNA via BBC]