My 5 Favorite Nerdy Apps

Photo credit:  "Sharon & Nikki McCutcheon".

Photo credit: "Sharon & Nikki McCutcheon".

Do you spend a lot of time on your mobile using social networks or playing games? If you're like most people, you probably do... I am not saying I don't; I actually tracked how much time I usually spend on social networks and other distracting apps using RescueTime, one of the tools I recommend using for productivity management, and it's around 2 hours on average per day! Although you might be using each app for a few minutes every other hour, but these minutes pile up throughout the day, and you end up wasting hours with not much gain. I'm not advising you to quit social networking; as a social media consultant, it would be bad for my business if you do lol, but there are apps you can use to compensate for wasted time, and to enjoy as well as benefit from spending time on your mobile... Let's call them "nerdy" apps! So without further ado, here are the apps I recommend for some good mobile fun with great value:

Elevate - Your Personal Brain Trainer

I am IN LOVE with this app! Its aim is to "elevate" your skills in writing, speaking, reading and comprehension, listening and MATH (I know, I'm such a nerd lol). The free version of the app gives you access to a new set of challenges each day to build the skills you chose to elevate. Every challenge is a game designed in collaboration with experts in neuroscience and cognitive learning and are based on extensive scientific research. So basically, you'll have fun playing games that make you smarter! 

You get to train 30+ critical skills that are designed to boost productivity, earning power, and self-confidence; measure your performance and track your activity progress over time. You get to play three games every day, and have the option to switch a recommendation if you don't feel like playing a particular game, and you can replay the same game for a few times to enhance your score and reach a higher level.

As you can see, I'm all about math lol although I was originally excited about Elevate for the chance to improve my listening skills; they've got some fun listening games, with especially a practical one for name recall that would be quite useful when meeting new people and remembering information about them.

The app is available on iOS and Android.

Duolingo

I'm not sure if there is anyone who hasn't heard of Duolingo yet; in case you haven't, it's a FREE language learning mobile app that gives you the ability to learn a great selection of languages in a fun gaming setting. Learning with Duolingo is fun and addictive as you earn points for correct answers, and level up when you complete a set of lessons.

I am currently learning German, but previously I was practicing my Spanish, having learnt it on my own (prior to the existence of Duolingo). What I like about Duolingo is that it's fun, easy, practical and mobile... for anytime anywhere learning. The commenting feature on each sentence is also quite useful as native speakers and other learners often leave useful tips and links to supporting lessons that are helpful, and sometimes they just make really funny comments lol; giving you a feeling of learning in group or in class.

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What I don't like about Duolingo, however, is that it tends to repeat a few simple sentences for many times in a lesson, instead of adding new terms or more contexts, and sometimes some sentences seem to not make any sense (Have you spotted that in the example above?! lol). In addition, there are no explanations or materials to study and learn prior to lessons, which can sometimes make it very confusing and unclear, and you end up just playing a guessing game or learning through repetition like a parrot rather than clear understanding. So my advice is to couple the Duolingo lessons with another form of serious learning; my favorite is the Michel Thomas Method audio lessons, having used it to learn Spanish and some Japanese (before realizing that audio alone isn't enough to learn a language that has a non-Roman alphabet as I would also have to learn to read and write on my own). 

This app is available on iOS, Android, and Windows.

Mind Games

This one is actually more of a game, I promise... though for brain training as well! Mind Games is a great collection of games based in part on principles of cognitive psychology to help you practice different mental skills.  The games, ranging from free to pro, are aimed at enhancing various mind skills such as visual skills, focus and speed, working memory, and attention among many others.

I don't use this app as much as the rest, but it's still quite fun for short intervals every once in a while, to keep the brain sharp. While the design may not be that great, and the ad popups can be annoying, the games are fun and addictive, and they're far from being easy. All games include your score history and graph of your progress. The main app shows a summary of your best games and the day's scores on all games. Using some principles of standardized testing, your scores are also converted to a standardized scale so that you can see where you need work and excel. What's good about it is that it doesn't just track and measure your progress against yourself, but it also compares your score to the "normal standards" according to your age and gender, telling you if you're as good, better or worse than others like you.

Mind Games is currently available on AndroidApple iOSWindows Phone 8, and Windows 8.1.

QuizUp

If you're into classic fun and competition, QuizUp is the right app for you! It is a free, award-winning multiplayer trivia game, where you can challenge friends and meet new people who share your interests. The topics range from entertainment trivia testing your knowledge of music, movies, and series to more serious knowledge trivia like arts, business, history, language, sciences, etc... And everything in between! 

The app quickly turned into more of a social network, where you can follow and be followed by people, follow and like topics and communities, and get users' updates on these topics on your homepage, which you can also like and comment on. You can customize your own profile, search for users based on their age, gender, location and interests, challenge them, track your progress against theirs, chat with them, check their profiles to see what they play and what they're good at, their trophies and titles in each game and rank in their country.

