Smartphones are amazing.  You have access to nearly all the information in the world (there’s probably a book or two out there that haven’t been transferred to the web yet); and sure, you may use most of that power to put dog ears on yourself in photos/videos, or browse through hundreds of photos highlighting how cats are jerks, but there are other uses.  Downloading the following apps is a smart way to be a smart person.

 

Duolingo

People in other countries seem to pick up languages far better than Americans.  While there’s convenience for us Yankees that English is widely referenced as the “world’s language” an inherent weakness exists: we don’t need to learn new languages.  Join the world and learn the native tongue of your next adventure by downloading the Duolingo app.  This app takes a unique approach to teaching people new languages and they have the belief that language should be free to anyone willing to learn so the lessons are free and effective.  Only 20 minutes per day will have you on the right track to negotiating down that crappy sombrero in Spanish on your next trip to Mexico.  Or, get to know some locals and learn to appreciate their way of life in their language.  A wall will be taken down (if only a cultural wall).

 

Audible/Overdrive

Audiobooks seemed like so much work only 10 years ago because you would still have to purchase a 6-CD set and flip through the discs in between chapters.  These days, however, you can download entire audiobooks to your smartphone in a matter of a few minutes and you’ll have hours of uninterrupted listening ahead of you.  Audible has a unique format that, essentially, requires you to purchase one book per month, and it feels as though you’re wasting your money if you don’t listen to it.  So, Audible can be considered a bit of an accountability app as well.  Got a library card?  If not, go get one, heathen.  Once you have one you can download Overdrive and login with your library card then browse ebooks as well as audiobooks that your library offers for free checkout.  Pro hint: up the speed to 1.5x or ever 1.75x for even faster reading/listening.

 

Podcast App – Generic iPhone Podcast App, Stitcher, etc.

Similar to audiobooks are podcasts.  Video killed the radio star: audio as a media was huge in a pre-television world (and definitely prior to streaming television) but the invention of streaming audio and downloadable content has upped the game for the listening audience.  It used to be that if someone referenced NPR you might think they were pretentious or nerdy but now NPR is among some of the biggest contributors to the best of podcasting; from politics to pop culture you have tons of fascinating options with NPR alone, not to mention a full array of other channels.  Last week we released a blog post on great podcasts for couples to listen to.  Read that here.

 

Headspace

The practice of meditation continues to grow as studies reiterate the benefits of the activity.  Unfortunately, people often feel intimidated by the community and aren’t quite sure how to learn the best tactics for adopting meditation.  There are various types of meditation but an easy gateway into it is to download the Headspace app which takes you through ten days of easy to follow ten minute tutorials.  Commit to that simple routine for those ten days and evaluate how you feel.  If you dig it, you can continue with your own, self-motivated practice, or pay a small fee for upgraded material through Headspace.  If you don’t dig it, just tell yourself that it was better spending that cumulative 100 minutes trying meditation than it would have been watching Zoolander No. 2.

 

ChessTactics

Chess is one of those long-lost board games of yesteryear but when you consider that by the third move over 9 million different move variations could have been reached it is a timeless study of strategy.  Unless you grew up with a parent or grandparent who taught you how to play chances are that you haven’t really delve into the brainpower of this game.  ChessTactics is the perfect source for you to test out your ability in an easy and informative fashion.  Every move has one correct move and you maintain a rating on your skills.  After you attempt to solve you can see the answer, additionally there are comments left by the community that further explain why the correct answer is, in fact, correct.  Josh Waitzkin (chess prodigy) in his book “The Art of Learning” states that rather than learning chess from the first moves it is more effective to learn in the final moves, such as mating your opponent (that terminology doesn’t quite sound right in a couple’s blog…); ChessTactics does exactly that in focusing primarily on final moves so that you can get a feel of how to finish your opponent before running through a full game.

 

Vocabulary Builder

Simply type in “vocabulary builder” into your app search for one that works for you.  Most are flash card style learning while some are multiple choice quizzes and still others will send you a push notification every day with one word.  Each day try to fit a new word into your conversations to sound smarter (and the secret to it all: it will make you smarter).  Poor vocabulary will no longer beleaguer you!

 

Now that you have the list pull out that smart phone and start downloading your new apps.  The best part about all of this: efficiency.  You could do a vocabulary builder, Headspace, and Duolingo every day in about 35 minutes total.  Audiobooks and podcasts can be done during your normal routine activities like commuting to work or while in the gym.  And ChessTactics can be done to replace time you spend unnecessarily on social media or playing Candy Crush.