Apple’s Best App of 2014 Is a Personal Trainer for Your Brain

Apple’s pick for the best app of 2014 is Elevate, which promises to strengthen your brain through daily games on your smartphone.

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Elevate, which launched in the App Store, has been downloaded over 5 million times. Elevate CEO Jesse Pickard says he’s “beyond thrilled and honored” to have his company’s app selected as Apple’s top app of the year.

“It’s a huge surprise and a massive accomplishment for the team – we couldn’t be happier right now,” Pickard said.

The app’s free version gives users access to three games a day; Elevate Pro (available for $5 a month or $45 a year) allows users to play all 25 available games, with access to a new game released each month.

Before launching Elevate, Pickard and his team of 15 were making SAT test prep and language-learning games under the company name Mindsnacks. About a year ago, Pickard said they decided to focus on broader skills – like communication and analytics – and pivoted to become Elevate.

“People seem to really like it. It’s like subscribing to the gym,” Pickard said.

Elevate Director of Content Michael Levy, who spent 12 years at Encyclopedia Britannica, said the games help improve skills that affect people’s lives on a daily basis – things like writing emails or leaving tips at restaurants.

“What we do is take very small and concrete things that people struggle with and build games that attack at the micro level the skills people need to develop,” Levy said. To do so, Levy said the team has worked with the heads of university writing centers, behavioral scientists and cognitive psychologists.

“We’ve done some pilot studies and found that even after playing Elevate for just a couple of weeks, people improved their skills by 10% to 20% in just a few weeks,” Levy said. He added that Elevate is looking to conduct larger studies to measure the app’s effectiveness.

Now that Elevate is Apple’s app of the year, Pickard isn’t prepared to rest on his laurels. He said the company, which raised an $8.5 million Series A round led by Sequoia Capital, will be looking to expand Elevate’s reach.

“With just 25 skills we’re just scratching the surface of what we could cover. We will expand the skills we offer,” he said.

The Elevate App is available for download on the App Store and on Google Play.