11 Apps That Will Make You Feel Smarter

Deagreez/iStock via Getty Images
Deagreez/iStock via Getty Images

Encased beneath the delicate surface of your smartphone is what seems like practically all the knowledge in the world, both past and present. This is, in a word, awesome. It’s also, in a different word, overwhelming. Deciding you’d like to take advantage of that unfettered access to learn a thing or two is easy—deciding where to start isn’t quite so straightforward. To jumpstart your quest to pick up some information without making any serious financial or time commitment, we’ve assembled a list of apps that will definitely make you feel smarter, no matter what topic you’re interested in.

1. Today in History

This free app takes the daunting yet admirable goal of “wanting to learn more about history” and breaks it up into daily digestible pieces that cover events, births, deaths, holidays, and more from a variety of time periods and places. You can browse by category—technology, entertainment, science, and sports, to name a few—or you can visit the “events” tab to see a timeline of important events from years past. The stories are paired with engaging images, and you can personalize notifications to occur just once a day or much more often. In addition to helping you fill in the gaps of your historical knowledge, it’s also an often-heartening daily reminder of just how far we’ve come in the world (and great fodder for water-cooler conversation when you have nothing to say about the weather).

Download: iOS

2. TED

In the last several years, TED Talks have become an extremely popular way to learn about topics you may not have thought to seek out on your own. Having said that, you don’t necessarily have time to watch a TED video every time one appears on your Facebook timeline. The TED app is a perfect way to keep track of the latest and greatest TED videos on your own time—you can see what’s trending, get personalized recommendations, download videos for offline viewing, and save videos to your own watch list. There’s even a “Surprise Me!” feature that will offer you a video recommendation outside of your interests.

Download: iOS, Android

3. DailyArt

Even if you can pick a Picasso painting out of a lineup, how deep does your art knowledge really go? DailyArt educates art aficionados and rookies alike by serving them one artwork each day from a collection of more than 2000 pieces, complete with all of its basic information and history, plus some interesting behind-the-scenes details about the artwork and/or artist, too. You can swipe through past days’ entries, explore more than 700 artist biographies and information about more than 500 museums, and even bookmark artworks to your own list of favorites. It’s a low-investment way to foster a passion for art, whether or not you have one to begin with.

Download: iOS, Android

4. Flipboard

In a world where you end up completely behind the times just by neglecting to check a certain app for a few hours, it can feel impossible to stay on top of what’s going on. Flipboard makes it easy by aggregating both news and social media in one streamlined place. You decide which news sources and topics will appear in your feed—from there, all you really need to do is flip through the content, and Flipboard will update your feed based on what you interact with and suggest other topics you might be interested in adding. There’s also an even simpler “Daily Edition” feature, a daily roundup of the top stories from each category.

Download: iOS, Android

5. Lumosity

Lumosity begins with a 10-minute “Fit Test,” a series of three games that evaluate cognitive ability in areas like memory and attention span. It then uses your scores to devise a personalized brain-training program with games guaranteed to improve those scores. While information-based apps help you fill your brain with new knowledge, Lumosity helps you feel like you’re actually expanding your brain’s boundaries in ways that will make daily life easier. For example, if you specify that you’d like to work on losing fewer objects and better remembering people’s names, Lumosity will offer you a game that targets those areas of your brain. And, since you probably have a few minutes to kill every day while waiting for a bus to come or water to boil, why not give your brain a little exercise?

Download: iOS, Android

6. Vocabulary.com

This app—which both TIME and Fast Company called “addictive”—is worth the one-time cost of $3 for its dictionary alone, which includes definitions, helpful notes about how the word is usually used, and example sentences pulled from actual news articles. In addition to the dictionary, the app boasts an algorithm-based system for learning vocabulary where you play games to earn points and collect achievement badges. There are also more than 50,000 word lists that you can choose from, which cover everything from GRE prep to words in Charles Dickens’s A Christmas Carol.

Download: iOS

7. NASA

Between the recent 50th anniversary of the moon landing and the ever-present hope for a Mars landing (not to mention all the space-related movies, both Star Wars and otherwise), NASA is definitely hot right now—and its app is a great way to stay awestruck and in-the-know. In addition to featuring more than 17,000 images, 360-degree videos, launch updates, and breaking news stories, it also includes a tracker for the International Space Station (ISS), and it’ll even send you notifications when the ISS is visible from your location.