Follow me on quizup!

Follow me on quizup!

As you can see, I'm among the top 10 in How I Met Your Mother and and #1 in Family Guy in Saudi Arabia :P. So although I don't quite use QuizUp for really brainy topics, but I still consider it a good memory and speed training app. Even if you're not particularly knowledgeable at a topic, the more you play, the more you learn and the better you get... All while having fun!

QuizUp is available on desktop, AndroidiOS, and Windows Phone.

EdX

Although it isn't quite an educational gaming app, but it is definitely worth mentioning. EdX is a massive open online course provider and online learning platform, hosting online university-level courses in a wide range of disciplines to a worldwide audience, some at no charge. It offers online courses from some of the world's best universities, such as Harvard University, MIT, Berkeley University, etc.

You get to take as many courses as you like, with flexible learning as most offer an open study plan to learn at your own place, anywhere, anytime. With over 500 courses in subjects like humanities, math, computer science, psychology, etc. you're sure to find something of interest to you, or that can actually be useful in boosting your career level. You can choose to pay for some courses to get a certificate acknowledging your course completion or you choose to audit courses for free, with no need for certification. Part of each course, you will find the detailed courseware with videos and information and quizzes, reading material, a discussion where you'll find a community of your classmates, and you can track your progress in the course. 

No matter what your interests or career goals are, I'm pretty sure you'll find courses you'd love to enroll in. I'm currently enrolled in an MIT User Innovation course and an Introductory Psychology course; not that I check in daily, but I try to make some progress from time to time whenever I can.

EdX is available as a full version on desktop, with a mobile version for iOS, and Android, giving access only to courses that are mobile-enabled.

So these are my favorite nerdy apps at this time. Do you use any of them? Or do you have any other nerdy apps you'd recommend I add to my list/mobile? Comment below!

5 reasons yoga is good for you... Lenovo Yoga!

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Starting your day in a healthy active way is a must to ensure the rest of the day goes well… Perhaps you wake up early work out take a warm shower and have a nice breakfast before you head out to work. Ideally that’s how most of us want to start the day but chances are like many of us you start your day with your phone or on your laptop! 

As a social media professional, I start my day and spend most of it using my laptop, and in the brief moments I have to step away from it, I stay connected using my smartphone. Needless to say, the devices we use are an integral part of our day, and can help “make it or break it”… Well maybe not as dramatic as that, but I can’t imagine anyone having a good mood using a laptop that is slow, and keeps freezing and crashing! I know that too well from my previous experience with the Macbook White, even after upgrading its RAM from 2GB to 4GB, it was slower than Saudi customs officers. (Sorry, I had to sneak in this joke :Phaha)

But fortunately, about 2 months ago, and after the news about the rise of Lenovo, I switched to Lenovo Yoga 13.

After a couple of years of using a Mac, it was a bit uneasy migrating back to a Windows device, especially since the Windows 8 was quite different than the earlier Windows OSs. However, after a little of getting used to it, the experience was quite pleasing… Without getting too technical, since you can find tons of technical and specs reviews through google, here’s why Lenovo Yoga is great for me and would be good for you too:

1. Light weight, heavy multitasking:

I travel around often, so I need something easy and light to carry with me that won’t take much space in my luggage or add too much weight. Smartphones and tablets might be a substitute but they can never fulfill all my requirements: multitasking between internet browsing, working with documents, while also watching a movie/TV series (sometimes all together!). At 1.5 Kg, a 13” screen, and Intel® Core™ i5, Lenovo Yoga 13 fits the job perfectly!
 

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2. Long battery life:

Stressing on the importance of a light-weight heavy-multitasking device, a long battery life goes hand in hand, if you don’t want to have to carry the charger with you, and desperately seek and get stuck near power outlets. Lenovo Yoga 13’s battery will last up to 8 hours, so it is quite efficient when I’m out and about for the day. I know that it at least lasts for the train trip between Dammam and Riyadh, which is over 5 hours. Yes, that train is even slower than Saudi customs!
 

#NowWatching a new comedy series with Robin Williams running an #advertising agency, The #CrazyOnes. Love it! #funny

Posted by Manal Assaad on Friday, 22 November 2013

3. Multitouch Screen:

Touchscreens have become the norm, rather than the trend. I sure dreaded when smartphones quit tactile keyboards and turned all touchscreens; typing is one of my main activities and it’s just not as easy on touchscreens. But then you get used to touchscreens, and depend on them on your smartphone, and your tablet, so it only makes sense that your desktop PC or laptop joins the club! Using the touchscreen on the Lenovo Yoga makes multitasking easier as it gives you faster control over the task at hand, since you can just reach for what you need.

