Productivity apps play a big role in my life. I use software suites like Google Workspace and Microsoft Word/Office as well as to-do apps like TickTick.

Another productivity app that I installed on my phone is a Pomodoro app that tracks my time and helps me be more productive. However, I decided to find another similar app. I was getting slightly bored and wanted to gamify my productivity ><;;

I considered the Forest app since it’s famous. But there was a crucial feature missing: custom tags. Creating custom tags is only available in the Pro version. Although it’s affordable and a one-time payment, I didn’t want to upgrade to the Pro version. I’ve never paid for any gaming apps or my current pomodoro app which works fine (though limited to 4 projects only for the free version).

It was then that I stumbled upon NoxOcean which is a free Android and iOS app that allows you to create custom tags. But there weren’t many articles about this app. Hence, I decided to write this review to pen down my thought and opinions.

Hopefully, this app will help you be more productive too!

[Entrepreneurship Tips] NoxOcean Review - Pros & Cons Of The Free Alternative App To Forest

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Pro #1: Combination Of Pomodoro & Deep Work

NoxOcean combines both Pomodoro and Deep Work and creates a gamified experience that boosts your productivity.


The Pomodoro technique, a time management method, uses a timer to break work into intervals, traditionally 25 minutes in length, separated by short breaks.

The default setting for most pomodoro apps is a 25-minute working sprint followed by a 5-minute break. I usually use this, though I’ll tweak it to 30 minutes so it’s a round figure. There are also times where I choose 10-minute or 1-hour writing sprint.

I find Pomodoro effective because of the time limit. This time limit will motivate you to complete a task within this set period of time. Some people, however, argue that you’re more creative without time limits. But for me, I like the feeling of writing as many words as possible in this fixed time sprint. At the end of the day, I can happily say to myself: “Great job, Nicole! You wrote 30 minutes today!” Even if I only wrote 10 minutes, it’s still better than a day without writing at all.

Inspiring Leadership Now - Pomodoro Technique

Source: Inspiring Leadership Now

Deep Work

Coined by Cal Newport, Deep Work is about eliminating distractions so you create the right environment to work in and devote all your energy to one main task or project.

NoxOcean opened my eyes to this Deep Work theory. Which I didn’t know I had already been doing. Whenever I write in Pomodoro sprints, I’ll focus solely on writing. I don’t look at my phone at all. Neither do I allow my family to disturb me (in fact, I lock my door when writing!).

Unlike my previous Pomodoro app, NoxOcean integrates Deep Work into its app so it forces users to focus on the task at hand.

Inspiring Leadership Now - Deep Work Strategies

Source: Inspiring Leadership Now

Pro #2: 3 Focus Modes To Meet Your Needs

NoxOcean offers 3 focus modes

  • Normal Focus: You can access other apps
  • Deep Focus: You can only access whitelisted apps
  • Extreme Focus: You cannot access any apps & you have to flip the phone

For the first 2 modes, you can set a timer from 5 minutes to 120 minutes (2 hours).

For the 3rd mode, there’s no timer. Instead, you simply flip the phone to start the focus session then flip the phone back to end the focus session. You can focus continuously up to 6 hours in Extreme Focus!

I usually choose Deep Focus mode because I write in sprints. Hence, I needed a timer to force myself to write as many words as possible in the time limit. At the same time, Deep Focus also forces me to not use non-whitelisted apps (though I usually don’t touch my phone at all).

NoxOcean - Focus Modes

Pro #3: Build Your Unique Underwater City

Another reason I like NoxOcean more than Forest is that you can build an underwater city.

In the Forest app, you can plant trees. Well, I like it too. I’m into gardening in real life (though it’s only succulents) 🙂

But in NoxOcean, you can construct buildings and build your own Bikini Bottom city~ Very attractive if you’re a SpongeBob SquarePants fan!

These buildings will change according to the timer you set. For example, a 30-minute building is different from a 90-minute building.

This actually motivated me to write longer so I can build the pretty 90-minute building hahaha

In addition to buildings, you can buy music from the Focus Store. And it isn’t limited to water sounds. There is music that makes you feel like you’re at another place.

The default is Sea Wave which everyone gets for free. Other music includes Clock ticking, Cat purring, Rainy Forest, Campfire, Seaside cottage and more.

You’ll need shells to buy buildings and music. This can be easily earned by watching ads or finishing a focus session.

NoxOcean - Focus Store

Pro #4: Whitelist Apps That Are Necessary

The whitelisting function is a premium feature for the Forest app.

But you can get this for free in NoxOcean!

