Some people say that the brain is like a muscle and like any other muscle, if you exercise it, it will improve. It won’t get physically larger like other muscles do, but it will become more efficient and you can increase your brain power. Lumosity and Fit Brains are two competing brain training apps for Android that are designed to make you smarter.

Both of these apps provide you with a series of games that aim to make you think hard and therefore increase your intelligence. I am not aware of any good scientific evidence that proves brain training games in crease intelligence, or in fact, do anything, apart from making you better at brain training games (see this study).

I've heard it said that the brain is like a muscle, but it works in a completely different way. If you want to think of it as a muscle, it is more like a whole body of muscles than a single one. Arm exercises don’t make your legs any stronger and in a similar way, practising addition makes you better at addition and it doesn’t make you any better at multiplication.

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It is therefore doubtful that these apps will make you smarter, but that does not mean they aren’t useful. Whatever you practise at, you get better at, so a wide range of mental exercises will certainly make you better if you come across something similar in real life. Practising addition and subtraction, for example, will make it easier to check your receipt at the supermarket checkout.

Lumosity challenges your memory, attention, flexibility, speed and problem solving. You can choose what brain functions you want to train, but really it is best if you select everything. You then start a series of games, such as matching colour, choosing the larger of two sums, and so on. The games are quick to play and last only a minute. Your score is tracked and a high score table is kept. You are given an overall score called LPI – Lumosity Performance Index and it will increase as you practise.

Lumosity for Android  .  Lumosity app

Only three games are available with the free app and to play more costs quite a lot. To gain access to all the games costs £39.95 a year here in the UK (that’s about US $67), which is very expensive for a mobile phone app. After all, it is just a bit of fun. The three free games are enjoyable, but it is priced too high for my liking and I'm not tempted to pay for the rest.

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Fit Brains has the same aim, but a different set of games. For example, you have to choose matching pairs of shapes among a grid of shapes, there is a sieve through which letters and numbers fall and you have to say which one(s) didn’t get through the sieve. Another game shows objects on a grid and you have to memorise them and then say which ones are different when the grid is redisplayed. There are stacks of discs shown from the side and you have to choose the top view that matches. The exercises are quite different to Lumosity.

Fit Brains for Android  .  Fit Brains app

The app provides just a small number of games for free and you have to pay to gain access to the rest. However, the price is a more reasonable £14.99 (around $25) it is a one-off fee and not an annual recurring one. It is therefore much better value than Lumosity and is more tempting.

I like the way Fit Brains tracks your progress and it shows statistics better than Lumosity and there are some interesting screens that show your training history, comparison with other people and so on.

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Ideally, you should buy both apps and then you would have access to the widest range of exercises (you'll have half a dozen exercises if you install both free apps). However, few people are likely to choose to buy both because of the cost. Fit Brains is the best value for money if you only want to buy one.

Lumosity  .  Fit Brains

Title: Lumosity (Google Play Store)
Price: Free, but with in-app-purchases
Developer: Lumosity Labs
Size: 48MB
Android: 4.0 or later
Rating: 3/5

Title: Fit Brains (Google Play Store)
Price: Free, but with in-app-purchases
Developer: Vivity Labs
Size: varies
Android: varies
Rating: 4/5