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Uptime – 5-minute knowledge hacks

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Note: we reviewed Uptime when it launched a year ago, but version 2 has completely pivoted the concept of the app so we figured it was due another look!

Developer: Uptime
Price: Free
Size: 30 MB
Version: 2.2
Platform: iPhone & iPad


Free your mind, says knowledge-boosting app Uptime. How, you ask? By taking a few shortcuts to help you absorb a wide breadth of information from all kinds of sources you may not have time for otherwise.

Uptime breaks down popular non-fiction books, e-learning courses, and documentary films into 5-minute “knowledge hacks” so you can glean their key takeaways without the bother of purchasing or engaging with the original media. It’s a cheat sheet for your brain. But is it any good?

In a word: yes! The app is really nicely presented, with well organized topics and great themed collections for easy discovery. The knowledge hacks are light-hearted and easy to digest, doing a decent job of extracting key insights and practical ways to learn from them.

You can absorb the hacks in three different ways, too, all of which are well executed. You can read through a hack, listen to an audio recording, or watch an Instagram-story style animation with occasional GIFs. That last choice may sound annoying, but we actually found it the most engaging way to tap through paragraphs of text without getting bored. Your mileage may vary.

While the ever-expanding library of hacks isn’t huge (yet) there’s plenty of content here to draw you in, from popular science books like The Selfish Gene to self-help tomes like How to Win Friends and Influence People. There are hacks on cooking, fitness, anxiety, space, business, and even a few biographies.

It also breaks down a few celebrity courses from MasterClass, saving you the expense of subscribing to the service if you’re only interested in the gist of its lessons.

But don’t go thinking the app will magically transform you into a go-getting six-packed mega-brain overnight. The hacks have their limits, and sometimes you’ll be frustrated by the lack of explanation behind key insights. But these hacks are basic by design, and the app always links through to the original source material so you can dive into a full read if you feel so inclined.

If you’re thinking this sounds familiar, that’s because it is. Popular apps Blinkist and Headway already offer a similar service, condensing books into 15-minute reads. By comparison, Uptime has a smaller library and its summaries are even shorter. That could be a pro or a con depending on how much spare time you have to indulge your mind!

Compared to the others, we prefer Uptime’s delivery, but it’s a close-run thing. It’s also nice to find breakdowns of media beyond just books, with the inclusion of documentaries and courses a really welcome touch.

But perhaps its biggest advantage is that, at the time of writing, Uptime is entirely free. No ads, no subscriptions, no hidden agenda. That said, the devs tell us there’s a premium tier coming later this year, so this is your cue to get on board and absorb as many knowledge hacks as you can before they start gating content!