This is a plus point for me.

By whitelisting apps for Deep Focus, your focus task won’t fail when using these apps. You also won’t ruin the construction of your building.

You can whitelist apps under Settings. System apps are whitelisted by default. I suggest that you whitelist only necessary apps. I’ve only whitelisted messaging apps, writing apps, Google Drive, Google Authenticator etc. Try to keep the number of whitelisted apps minimal.

Pro #5: Tags Management For Categorizing Your Tasks & Projects

As mentioned earlier, this is one of my favorite features!

I need to create a custom tag for each book I write and another tag for each book I edit. Being able to customize and manage these tags is a big plus for me.

With these tags, I’m able to see the total amount of time I spent each day, week, month and year for each project.

Pro #6: Add Notes To Your Focus Sessions

You can choose to add notes to your focus sessions. For instance, how you felt or whatever remarks that you think it’s important to pen down.

If you’re trying to figure out what makes you productive, you can note down the environment. Like where you are, the background music etc. Then, you can look through these notes again after a week or month and see if there’s any pattern. Perhaps, you’re more productive in a café or when there’s white noise around.

Pro #7: Comprehensive Data Analysis

NoxOcean provides detailed data.

You can see data based on the land (city of buildings you’ve constructed), day/week/month/year and calendar.

I also like that you can view your longest and shortest focus session for the day as well as the exact time you started and ended your focus sessions.

Armed with this arsenal of data, you can figure out your productive times and optimal focus times. For example, you might be more productive in the morning and 30-minute sessions work the best for you.

NoxOcean - Data Analysis

Pro #8: Focus Achievements That You’ll Be Proud Of

On top of the total focus time, number of buildings, number of finished and ruined buildings, your profile also lists Focus Achievements.

Right now, this wall of achievements is only limited to the total focus time. Thus, if you spend a lot of time on NoxOcean, you should be able to get all the achievements.

Pro #9: Set Goals & Check In

At the top right corner of the app is an octopus. Clicking on it brings you to the Focus Assistant.

You can set goals and check in under Goals & Check-in.

The great thing about this feature is the reminder. For instance, I could set a goal to write for 1 hour every day plus a reminder at 8PM daily. This helps to ensure that I check in every day to meet my goal.

If you want to develop a daily habit, this feature helps you to not break the chain.

I strongly encourage you to use this feature, unless you have another app that does this or have great self-discipline.

P.S. I have a writing app that reminds me every day to write 200 words. Plus, a word count spreadsheet with yearly, monthly and daily goals. Therefore, I don’t use this feature.

NoxOcean - Goals & Check-In

Pro #10: Study With Friends

There’s this Study Room under the Focus Assistant where you can study with people.

You can create your own study room with 150 shells or by becoming a NoxOcean VIP. You can also join your friend’s study room by entering their study room ID.

This is a great way to boost your productivity if you like working with friends. An accountability buddy will also help you to stay motivated and on track, especially if they have similar goals as you.

NoxOcean - Study Room

Con #1: Limited Achievements & Buildings

Currently, the Focus Achievements are limited in variety. It’s all about focus time. As I mentioned, you’ll definitely be able to get all of them if you use NoxOcean frequently.

Likewise, you should be able to purchase all the buildings in the Focus Store if you spend a lot of time on the app. In fact, I bought about half of the Deep Focus buildings already.

If you’re the type of person who needs achievements or items to buy in the shop to motivate you to work harder, you might run out of such motivation when you achieve everything.

Therefore, I think it’ll be good to have another source of motivation. It could be an accountability buddy, a group of like-minded friends or just yourself. For me, I set goals and deadlines. Like I must finish my draft by 31 Dec 2021.

Con #2: Underwater City Without Life

Okay, I was somewhat cheated at the start.

When I saw those fishes in the Focus Store, I thought I could buy the cute dolphin and shark and see them swim in my underwater city.

Well, turns out those are fish buttons. There’s even a huge headline saying they’re Fish Button that I missed out on. Anyway, I think it’s only used to change the timer button…

Honestly, I was pretty sad and disappointed that the underwater city I built will have no life. But I do hope that the app adds this feature in the future *cross fingers*

NoxOcean - Timer Button

Now It’s Your Turn

Have you installed NoxOcean? How was your experience using NoxOcean? Does the app make you more productive?

For me, such timer apps are indispensable. Precisely because words per hour is an important metric for me, I need this app to track the amount of time I spent writing. I also feel that it’s valuable in letting me gauge my productivity.


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Nicole C. W. All Rights Reserved.

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