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Office Depot offers discounts to students who can keep hands off smartphones

Office Depot wants to reward college students for putting down their phones and picking up their textbooks.

The Florida-based office supply chain is partnering with Pocket Points, an app that lets students capable of resisting the allure of their smartphone in class earn coupons from retailers and fast-food chains, Office Depot said in a news release Thursday.

Students earn points that can be redeemed for discounts when they use the app to lock their phones while on campus. And while Pocket Points can't guarantee students aren't distracting themselves with their laptops instead of their phones, it does make an effort to make sure it's rewarding phone-free class or library time.

The app can monitor the phone's location and only grants points when a student locks it on campus. Dormitories and nonacademic buildings are also out, and there are time limits to keep students from locking their phones at night and racking up points while asleep, Pocket Points co-founder Mitch Gardner said in an emailed statement. Although the app lets retailers target a student audience, it does not share data such as email addresses or locations, he said.

The amount of points required varies by offer, but he estimated discounts could take between a day and a week to earn. Other companies using the app include Papa John's, Subway and Smoothie King.

"Office Depot's exclusive partnership with Pocket Points furthers our commitment to finding new and innovative ways to help students utilize technology to succeed in the classroom," Diane Nick, Office Depot's senior vice president of marketing, said in the news release.

The program isn't offered at any Chicago campuses but will be at Midwest colleges including the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Indiana University Bloomington, Purdue University, the University of Michigan, the University of Wisconsin-Madison and the University of Iowa.

lzumbach@chicagotribune.com

Twitter @laurenzumbach

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