Download: iOS, Android

8. National Geographic’s GeoBee Challenge

The description of National Geographic’s GeoBee app opens with “This is a challenging game, so it's not for beginners...but do keep in mind that the National Geographic GeoBee is meant for kids in grades 4-8. Are you smarter than a 4th grader?” Though you’re probably not entering an elementary school geography bee any time soon (or ever), this app will help you find out how you’d fare as a participant—and, of course, give you the opportunity to improve your knowledge of world geography. After a few rounds of answering multiple choice trivia and locating places on an interactive map, you’ll never again feel lost while reading international news headlines.

Download: iOS, Android

9. Daily Random Facts

With an average of 4.8 out of 5 stars from about 20,000 Apple user reviews, this Monkey Taps app practically needs no other endorsement. By just reading a sentence or two every day, you’ll quickly build an impressive arsenal of the type of grab-bag information that’ll make you everybody’s first choice for their trivia team. The app includes interesting facts about history, science, sports, life hacks, animals, the human body, and more—all you have to do is enable push notifications (or remember to visit the app every day on your own).

Download: iOS, Android

10. TheSkimm

If someone bottled that heavenly feeling of knowing what’s going on in the world and sold it to you for $3 a month, would you buy it? That’s basically what TheSkimm has done. Every weekday morning, the app feeds you need-to-know, nonpartisan news stories that’ll only take you about five minutes to consume. In addition to the daily digest, you can also listen to audio episodes that cover important news, read longer stories that break down complex topics like immigration and Brexit, and even get book, movie, and recipe recommendations. Not only does TheSkimm make you feel like you’re capable of understanding basically everything, it also does a great job of explaining how and why global news is relevant to you.

Download: iOS, Android

11. iNaturalist

When you stop to smell the flowers, the iNaturalist app will tell you what kind of flowers you’re actually smelling. Snap a photo of any plant or animal in your area, and iNaturalist will use crowdsourced image data to identify the species. With more than 400,000 users, there’s a good chance iNaturalist already has enough images of your mystery organism to provide you with the correct answer—but if not, you can also chat with knowledgeable scientists and naturalists within the app who may know the answer themselves. And, of course, it works both ways: Your uploaded images will help other curious observationalists identify flora and fauna in the future, and you can even explore the map to see which species have been logged around you.

Download: iOS, Android

10 Items Under $25 That Will Keep You Warm This Winter

KEAZA/Yeti/Amazon
KEAZA/Yeti/Amazon

If you're someone who finds the freezing temperatures of winter unbearable, even the shortest stints outside can seem like pure torture. But you don't need to spend the next few months dreading every moment you're in your drafty office or outdoors. We looked through Amazon and found plenty of products, ranging from heated scarves to insulated coffee mugs, that will keep you warm without breaking the bank. Check out some of our favorite finds for under $25.

1. Refillable Zippo Hand Warmers; $20

A refillable zippo hand warmer
Zippo/Amazon

There is a long list of unpleasantries that comes along with winter, and being unable to keep your hands warm is definitely near the top of that list. But thankfully, there are these refillable, flameless Zippo hand warmers, which can last for up to 12 hours. All you need to do is remove the burner, add the lighter fluid (which is available on Amazon for $10), place the burner back on, apply a flame, and enjoy the comfort of having warm hands again.

Buy it: Amazon

2. Heated Scarf; $18

A heated scarf
PerfectPrime/Amazon

We have heated gloves, hand warmers, and even heated socks. But what about when your neck gets cold? Enter PerfectPrime’s electric scarf, which comes with two heaters that allow you to swap between low or high heat. All you need to do is hook one of the heaters up to the included USB cord; place both in the inset of the scarf; attach the cord to the power pack, which sits in a small pouch; and enjoy the added warmth. (The power pack isn't included but you can pick one up on Amazon for $27). And when it comes time, the heaters can be removed and the scarf can be thrown in the washer for an easy clean.

Buy it: Amazon

3. Mug Warmer; $23

Mug warmer
Vobaga/Amazon

It's hard to stay warm in your home or office when that perfect cup of coffee you just poured yourself goes cold after just a few minutes on your desk. This mug warmer can help prevent that by keeping your drink nice and hot, even if you're away from it for over an hour. Simply hit the “tempering” button to choose your ideal temperature of 104℉, 131℉, or 149℉, and rest your mug on top. And if your distractions take you away for too long, there’s no need to worry as the warmer will shut off after four hours.

Buy it: Amazon

4. USB Hand warmers; $20

hand warmers
Eaterhom/Amazon

If you work in a cold office, forcing yourself to type with freezing hands can seem nearly impossible. But now, you can ensure your hands stay nice and toasty with these super adorable toast hand warmers. Fingerless and with adjustable wrist straps, these plush gloves are one size fits all and perfectly whimsical. All you need to do is slip them on, hook them up to the USB drive on your computer, and enjoy the extra dexterity.

