Review: X3 Watch for iPhone

This is a Guest Post by Gavin Baker.

XXX Church is well known for their offering of X3Watch, a free accountability software that runs in the background on your computer and scans your web browsing history.

With the launch of the iPhone App Store there were many voices clamoring for an iPhone app (myself included).

Unfortunately because Apple doesn’t allow third-party apps to run in the background, the mobile X3 team had to rethink how they would approach accountability on the iPhone, which they turned to developer Sam Soffes, creator of the Holy Bible app for LifeChurch.tv.

Their approach was to build a browser to replace the native Safari app.  The replacement browser will capture all your browsing and send a report to the defined (up to 3) accountability partners every 1, 2, 3 weeks based on the users choice.

Just like the desktop version of X3 on install you input email addresses for your accountability partners and any time that the application is un-installed your partners are notified.

The app itself is very similar to Safari and running it through a few Google searches, Gmail and Google Docs produced very similar experiences and speeds, as far as that I’d give it a 5/5.

Using the app as a replacement is fairly straightforward except for a few differences:

  • No tabbed browsing
  • No bookmarks
  • No ability to add a shortcut to the home screen (webapp)
  • Any links have to be copy & pasted into it – they won’t open by clicking them

Now let’s be clear, these differences may not matter to some, but for heavy users, I’d consider them major distinctions and a deal breaker.

Additionally, during my testing, hitting the back button in the browser caused the app to close on multiple occasions.  This became a frustrating exercise as without tabbed browsing going back required retyping the link.  (I’m sure this is just a bug and will be fixed soon).

For some this app could be exactly what they were looking for but I’d suspect not even though the cost is hard to argue with $0 (FREE). I found it an anemic solution from an organization and developer we expected a better product from.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m fully behind an app that would bring better accountability for mobile, because the viewing of mobile porn will continue to grow and this would be a great defense for many Christians.

So download the app and give it a try and let me know your thoughts!

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Eric Dye

I am an entrepreneur and human rights advocate. I spend most of my time as writer and editor for ChurchMag and Finding Justice, but you can also find me working on Live Theme and for the International Human Rights Group. All while enjoying my family and sipping espresso in Italy.

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  1. says

    Wait, Apple allowed someone to make an alternative browser for the iphone/itouch? I heard Opera was having mass issues getting this approved, how did X3 church do it?

  2. says

    It's very similar to the "in-app" browser, so per your comment about Opera I'm not sure how they got it through. You are correct that Apple hasn't passed many applications the replicate the functionality of Apple apps. Perhaps that why they don't have tabbed browsing?

  3. says

    You should take a look at what Covenant Eyes offers. While you must be a current member to use it, it's an alternative to X3 Watch. A membership gives you accountability on your PC, Windows mobile devices and iPhone/iTouch.

  4. says

    I would have to say that any review at this point for X3 iPhone is really unfair (including the one I put in iTunes) because there are still quite a few issues with it… things like tabbed browsing, no cache, the back button was fixed in yesterday update.. my thought is that they released it too early.. I too have been waiting for it for a long time, but, I think if the developers had of taken a little more time, and got some actual tech heads to beta it, instead of just random people with porn problems, they could have made it a LOT better in the initial release.. the thing that bugs me the most is the no cache.. because even if I've visited a website, next time I want to go to it, I have to type out the whole address again.. instead of it being remembered, like in Safari.. but, its a work in progress, soon enough it'll be great I'm sure!

  5. says

    Sorry for the confusion. You can click on links inside the application, but if you had a link in your email and you clicked it – nothing would happen. You'd then need to copy the link, open X3 and then paste the link into the browser.

  6. says

    The NO bookmarks feature is a deal-breaker for me. I'd suggest Mobicip in the meantime.

    I am a X3 user, and can't wait til they get a better product out there that will make a more seemless transition from Safari to their product.

  7. says

    After you install X3 on your phone, you turn on restrictions and shut Safari off. I don't believe X3 will work unless Safari is disabled. X3 does a good job showing how to do this on video.

  8. says

    Another problem is if you click on a link somewhere else, in another app, it probably doesn't open the X3 browser. The best solution is to have an accountability partner or your wife check you history in you browser and just use the default browser. If it's cleared, they can assume you've failed. There should be no good reason to clear your browser history…

    • says

      I would agree that there is no good reason to clear your browser history but I think it's also important for your accountability partner to know where you're failing and at what time. If you clear your browser history, that information is lost.

      • says

        I agree. And there are good reasons to clear your history- to free up memory and increase speed overall, because some of us still have 1st gen 8gb iPhones. :)

        ~NickShoe

  9. says

    I've found filters (at least in the past) to be clunky. Like it filters out something that I really need to legitimately access…Passive monitoring works a lot better in my experience, but everyone has different needs..

  10. says

    thanks those are helpful details.

    I'm in process of getting a smart phone but was a little wary about having the internet sort of freely at my finger tips everywhere I go…so thanks for the review.

  11. says

    Here's a similar product that I've been using for a while. Unlike X3Watch, it's not accountability software but actually filters the web on the iPhone: http://mobicip.com/

    While links from other apps still don't work (have to be copied and pasted), it does support tabbed browsing.

  12. says

    this is craig. a few things.
    1. back arrow bug fixed.
    2. androids i believe will force apple to allow programs to run at the same time. we expect this and dont want to spend another 7-8k developing stuff for a browser that hopefully we can ultimately get rid of.
    3. apple also controls what you can do with hyperlinks and shortcuts. they want everything to happen in safari.

    accountability over convenience is how i see it…

    • says

      Purchasing the Pro upgrade gives bookmarks and tabs, but alas still no external links. You have to copy/paste from Mail or external app.

      I get the “accountability over convenience,” piece though.

  13. says

    as @craigxxxchurch said, the back arrow bug has been fixed with yesterday's update. i really miss the tabbed browsing and bookmarks but it's a sacrifice to make for increased accountability. great review!

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