Entertainment on your phone needn’t just be Tacobell’s epic SnapChat account. A new ‘brain training’ category is emerging in the smartphone space.

Games to train your brain

Whether you want to boost your memory, perform better at University, or simply maintain a healthy state of mind, dedicated ‘brain training’ apps are turning simple activities into hardcore thought exercises. Lumosity (iOS, Android, $79.95 per year) has turned this science into an art form, using introductory tests to assess your mental capacity before designing a custom set of games to meet your goals. As an ongoing research project with data from 70 million+ users, their methods are equal parts science-based and human tested for results. Elevate (iOS, Android, $45.00 per year) works on a similar basis, targeting your skills from reading, comprehension, grammar and vocabulary, with fun gameplay like memory tests and flashcard quizzes.

With a distinct focus on memory skills, Neuronation’s course-based approach lets you decide what you want to work on – from focus and intelligence to memory and logic. It adapts the difficulty level to your responses, focusing on areas where you need improvement and leaving out sections where you already excel. These games have been shown to increase memory retention, attention span, and enhance mathematic abilities, with additional benefits for those undergoing mental rehabilitation.

Open source entertainment

If you prefer your entertainment a little more relaxed and less hands-on, there are a tonne of tools for you to just sit back and be inspired by (perfect for long trips or background entertainment). Internationally renowned education platform TED developed their app (iOS, Android, Free) as a way to access their inspiring collection of talks, speeches and panels. Medium’s game-changing storytelling and news platform is made even more accessible with their smartphone app (iOS, Android, Free) while editorial aggregators like Digg and Flipboard personally curate news and educational stories via interest-based tagging- especially great for those looking to beef up knowledge on a specific area of knowledge.

In-App tutors

No longer limited to the chosen few, many of the world’s elite Universities have made their courses accessible from your phone, with a slew of apps providing access to valuable knowledge banks. Recently acquired by LinkedIn to bridge the gap between Undergrad and Postgrad students, Lynda is a course-based library for everything from Design to Finance, with a mobile app to keep your learning uninterrupted. Khan Academy claims to help you learn ‘almost anything’ for free, with over 3,000 videos and infinite courses to discover. EdX takes mobile academia to the next level with free courses from the most exclusive universities in the world, from Harvard to MIT, the Sorbonne, Tsinghua and local institutions like the University of Queensland.

For more hardcore learning capabilities, Treehouse will teach you real-life coding skills from web design to business applications. Babbel will teach you a new language on the go with their vocabulary trainer, and Poems By Heart helps you appreciate language with their Poetry memorisation app created by Penguin Classics.

Mindless, yet mindful fun

Sometimes you just want to play a game without feeling like your mind is melting away. Fortunately, there’re plenty available. Start with a classic – The NYTimes Crossword App deserves its subscription fee, giving users access to one of the most legendary puzzle archives on the planet. QuizUp pits you against 25 million players globally with over 400,000 questions, whilst the official Scrabble app will test your vocabulary against friends (or enemies).

Finally, for those looking for a leg up in business, Lemonade Stand’s basic yet addictive business strategy platform hasn’t changed since the early 2000’s, proving the simplest things can also be a learning experience.

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Stuart McDonald

Performance Media Manager

Stuart McDonald,
Performance Media Manager

Stuart is Red Wire’s resident devices expert. Android enthusiast, Virtual Reality road tester, and SnapChatter, Stuart is widely acknowledged to be the ‘DJ Khaled of Data.’

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