Buy it: Amazon

5. Viking Horns and Beard Beanie; $19

A viking hat
Kafeimali/Amazon

If you're going to be out in the cold, this hand-knit Acrylic beanie, complete with Viking horns and beard, is perfect for bringing a little levity to the bitterness outside. Not only will this winter accessory be a great conversation starter, but the beard and cap will ensure your face and head stay plenty warm. If you aren’t quite feeling the beard—though we really have no idea why you wouldn’t—it’s removable. You can find this beanie in brown, black, and two shades of gray.

Buy it: Amazon

6. Heated mouse; $23

A heated mouse from ValueRays at Amazon.
ValueRays/Amazon

If you don't want to completely cover your hands while working in a chilly office, this heated mouse may be your best bet. It plugs right into your computer through a USB cord and will heat up to 99°F-120°F, allowing you to choose the right level of warmth while avoiding the inevitable sweaty palms that come with wearing gloves indoors. Just remember, this is a mouse designed for work or school—basically anything more casual. If you’re looking to keep warm while doing more precise work (like design work or gaming), check out this heated mouse pad for $33.

Buy it: Amazon

7. Yeti Insulated Mug; $25

An insulated coffee mug from Yeti.
Yeti/Amazon

Pouring yourself a warm drink is the easy part—it’s keeping it warm that gets tricky. And no one wants to rush through their hot coffee or tea just so it doesn’t cool down too fast (think about your poor tongue!). With this insulated mug from Yeti, you can keep your drink warmer for longer, allowing you to sip at your own speed. Yeti is a company known for durability, so this 14-ounce mug is perfect whether you're taking it to the office or on a long hike or camping trip. 

Buy it: Amazon

8. Hogwarts Scarf; $20

A Hogwarts Harry Potter scarf from Cinereplicas.
Cinereplicas/Amazon

This officially licensed Harry Potter Hogwarts scarf from Cinereplicas is about as authentic to J.K. Rowling’s wizarding world as you’ll get without an owl delivering you an acceptance letter. The scarf is so faithful to the color scheme from the films that it even uses the same Pantone shades as seen on the screen. The comfy knit feel will keep you warm in the winter, and the movie-accurate design will help it double as part of a costume come Halloween time. For a few dollars more, you can buy scarves based on Gryffindor, Hufflepuff, Ravenclaw, and Slytherin.

Buy it: Amazon

9. These Incredibly Warm Socks; $13

Vintage socks from KEAZA sold on Amazon.
KEAZA/Amazon

If you’re working from home—or just taking part in some world-class hygge—you need these incredibly cozy, incredibly versatile socks. You can wear them to sleep on a cold night, keep them on all day like slippers, or wear them with shoes during those early-morning commutes as the thermometers plummet. Best of all, while they’re warm, they’re not suffocating. They’re soft, with enough breathability to prevent your feet from overheating.

Buy it: Amazon

10. Touchscreen gloves; $7-$12

Touchscreen gloves from Amazon.
Achiou/Amazon

Not even the bitter cold should keep you from your Instagram scrolling, and with these touchscreen gloves, you can keep your digits warm without having to sacrifice your social media time. These gloves were made specifically with phones and other gadgets in mind, so while they’re ready to keep you comfortable in winter weather, the material allows you to use your device without worrying that your fingers won’t register on the screen. Plus, the silicone on the gloves will help prevent your phone from slipping from your grip.

Buy it: Amazon

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Scam Alert: A FedEx Tracking Notification Text Wants to Steal Your Credit Card Number

interstid/iStock via Getty Images
interstid/iStock via Getty Images

Thanks to moment-by-moment tracking software offered by delivery services like FedEx, UPS, and the post office, consumers can keep tabs on their packages before they're even delivered. We’ve grown so accustomed to getting notification texts that it might be easy to let a bogus one slip by.

According to How-To Geek, that could prove to be an expensive mistake. The site is reporting that a scam currently making the rounds involves a fraudulent text notification of an impending FedEx package. The message is prompting recipients to “set delivery preferences” for the delivery. When smartphone users click on the link in the message, they’re directed to what looks like an Amazon satisfaction survey. After completing the survey, users are offered a free gift and then asked to remit their credit card information to pay $6.99 for shipping. This also triggers a monthly subscription charge of $98.95.

Due to the deluge of solicitations for customer surveys prompted by businesses, this is a clever bit of misdirection. Needless to say, it’s also not a legitimate offer. Amazon is unlikely to ever route you to a new URL for a “free gift.” If you’re unsure whether you have a package on the way, it’s a good idea to navigate directly to the FedEx or shipper website to check. It’s also best to block the incoming number to opt out of any future texts offering to separate you from your money.

[h/t How-To Geek]

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