4. Different Modes of Use:

Lenovo Yoga is called so because of its flexibility, and the different modes (positions) it can assume. I use these modes depending on my need, flipping from full mode (typical laptop with keyboard) for heavy tasks to tablet mode for light tasks. It certainly helps to have one device fit for both roles, so I don’t need to also carry my tablet if I just wanted something sleek in my hands to browse through.

Having a lasertag wedding rehearsal dinner is an awesome idea! #himym

A photo posted by Manal Assaad منال أسعد (@themanalyst) on

 

5. Windows 8 OS:

Although many may point out the flaws of Windows 8, I haven't experienced any of them yet, fortunately. The OS is fast, and even with my HD almost full, tasks have been running smoothly, with no major crashes as I recall. Another notable feature is the InstantResume; I'd be watching something, pause it, put the laptop to sleep, and when I awaken it, it takes barely 10 seconds, and I can resume watching directly like the system was never interrupted! To someone with my impatience, seconds make a world of difference :P

So this has been my personal experience with the Lenovo Yoga so far! If you have any specific questions, post them in comments below. And subscribe to the blog to follow my updates about it or any other cool gadget I get ;)

Highlights of Arabnet Riyadh 2013

Last week, I had the pleasure of attending Arabnet Riyadh conference and it was a great experience as I anticipated, as I have attended almost all of of Arabnet's conferences so far, and have written about them in my blog, and it was always worth it!

If you have attended the conference, you would've benefited from the great connections you make during as well as the useful content and knowledge you learn. If you didn't attend, then you would have probably benefited from the live coverage via Twitter through the hashtag #عرب_نت. If you also didn't catch up with the live coverage, then you can at least get to know what went down in the conference by reading my article on Wamda: 

Women's entrepreneurship and social media: the two hottest trends at Arabnet Riyadh

Did you attend Arabnet Riyadh? What did you think of it? What other conferences have you attended and liked? Leave your opinion and recommendations below, and please share this post for your peers to pitch in as well.

Thank you for reading and subscribe to stay updated!

Should I get a Lenovo PC?

According to the press release below, Lenovo has been recently announced as the number 1 PC supplier, de-throning HP after a long time of being n# 1.

Now I have been using Macbook white for the last couple of years, and I've been really suffering with it lately, which is making me consider shifting back to a less-premium Windows ultrabook. Lenovo was one of the brands that I saw, but didn't consider, since, as most consumers, I thought: Low price = bad quality. So I was going for an HP or a Samsung. Now I am definitely reconsidering... What do you think?

Lenovo Statement on PC Industry Rankings

Riyadh, July 14th, 2013: According to the latest industry figures reported today by IDC and Gartner, Lenovo has become the number 1 PC supplier in the world. IDC reported that Lenovo reached 16.7% global PC market share in 2Q 2013, up from 15.0% in 2Q 2012, one year ago. Gartner stated Lenovo reached 16.7% share this quarter, up from 14.9% last quarter and the same 14.9% from 2Q 2012, one year ago. This marks the first time that Lenovo has been the clear global leader in PCs according to both of these widely accepted reports.

The following statement can be attributed to Yang Yuanqing, chairman & CEO, Lenovo:

“We are proud that Lenovo has become the clear world leader in PCs, and we are grateful to our customers and to our global team for this success. Even in the toughest PC market ever, Lenovo has not only gained share, but we have steadily improved profitability and introduced even more innovative products for every market segment. The battle for PC leadership could certainly still go back and forth. But I am fully confident that there remains substantial room for profitable growth and groundbreaking innovation in the global PC marketplace.
The PC market is changing, but it still represents a $200b opportunity. Lenovo can capture more of this opportunity than our competitors because we have built great balance over the last 4 years. In our traditional strongholds -- China and global commercial PCs -- we have continued to gain share and build sustainable profit engines. Meanwhile, we have built scale and improved profitability in global emerging markets (where we are the leader) and global consumer PCs (number 2 overall). Balancing growth and profitability across our entire PC business is our focus going forward.
PC leadership is just one milestone in a longer journey to become a true leader in the “PC Plus” market, which includes tablets, smart phones, smart TVs and other “smart connected” devices. Already, we have made great strides in these areas. Today, we are the number 3 “Smart Connected Device” maker in the world. By continuing to focus on our formula for success – a clear strategy, innovative products, great execution and a diverse global team – I am confident that we can continue to drive profitable growth in our core business, and achieve the same success, over time, in the fast-growing PC Plus marketplace”.

Historical Performance from 2012-2013 05/23/13 Earnings Report: 

In Lenovo’s fiscal year ended March 31, 2013, IDC said that Lenovo had achieved a record global PC market share, expanded faster than the overall PC market for the 16th consecutive quarter, led the market in three of the seven largest PC markets – China, Japan and Germany – and reached double digit share in 39 countries.

