Lumosity (for iPhone) review

Many experts recommend exercising your brain a few minutes every day, whether by completing crosswords, Sodoku, or some other thoughtful activity. The iPhone app Lumosity helps you do just that, but don't expect a mind-blowing experience without an expensive subscription.
Photo of Lumosity (for iPhone)
79.99

Remember Brain Age, the brain-training game that was all the rage on the Nintendo DS several years ago? iPhone users looking for a similar challenge in mental acuity can download the Lumosity app (free to download; paid subscription optional). Lumosity started as a Web-based brain-training program, and, now that it’s on iOS, you can play through your daily exercises during those moments of downtime when you’re out and about. This review isn’t based on any of the purported science behind Lumosity—just the games that are included and overall app experience.

The app has a neat range of games, but not all them are deeply stimulating to be perfectly frank. Plus, once you set up your goals in the app, which are used to pick which kinds and how many games per day you can play, you can’t change those goals. Bummer. Paid subscribers—and that subscription is expensive at $14.95 per month or $79.99 per year—will get more out of the app, but not that much.

When you set up an account in the Lumosity iPhone app, you’re asked to provide a little information about yourself, such as age, sex, and what kinds of mental improvements you’re hoping to make from a provided list. The options include: lose fewer objects, remember peoples’ names, learn new subjects quickly, avoid distractions, and several more.

Once you enter that information, you can’t change it, so beware! What if your goals change, or you realize, as I did, that choosing fewer goals leads to fewer games to play? Well, you’re stuck with what you entered. I also couldn’t see the selections I made a second time to review them! That limitation really has to go.

The Games
My favorite Lumosity game so far is one in which the app displays two numbers or two mathematical equations, and you have to choose which quantity is greater. Another game that I liked shows you a grid of tiles and then some of the tiles turn over and you have to remember which tiles flipped and which didn’t. These games were challenging and actually did make me feel like I was using my brain.

One game that I hate, though, shows you flashcards of shapes, and below the shape are two buttons labeled yes and no. You have to indicate whether the current shape on the flashcard is the same as the one before it, and speed counts. For me, this game tested nothing more than twitch reflex, and I found it totally boring.

You can set up reminders on any days of the week you want that will prompt you to play your daily games. Free account holders are limited to playing three recommended games per day. Each of the games is meant to train one of five core cognitive functions: working memory, flexibility/agility, attention span, problem-solving, and processing speed.  After you’ve completed the recommended daily training, you can repeat the games of the day, but that’s all. You have to wait for the next day for a new set of game. 

With a paid subscription, Lumosity recommends five games per day, one for each cognitive area. Plus the range of games expands to include a bunch that are not included with the free account. Paid subscribers also get more charts for tracking their progress. Free account holders can only see their top scores, while paid subscribers have data saved and compared over time so that you can see whether you’ve improved and compare yourself to other Lumosity users.

Illuminating?
Lumosity isn’t the most illuminating app, even though many of the games are wonderful and fun for a little mental challenge. It provides a pretty good set of exercises, but the settings within the app, particularly the ability to see and change your goals, really should be handled differently.

Specifications
Type Personal

Verdict
Many experts recommend exercising your brain a few minutes every day, whether by completing crosswords, Sodoku, or some other thoughtful activity. The iPhone app Lumosity helps you do just that, but don't expect a mind-blowing experience without an expensive subscription.
Published under license from Ziff Davis, Inc., New York, All rights reserved.
Copyright © 2012 Ziff Davis, Inc