Flashcards are an incredibly useful tool for studying, but they aren’t always convenient to make and carry around; that’s where your smartphone comes in. Making flashcards on your Android device would be ideal: you probably have it with you most of the time, you’re not constrained by physical size limitations, you don’t have to worry about running out of notecards, and the right app could even throw in a few extra features to help you study. Best of all, using the correct spaced repetition software (SRS), these apps can even cut down your total studying time by only quizzing you on the things you are about to forget.
Well, there are several apps out for doing this job, and we’re going to take a look at 6 of them. They’ll be ranked on the following criteria: ease of use, customizability, aesthetics, syncing with the Web, extra features, and SRS implementation. With that out of the way, let’s get started!
AnkiDroid is probably the most customizable of the apps on this list. There are settings for the font size and color, background color, screen rotation, full screen mode, whether or not to show scrollbars, how often to repeat certain cards, and more — pretty much any of the options you could ever possibly need. There are even fancy graphs that show you stats about your studying.
The downside of all this customizability, however, is a not-so-simple user interface. I think it would take a lot of getting used to to get the full benefit of this app. As a part of its SRS functions, AnkiDroid delays cards you get easily while having you repeat more frequently the cards that you struggle with. There are all kinds of settings for how exactly it does that, leaving the user the flexibility to adjust it to their needs. For late-night cramming before that test, though, you need to create a “custom study session” to study everything, even the easy cards, cluttering up the app further and only complicating what should be a simple process.
So while customizability and aesthetics rank high here, ease-of-use really does not. In terms of extra features, it has a lot, though. There is a whiteboard mode for drawing on your cards, a desktop version for Windows, Mac, and Linux, an iOS version, and a Web version. Your notes can stay synced between all of them if you create a Web account.
StudyDroid is definitely one of the simplest to use. Up top, you have options for adding flashcards, syncing, and two settings menus. Clicking on the three-dot settings icon will allow you to look at the instructions cards, which I found helpful. They detail how to move through the app, which is really quite easy. Tap a card to flip it over, swipe to move to the next card. The full extent of its SRS capabilities ends at marking cards as “known” which moves them to the back of the pack. I liked this feature more than I expected to because moving a card to the back if I know it is probably what I would do in real life, but it is not necessarily the most practical way to study, and in fact rather time inefficient.
There is a paid version of StudyDroid that costs $1.99. It removes the ads and adds a few features: quiz mode, custom fonts, and syncing with Quizlet and StudyStack.
Customizability is here, but you won’t be blown away. You can change font color, size, and background color. It is very easy to use, and while not the most gorgeous app ever, it does stick to somewhat modern Android styling and certainly isn’t ugly. You won’t find any extra features here aside from syncing with StudyDroid.com, but you will find a simple, pick-up-and-use app.
Here is another semi-modern looking app, but this one tries to squeeze in a few more features. There is an audio option for reading out what is written on the card using your phone’s built in text-to-speech service. There are also 5 boxes, box 5 being the one with cards you find the easiest, and box 1 having the cards you’re struggling with. If you give a card the green check, it moves up a box, but giving the red X moves it down a box. I actually grew to like this system because you can kind of decide how difficult of a study session you want by which box you’re going to tackle.
There isn’t that much here to customize, so yes, your flashcards will always be yellow. It’s a relatively simple app to use, but you won’t be syncing any flashcards here. If syncing means a lot to you, count this app out. But if you like the 5 box/SRS system and want your notes read out loud — for instance, to practice another language — it could work for you.
Oh, the first big-brand flashcard app! Well, don’t get your hopes too high. The app is pretty much not customizable in the slightest. You always get the green, chalkboard-looking background with yellowish notecards, and it forces full-screen mode. Plus, it relies on the ugly Gingerbread styling of years past, ignoring any modern styling guidelines.
That being said, it is incredibly easy to use, syncs with Dictionary.com, and has a handy quiz feature for testing yourself. There aren’t many SRS capabilities, though, and no ability to customize it. If you can deal with the ugly user interface, no customization, and a faux chalkboard background, it is a simple, syncable app.
Finally, a modern-styled app. Aesthetically, this app is a pleasure to look at, and it doesn’t lack features either. This app is clearly aimed at creating an environment where students and teachers can connect because you are able to enter your school, find your class, and create your notes within that class. Theoretically, if your entire class was using it, you could share notecards or the teacher could put out notecards for you.
Everything syncs with StudyBlue.com, and I actually really enjoy the Web interface better than any of the other apps’ Web versions. It looks nice and has many features, including the ability to guess how you want to label your card based on what other users have done. Imagine typing in a complex economic theory’s name and having the definition pop up right away! Awesome.
When you begin your study session, there is a scroll wheel that allows you to choose how you want to study. That is the limit of your spaced repetition options here, but it works pretty well in my testing. Either study shuffled, in order, hardest to easiest, least studied, or just the ones you got wrong last time.
In favor of simplicity, there aren’t a lot of customization options here, but the default options aren’t bad. You can enter subscripts and superscripts on notes, which could be useful for math equations or chemistry formulas.
The only annoying part of the interface is that you can only study in landscape mode. The flashcards won’t display in portrait mode and there’s no option to change it. If that’s okay with you, then StudyBlue is a great app. You either thumb up or thumb down all the cards, and at the end it scores you, and you have the option to do it over again.
There are actually two versions of this app on the Play Store: the regular version, and the School Edition. To me, they seemed identical except that the regular version has you sign in with Facebook and the School Edition has you sign in with Google Plus.
You can upgrade to the Pro version for $9 a month or $36 for a year. This gets rid of the ads, lets you hide known cards, use media on the definition side of the card, and download notes.
For students, BH Inc. offers a different app for each language or subject. I used the French app, but they all seem to be identical. This is another app to use the boxes approach to spaced recognition, putting cards you don’t know well in Box 1 and cards you do know well in Box 5. It separates the vocabulary into several categories like “food” or “nature.” There is a large amount of vocabulary and a bunch of ways to study it: slideshow, matching, memorization, or quiz.
So while there is a lot you could get out of these apps, they aren’t particularly nice-looking or easy to use. The interface can be confusing and ugly, but it is a very easy solution to study up for a language test without having to write your own cards; plus, some of the cards have pictures to help you remember. There aren’t any customization options, so you’re stuck with their strange dark iOS-like theme.
They have a website, superflashcard.com, and you can sync your flashcards there after signing in with either Facebook or Google.
StudyBlue is the best all-around app of the 6 I tested. It is the nicest-looking app and incredibly easy to use. Plus, it syncs with the high-quality website and has the potential to become a powerful classroom tool. It’s not as customizable as AnkiDroid, but it is a million times easier and more enjoyable to use.
StudyDroid and AnkiDroid tie for second. StudyDroid because it is just so simple and its paid version is only a $1.99 one-time fee. AnkiDroid because it is so endlessly customizable and is the best at utilizing the spaced recognition method for helping you to memorize content more efficiently.
And if you’ve made it this far, I know you’re a dedicated student, but we all have trouble procrastinating. Try these 5 ways tech can help you foster better study habits, and try out the cross-platform service ExamTime to help you study. Plus, there are some great ways to get an education on YouTube.
What is your favorite app for studying? Anything we missed? Let us know in the comments.
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