12 Apps We Can't Believe Are Free

There’s no doubt about it — my smartphone is making me dumber. Thanks to the marvels of technology, I’ve forgotten basic math (thanks, iPhone calculator), I don’t know how to get anywhere (thanks, Google Maps), and my spelling is on par with a fourth grader’s (thanks, autocorrect). The smartphone dumb down is a problem that I think more than a few of us have in common, but how can we fix it?

Don’t worry — I’m not about to suggest we all move to off-the-grid bunkers in the Mojave Desert to reconnect with our pre-technology selves. That’s just unrealistic. The only way to get me to stop using my iPhone is to pry it from my cold, dead hands. So, if we’re not going to throw out our phones — can we at least use them to make us smarter?

Here’s the good news: Yes we can. We’ve rounded up 12 apps that put the “smart” back in smartphone. These apps all have the ability to teach you new skills, or help you bone up on existing ones. I’ve found an app for just about anything — from knitting to coding to cooking. And the best part? They’re all free.
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Photo: Courtesy DuoLingo.
Learn To Speak A New Language

Think of all the time you spend idly scrolling through Insta on your phone. Now, imagine spending that time resurrecting your high school Spanish instead, and becoming fluent in a foreign language. From French to Swedish to Vietnamese, Duolingo is the app that can teach you just about any language in the world. It also makes learning fun: Every lesson is set up like a game, so it feels less like Spanish 101 and more like Candy Crush.
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Photo: Courtesy Udacity.
Busuu distinguishes itself from the rest of the language app crowd by also being a social network. It’s a worldwide conglomeration of language learners from 15 different countries, so you can practice your new language skills with actual native speakers. It’s also a lot cheaper than making a call to Spain — because this app is free!
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Photo: Courtesy Busuu.
Learn to Code


Udacity is the app that teaches you everything you’ve always wanted to know about coding, but were afraid to ask. Looking to nab a job in the tech industry, but intimidated by the field? Want to try your hand at making your dream app? Udacity is user-friendly and offers hundreds of free courses in programming. From beginner to advanced, there are in-depth lessons for every skill level.
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Photo: Courtesy Food Network.
Learn To Cook

Food Network In The Kitchen
If you’re the type of person who loves to watch cooking shows but can barely boil water, this app is for you. Food Network In The Kitchen has free recipes from the network’s top food stars. Let’s face it — Ina Garten herself isn’t gonna come to your house to cook you her famous goat cheese tarts. But now, with the help of this app, you can unleash your inner Barefoot Contessa.
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Photo: Courtesy BigOven.
Not a fan of the Food Network? Skip its app, and download BigOven, instead. With over 350,000 recipes in its database, BigOven can teach you how to cook just about anything you want. Use the app’s "Menu Planner" feature to plan your entire cooking week in advance, or check the recipe of the day to whip up a sexy dish for a spontaneous date night. The app also has a grocery list feature that will create shopping lists for you, so you can focus on the task at hand: learning how to cook.
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Photo: Courtesy Craftsy.
Learn to Knit

If you want to learn how to knit, look no further than Craftsy. This app has in-depth knitting tutorials for everyone — from the knitting newbie to the Martha Stewart-level crafter. But Craftsy doesn’t stop with knitting. It offers lessons for just about any craft you can imagine: quilting, cake decorating, cooking, drawing, painting, paper crafts, and much more. There’s just one catch: Though the app is free, you’ll have to make in-app purchases for some lessons.
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Photo: Courtesy HealthIQ.
Learn to Be Healthy

Learning to live a healthy lifestyle can be hard (my health Achilles heel is an Oreo McFlurry). Fortunately, the folks at HealthIQ have invented an app designed to smarten you up when it comes to your health. HealthIQ teaches you valuable health lessons through easy and fun games designed by Harvard Medical School faculty, certified trainers, expert dieticians, and more. Whether you're looking to further your nutrition knowledge or work out smarter, this app has the useful information you're looking for.
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Photo: Courtesy TradeHero.
Learn to Trade Stocks


To figure out the complicated world of trading stocks, look no further than TradeHero. TradeHero is a “stock market simulation” app — it allows you to “play the stock market” without actually spending any dough. For stock market newbies, the app includes valuable tips from experts that teach you everything you need to know about trading. After a few months of trading “pretend stocks” on TradeHero, you’ll be more ready to tackle the real-life market.
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Photo: Courtesy DailyArt.
Learn Art History


Want to learn art history without dropping $100k on grad school? Download DailyArt, the free app that teaches you everything you need to know about the world’s most important artists. Each day, this app explores the story behind a different masterpiece, allowing users to get a daily dose of art history (not to mention some serious creative inspiration).
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Photo: Courtesy Wally.
Learn To Budget


Let’s face it: Most of us could benefit from learning how to manage our money better. If you’re like me, an afternoon at Bloomingdale’s can leave you hurting for months. So, for those of you who need a little help in the budgeting department, Wally is the app for you. Wally basically serves as your own personal money manager; it tracks your income, expenses, and most importantly, teaches you how to budget. And speaking of budget, this app won’t hurt yours, since it’s completely free.
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Photo: Courtesy Mint.
To get a little more advanced with your budgeting (useful if you're a freelancer or consultant, for example), download Mint. Like Wally, this app tracks both your income and expenses, but Mint takes things one step further. It allows you to sync all your financial info, including credit cards, bills you need to pay, and any bank account. Mint will teach you how to create a budget that accounts for all these factors. It will also help you stick to that budget once you’ve made it.
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Photo: Courtesy TED.
Learn Just About Anything


If we still haven’t scratched your learning itch, look no further than TED's app. With access to the complete TED Talk video archives, this app can teach you just about anything you want to know. It’s completely free and gives you unlimited access to thousands of talks from some of the world’s most brilliant thinkers, educators, doctors, musicians, tech geniuses, and more. Download the TED app and hit the learning jackpot.