More than half of Lenovo’s revenue then comes from outside of China. While delivering significant volume and revenue growth, the company’s profitability reached record heights with earnings up 34% last year.

Further, Lenovo has accelerated its transformation to become a top competitor in the PC Plus era, capturing a 5.9 percent share of the global market for “Smart Connected Devices” and becoming the third largest supplier. The company is the number 2 smartphone and number 2 tablet company in China, the world’s largest PC+ market. Further, more than 10% of the company’s revenues now come from hot growth segments such as smartphones and tablets.

Arabnet 2012: The Afterthought

Do you follow me on Twitter? Then I must have spammed you a week ago for five days tweeting about the largest digital event in the region: Arabnet Digital Summit

I had the pleasure of attending Arabnet 2011, and a greater pleasure returning to Arabnet 2012 as an official blogger among some other great bloggers. This year’s event was bigger, with more workshops and talks, and more focus on details! Read on to know what you've missed ;)
Starting with the Developer Days on March 27 – 28, there has been a great focus on the mobile industry. It’s not a surprise since the world is going mobile, more precisely 80% of the world already owns a mobile phone and 84% of them use it for internet browsing and 59% of them use it for social networking. Other interesting statistics can be found in The Smartphone Usage Statistics 2012 [Infographic]! And according to Google’s 12 Mobile Prediction for 2012 at Arabnet, one million small businesses will go online with a mobile website, and Arabnet made sure it included enough talks and workshops to help pave the way for them. 
This year’s Developer Days were better planned with more room for more people and better networking, at the Metropolitan Palace. The most interesting workshop was The Facebook Developer Garage: Open Graph and Mobile Apps by Stephane Crozatier, Partner Engineer at Facebook who gave the developers some hands-on tips and answered the audiences’ question regarding the social networking giant. Stephane was clearly pushing for less fake accounts, but sadly, it doesn’t seem that Facebook has yet developed a strategy to combat that. Which leaves you wondering: Of the 800+ million accounts on Facebook, how many are the real users? Most of the friends you know have probably more than one account, not to count the dozens of brand accounts that agencies create, and the fake accounts that prize hunters create to vote themselves up in a Facebook competition. The first day ended with an Overnight Developer Competition that encouraged developers to compete over the course of 12 sleepless hours to build a web application or a mobile app.  
 What was different this year was the addition of Industry Day on March 28, which had workshops and talks covering 4 industries: Healthcare, Education, Travel, and Banking. Although I loved the micro-focus on each industry separately, but it made things confusing for me and other people I talked to at the event because it was difficult to choose which industry workshop to attend, given that we can’t be in more than one place at the same time. However, following the hashtag did make it easier to get bits and pieces from all workshops. I personally attended some Travel and Education workshops, the most interesting of which was Leila Khauli’s case study of The Use of Social Media in the Classroom. Check out the hashtags of her classrooms to see how she helps her marketing students apply their social media skills in their class: #mktg225 #mktg350b
The Forum Days on March 29 – 30 are usually the most important and most crowded, especially since it featured the Ideathon competition where multiple contestants presented their ideas to appeal for funding and of course the Arabnet prizes. Winning first place was Mahmoud AlDwairy with his Influsense idea which you should ask him about because it’s interesting :D It’s mostly like Klout but with a gamified competition where influencers need to perform certain tasks to get influence points in certain topics, making it easier for brands to target them as promoters. The Forum Days were filled with too much great content for me to restate here! But just to recap, some of the presentations that stood out were The Social Bakers’ Measuring Social Media with Jan Rezab and the Augmented Reality demo by Omar Tayeb Gilles Fayad. 
Overall, a prominent feature in this year’s Arabnet was Sociatag which allowed attendees to register their Facebook accounts on a Sociatag card that they could use in various checkpoints in the event to “check-in”, “like” a workshop, or take a photo and post it toArabnet’s Facebook Page album which is fun to browse even though the image quality is a disaster hehe
On a side note, Mike Butcher, a correspondent from TechCrunch and a feature speaker at Arabnet, co-hosted a meet-up (#TCBeirut) alongside Wamda and AltCity. I was looking forward to that event like many others. To my disappointment, the meet-up, which was supposed to be a gathering of intellectual minds discussing the future tech in the Middle East and the digital ecosystem in Lebanon, took place at a small pub in Hamra where drinks and loud music buried any potential for intelligent conversations. In my humble opinion, which I am sure is supported by the general global professional standards, a meeting with any valuable input should never be held at venues that do not facilitate networking and discussion, and certainly does not defer most of its conservative target audience. The meet-up should have taken place at a more appropriate bigger space where everyone could have enjoyed it and benefited from it, then, those who wanted to grab a drink could have gone altogether afterwards… Just my two cents! 

Keep on the look out for the coverage from the other official bloggers on Arabnet’s Facebook Page and Twitter account, and leave your questions and comments to me below :D