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Say goodbye to endless Netflix binges and hello to apps and mobile games that can help develop your lateral thinking, vocabulary and creativity

You’ve managed to binge-watch every ‘must-see’ show on Netflix and refreshed Instagram to the point that there’s literally no new content. Now you're now likely wondering what on earth are you going to do with your all your spare time during this time of social distancing. Well, perhaps it’s time for you to consider swapping your social media screen time for some more educational apps.

Phones have a bad reputation for being creativity killers, but the connectivity of phones do provide unparalleled learning opportunities—especially now, at a time of low social interaction.

From the classic New York Times crossword for a daily get-the-brain-started puzzle, to games that spark strategic, creative and out-of-the-box thinking, here are five apps you should try out while at home.

See also: 10 Luxury Game Sets To Keep You Entertained In Style

The New York Times Crossword

App Store Rating: 4.7 stars.

Cost: Free, but subscription is US$39.99 a year or $6.99 a month.

Platforms: iOS, Android.

Introduction: The New York Times official app for its print crosswords in a digital format.

Pro: The app has over 20 years worth of the New York Times crossword puzzles to try out, if you choose to pay for the subscription. They’ve also updated their puzzles, so that their modern crosswords have features like related clues, revealing, checking and rebuses.

Con: There is a free seven-day trial, but once it expires the free version only includes one mini-sized crossword a day. If you want to access the more difficult crosswords or delve into the themed crosswords, you’ll have to fork out US$39.99 a year or $6.99 a month.

Good To Know: The app is ranked twelfth in the world on the Apple app store.

Editor Review: “Since trying it for the first time about a month ago, I’ve stayed on the free plan and found it to be fun, entertaining and not necessary to upgrade. Doing the daily mini puzzle is an easy way to get your brain thinking laterally.”

Khan Academy

App Store Rating: 4.1 stars.

Cost: Free.

Platforms: iOS, Android.

Introduction: Founded by ex-hedge fund analyst Salman Khan, this education platform provides over 6,500 free video lessons, teaching everything from preparing for AP exams to entering the world of entrepreneurship.

Pro: All the video lessons are interactive, with many courses offering quizzes, tests and instant feedback. Since the coronavirus outbreak—and the resulting closure of many schools globally—Khan Academy has also created special remote learning resources and daily schedules for children from 2-18.

Con: While the videos are broad and cover most subjects taught at school, the videos are heavily focused on STEM subjects with less on the humanities.

Good To Know: Bill Gates began using Khan Academy’s videos when he wanted to tutor his own kids, becoming an early supporter and fan of the platform.

Editor Review: “I’ve used this platform for years, recently moving over to the app version. It’s one of my favourite apps to use when I’m interested in learning a little more about something, be it coding or history. My favourite aspect being that I can learn at my own pace and whenever I choose.”


App Store Rating 4.5 stars.

Cost: Free.

Platforms: iOS, Android.

Introduction: Risk is the ultimate strategy game. Aiming for world domination, you are allocated a number of troops at the beginning of the game and compete against the other players to take over as much land as possible, as quickly as possible.

Pro: The game allows you to both play alone and against bots of varying levels of difficulty, or you can choose to play against your friends online.

Con: The app has a variety of entertaining maps to choose from, be it an ancient world map, a US state or a magical non-existent land. However, to access anything more than the generic world map you’ll need to purchase them in the app.

To Note: The app requires iOS 8.3 or newer.

Editor Review: “Introduced to me by a friend recently in an attempt to beat the boredom and restlessness of insolation at home, I tried my hand at playing Risk. It’s an oddly addictive game that forces you to think tactically and plan both short and long-term strategies.”



App Store Rating: 4.7 stars.

Cost: Free.

Platforms: iOS, Android.

Introduction: The world's most popular app for online language learning, now with over 200 million users.

Pro: The app teaches over 30 languages through free, interactive lessons. The games encapsulate everything from school, work and family to shopping, weather and nature, unlocking more themes as you progress.

Con: The lessons included in the free version of the app are incredible, but you only have five hearts, which equates to five mistakes you can make before you get locked out of lessons. The only way around this is to upgrade to the pro version of the app, which is HK$50.67 a month.

Good To Know: Duolingo also offers a free podcast in certain languages, where you can listen to people speak at a slightly slower rate than their natural pace, allowing you to learn more conversational language habits. The podcast is best for intermediate levels.

Editor Review: “This app shocked me with how well it teaches the basics of a language. Trying my hand at Spanish, the app teaches by way of reading, listening and writing exercises all organised in lesson themes—my favourite being ‘emotions’ and ‘people’.”

Monument Valley 2

App Store Rating: 4.5.

Cost: US$4.99.

Platforms: iOS, Android.

Introduction: Monument Valley 2 is a game in which you guide a mother and daughter through architectural mazes and puzzling pathways. The aim is to help them reach the end using your creative power to manipulate landscapes and structures.

Pro: The app has beautiful graphics and mind-bending perspectives that give players the opportunity to solve relaxing yet challenging puzzles.

Con: There’s not much of a story to the puzzles, other than guiding the main characters, Ro and her daughter, to escape.

Good To Know: The warped geometry of the game allows you to move the characters of the game up, down and all sorts of directions, forcing you to think outside the box.

Editor Review: “I’ve tried around half the puzzles and seen the difficulty slowly rise each level, pushing my creative thinking and forcing me to consider seemingly impossible solutions. The colours and graphics of the game are simple and colourful, making it easy on the eyes as well.”

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