Appy Monday – Peak
James Clifton (@)
Peak is a brain training mobile application from Brainbow, a London-based group, that is designed to improve your cognitive skills and build healthy training habits with fun but challenging games, goals and workouts. It is available on both Android and iOS.
My colleagues and I have been using this application now for a number of months and I can safely say we have all enjoyed using it and the results are good.
There are two user levels in the app, one which is free and one called ‘Pro’ which offers extra functionality in longer workouts, 6 instead of 4, deeper analytics for more in-depth insights and access to their entire brain game library. At Verb we like to keep things simple, we have been using the free version and if i’m honest, for our level of use, it’s been fine thus far.
The app uses different games / workouts which are designed to train certain areas of your brain and develop different skills. The brain score breaks down into 5 categories, which they call “you brain in a nutshell”. These consist of;
- Problem Solving
- Mental Agility
The games range from sorting certain shapes or icons into their relevant groups to the left or right by simply pressing a button, to making a path between two squares on a grid using letter tiles, much like scrabble.
The games offered each day vary and they gradually get harder as you get better at each task. Your High scores are recorded so you always have something to aim at and different score challenges are set at the start of each game to try and give you something to aim for to gain bonus points.
I generally tend to use the app in the morning on my commute to try and get my mind in gear for the day ahead, and it tends to work, however I definitely feel that this negatively affects my ‘brain score’ as when I have tried to play it later in the day, on my commute home for instance, I have managed to attain a much better score.
The other question is regarding the actual development of my cognitive skills. Is it actually improving my skills or is it just that I am getting better at each game and getting used to them over time? One thing I would definitely say though is that I know when I haven’t used it in the morning, because I am much less aware and active when I get to my desk.
Peak is currently my most used mobile app on my commute and I genuinely enjoy using it and progressing. But lets see how it measures up in our review criteria!
The app uses a flat design language which is both attractive and friendly. The dominant colour is the brand’s blue which is evident throughout most of the neutral pages (when not in a specific game type) and helps maintain the friendly persona.
Each training exercise uses colour coding to represent the area of your brain score it is related to. This not only helps define the brand and enhance the friendly appearance but also assists with UX.
The app is incredibly easy to use and does actually vary depending on the platform you are using it on. This has been the case with some of our other app reviews, relates to specific UX on different devices. Take a look at ‘Designing Across Mobile Platforms, Don’t Just Copy and Paste’ for a more in depth discussion on this point.
Google have recently implemented their ‘Material Design’ design language which greatly informs the more tabbed navigation within the app, whereas Apple’s iOS platform uses less tabbed navigation and more free scrolling text screens.
Using these techniques greatly enhances the UX for the users by tailoring it not only to the user as a broad audience, but specifically based on the platform of the device they are using so that they are already familiar with the interface being used.
The app is fun to use and the gamification elements such as high scores, challenges and the on-going brain score development makes the app relatively addictive. On the free version sometimes the exercises can get a little repetitive but the app does try to mix it up a little by introducing new games here and there on a new workout.
I’m sure that on the ‘Pro’ version that this is much less of a restricting factor, but for the free version from what I have used of it, it does dampen the experience a little when you are getting very good at a particular exercise which can therefore skew your results at the end of that day’s workout.
Addictive / Reusable
I think the app is quite addictive and trying to improve your score and complete challenges is very satisfying. I do tend to use this app most days in the mornings and I do find myself remembering that I haven’t done my workout for that day and wanting to complete it.
Sometimes the reminders can be a little annoying, but you can set the frequency of these in the settings which makes this less of a hindrance.
The app is free to to download and the more limited functionality in my opinion is more than enough to justify the download of the app. The ‘Pro’ version is a monthly subscription of £3.99 or you can pay a 1 year bulk subscription for £25.99, which sounds like a fair bit to me for something that is essentially a mobile game but perhaps would be useful for other users?
I have been tempted before to upgrade to the ‘Pro’ version but the monthly subscription puts me off as I would then be tied into using it as much as possible, which lets face it, with mobile apps, isn’t a given
Overall the app is good value since more than enough use can be had with the free version.
Peak is a great time killer and a useful tool to use every day to get your head in the right place. Some of the exercises can be quite challenging at times but they do get easier over time, perhaps this is just due to practice on particular exercises or it could be me actually developing my cognitive skills. The app is easy to use and never slows down or has any performance issues (from my experience).
So overall a very good app and a bit different to all those in depth games out there, great for short blasts and who knows, maybe it will unlock that Einstein in you!