Pocket Points rewards students for less cell phone use

The app gives students local and online discounts for staying off their phones in class.

A smartphone app called Pocket Points is giving students a hands-off learning experience at MU this fall. The app gives students points for not using their phones in class, which can then be used toward discounts at local and online businesses.

Already, the app is blowing up on campus. In the three weeks since Pocket Points came to MU, more than 2,200 students have signed up at an average rate of 100 to 250 downloads per day, says Pocket Points Campus Ambassador Jeremy Terman. He says that is about 8 percent of the entire student population.

Once students download the app, all they have to do is login when they get to class and lock their screens. The number of points earned is based on how long the student’s phone is locked and how many people are using the app at any given time. The more people that are logged on, the more points there are up for grabs.

Terman says you earn around two to five points per class. That amount can be doubled every week on Pocket Points’ deal day, 2xTuesday. The number of points you earn per minute increases as you level up as well.

Pocket Points was created in 2014 by California State University, Chico students Rob Richardson and Mitch Gardner. Their first couple of months saw them garnering a couple thousand users. Soon they branched out to Penn State, where the usership flourished. Now 75 colleges and universities are involved.

The app uses geo-fence technology to map out a school’s campus. It can tell whether a student is on the map or not and will only work on campus from 7 a.m. until 10 p.m. That means that you can even earn points while studying in the library or walking to and from class.

Businesses get a slice of the profit cake, too. Signing up with Pocket Points allows them to see firsthand how their marketing is working. The app allows them see which of their discounts and coupons are being used most often and how much attention they are getting.

“It’s free marketing for us, which is great,” co-owner of ThreadBare Gabriel Riekhof says. “Obviously every business wants to be able to market for free.”

ThreadBare, the student-run entrepreneurial endeavor housed in the Student Center, partnered up with Pocket Points soon after opening in the middle of August. Riekhof says the partnership is also building awareness about his business.

“We’re going to build awareness by being side to side with companies that people are really aware of,” Riekhof says. “Whenever they see ThreadBare by Cold Stone Creamery … everybody knows what that is. So when they see ThreadBare nearby, that gives our brand definitely some validity.”

So far, Terman and his team have gotten 15 local businesses involved, including Hot Box Cookies, Bengal’s and Jamba Juice. A lot of the deals include “buy one get one free” offers, such as Jamba Juice’s BOGO smoothie offer for patrons with 40 points.

Sophomore Berry Brooks, who is also a campus ambassador, says he uses Pocket Points in every class and stays logged in until he gets home. He says it has helped him stay more focused in class.

“I didn’t think about how much I was on my phone,” Brooks says. “It makes you think about it.”

Brooks currently has 110 points and is on level 5. He says he has not redeemed very many of his points because he and his Sigma Chi brothers are in a quasi-competition to see who can get the most points.

“Pretty much everyone in the house has it,” Brooks says.

The MU Pocket Points team is hoping to get student organizations, fraternities and sororities involved. They hope to spread awareness by visiting different organizations’ dinners and speaking in classrooms, and they can be spotted at Speakers Circle too.

“We’re just trying to get as much exposure as possible,” Terman says. “It’s beneficial. The whole point is to get teachers to not have to worry about having to tell kids to stay off their phones.”

More Stories