Brain-boosting apps for iPhone and iPad

Smartphones and tablets, such as the iPhone and iPad, can be useful tools for boosting your brain-power.

The following are apps that will help you learn, measure your IQ, become better at maths, be more alert, and organise your thoughts.

I happen to own an iPhone rather than Android devices, but if you search around, you can often find an alternative app that will work on those. Also, some of these apps also have website versions that you can access from any computer.

Memory and Learning

Memrise, Anki and Supermemo

I've grouped these three apps together as they are pretty similar. Essentially they aim to help you learn new information, such as vocabulary for a language. They are based on an old finding in psychology that people learn best when they are tested on something they've learned at spaced out intervals (e.g. after being tested/reminded at 10 mins, 1 hr, a day, a month and a few months after learning something it will be pretty much etched into your long term memory for good). The problem is that its tricky to keep track of all these spaced out intervals for every word of vocabulary you're trying to learn. This is where the apps come in, this kind of tracking is simple for a computer. Whenever you log on to one of these apps, it gives you new words to learn from your chosen language, and tests you, at just the right time, on ones you had previously learned.


This is kind of an educational version of Pinterest. Essentially you create an online 'board' on a particular subject on which you pin interesting online content that you find on the web. Other people can then browse your boards and you can browse theirs. You might find it a little awkward to properly appreciate this on the small size of a smartphone screen; may work better on a computer or tablet screen.



An extremely simple app for creating a list of to-dos or goals. Looks very attractive, and its extremely simple for those who don't want lots of features. The downside is that it may be just too simple for some.


This turns goal-setting into an adventure game. You give it a list of your goals or to-do items and instead of ticking them off, as you complete them it develops your character in his adventure quest!


Sleep cycle

Sleep cycle monitors your movements whilst you are asleep (you place your iphone on the mattress and the phone's accelerometer sensor can detect movements), and then it wakes you up when you are in the shallowest stages of sleep, ensuring that you don't feel groggy through the day (which, apparently, you can do if a normal alarm wakes you up when you are in deep sleep). All you need to do is set the range of times (earliest and latest) that you would like the alarm to go off, and it intelligently picks the best moment.



According to the app's own description: "Number think is a learning aid for the Major System, which is a well-known technique for remembering numbers for associating them with words. In the major system, each digit of a number is associated with a sound (not a letter). By combining the sounds to form words, you just need to remember the words to remember the number." (you can read more about the Major System in my article 'Advanced memory techniques'.

Vedic Maths

This app teaches you about the ancient Indian system for performing arithmetic quickly and easily in your head.

Organising your thoughts


Allows you to enter information and organise it in a visual mind map format. Again, may be a little tricky to use on the small screen of an iphone.


An app for capturing and organising your thoughts.