I have previewed and installed a lot of educational apps for my iPhone over the past few years. In that time, I have developed a short list of characteristics that separate a truly useful application that I will spend a few dollars on from the majority of the junk that is available on the iTunes App Store. When the folks at Agile Partners sent me a copy of Ace Flashcards to try out, I applied my rules and was pretty impressed.
Rule #1: It needs to fill an actual need, not create one. A lot of apps try to convince you that you need them by pulling the old infomercial trick of fixing something that ain’t broke. My productivity, my teaching effectiveness, or my own learning (or that of my students) must be improved by this app, or it gets dumped. Ace Flashcards may not be pedagogically innovative, but rote memorization has its place. Especially for vocabulary, flash cards are an effective learning tool and this app clearly has that covered.
Rule #2: It shouldn’t need an instruction manual. The intuitiveness of the iOS interface is marred when an app is so complicated or requires explanation. A good app just works… and makes it easy to know where you should tap to do what you want to do. This is where Ace Flashcards really stands out. The app has lots of features, including the ability to import Quizlet sets, create your own sets, email sets, delete sets, and (obviously) flip through the cards in a set. Each of these functions is activated in just the way that you would expect it to. For example, you flip from the front of a card to the back by swiping from right to left on the screen. Note: It would be nice to have the ability to skip from card to card without first flipping each over. It seems that this was a design decision based on keeping the overall use simple, and one could argue that this was a good choice.
Rule #3: It should look good. All of us Apple fanboys are accused of valuing form over function, but this is really the difference between the good iOS apps and the good Android apps. Anyone who has used an iPhone or iPod touch has become accustomed to a certain (high) level of design “niceness”, and the bar is therefore pretty high for any paid app. I am used to paying $2-3 for a really slick app, and in this area Ace Flashcards is a bargain. For $0.99, you get a very well-designed and beautiful study aid (Comic Sans-haters, aside).
The bottom line is that this app stands out from an increasingly large pack by providing a good quality learning tool at a low price without sacrificing ease of use. I highly recommend it.
Ace Flashcards is available in the iTunes App Store for $0.99 right now: [iTunes link]