Smartphones have really changed the way we do things! We are more productive, more entertained, and there is an app for just about anything we want to do. With school right around the corner (here in the USA at least), I thought it would be a good time to look at a bunch of apps that help make you a better student.
Evernote is a great app that lets you take, organize, and sync notes, images, drawings, and even voice notes. The best part is that it’s available for a whole host of platforms, including Android, iOS, Windows, Mac, and the web. Take notes on any and sync them to all the others. This is a great way to digitize the notes you take in class, take photos of the board, record lectures, and so on.
Similar to Evernote is Catch Notes Notepad, which will allow you to take down notes, add audio and images, and even scan barcodes to remember products. This also has some great ways to organize and filter notes, so later in the semester it will be easy to find something you saved on the first week of class. Possibly my favorite feature is the ability to password-protect notes.
OneNote Mobile is a really clean way to take, save, and sync notes, as well as create todo lists, across multiple PCs and the web. Organize your notes into notebooks, add photos, and even sync your notes to Skydrive, Microsoft’s great cloud storage service. If you’re looking for clean and simple access everywhere, OneNote Mobile is the way to go.
If you’re not looking for something quite as robust as the note taking apps we’ve mentioned so far, AK Notepad is your best bet. Lightweight with 1 function: keep a list of notes. No need to worry about tags, photos, or even titles if you don’t want to. However, since this is also made by Catch, it can sync to their other note-taking service if you so desire.
This robust app has an interesting MO: it syncs everything with GMail. Take notes, create todo lists, add photos, save voice mails, set reminders, and more with this feature-packed app, and sync it all with your GMail account for direct access with your favorite email client.
This app is one I wish I had when I was a student. Studious is a digital planner and notebook will store your schedule, homework, and notes in a really clean interface. It will also automatically silence your phone during class and remind you when you have homework due.
Any.DO is hands down my favorite todo list app. It’s beautiful, clean, and easy to use. Create several lists for tasks which you can prioritize, add notes and reminders to, and even share them with others. It even syncs with Google Tasks. And the best part? It’s free!
Remember the Milk (RTM) is a close second to ANy.DO for the sole fact that you need a pro account ($25) for some of the features that are free with Any.DO. That said, the pro account is worth it! RTM has a great web interface, a way to manage multiple lists, the ability to email tasks to your RTM inbox and more.
A third todo list app that has received tons of accolades is Astrid, which aside from allowing you to make task lists, allows you to divvy up those tasks among family and friends. This could be a great app for those dreaded group projects you’ll inevitably have to do. On top of that, it looks like the interface has taken some cues from ICS’s holo theme, so it looks fantastic!
If you’re looking for a feature-packed email client aside from the ones already on your phone, look no further than K-9 Mail. It supports IMAP, POP3, and Exchange, and has everything you would expect in an email client. It’s gotten a lot of great reviews. My only complaint is that its interface is in the style of Froyo, which makes it look older and kinda clunky.
I reviewed Everest a while back and, although it’s not strictly for school, you can definitely use it that way if you’re willing to shell out the $20/mo for a Basecamp account, which I know can be tough for a student. However, this is a great way to organize not only academic projects but any extracurricular activity you’re planning; collaborating is super easy with Basecamp and by extension, Everest.
Jorte is a feature-packed, information-dense replacement for the stock Android calendar. Create multiple calendars and view todo lists in calendar form. You can completely customize views, look and feel with Jorte’s lengthly settings and customization. Plus, it sync with Google Calendar and integrates with both Google Voice and Google Maps.
Touch Calendar takes a different approach to viewing and displaying calendars: it makes the entire experience similar to Google Maps. You see your whole calendar laid out in front of you and you can double-tap or pinch-to-zoom to focus on a specific section, week, or day. It’s quite a cool concept.
ASTRO File Manager is another critically acclaimed Android app that comes highly recommended from a lot of places. ASTRO makes it easy for you to browse and organize all of your files, which is something that is strangely missing in Android by default. ASTRO will also use Android’s Intents to call the proper apps that can open a particular file.
Dropbox is bar none one of my favorite apps ever. With widespread platform support and syncing, Dropbox makes it incredibly easy to keep files in one folder and access them anywhere. Dropbox also makes it super easy to share files by generating a share link or creating an entire folder that will sync to the Dropbox of whomever you shared it with.
Much like Dropbox, Google Drive offers a store once sync anywhere solution, and with more space to boot. One thing it has over Dropbox is that you can edit certain types of documents from within Google Drive and even collaborate live with other users. This can really be a great tool for students (as well as anyone working on a team).
I know a lot of teachers say that Wikipedia is off limits as a reference, but it can still serve as a great starting point to get to legitimate sources. The official Wikipedia app allows you to browse the site in a mobile-optimized fashion, as well as save articles for offline reading.
Reading and Reference
I love Pocket. Between Twitter, Facebook, and RSS I come across hundreds of stories a day. I can save the important stuff for later using Pocket; as a student, I definitely would have saved any recommended or required reading in Pocket, which like a lot of these apps is cross platform and web-accessible.
Here’s a pretty specific app that I feel really represents academia: The Periodic Table. You can view the full table or sections of the table, as well as select an element to read more about it.
Flipboard is another great way to get information; this app will grab stories from a specific set of categories for you, as well as your Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Google+, Google Reader, and more. Having all of your news sources in one beautiful app is a pretty great thing.
Google Play Books allows you to purchase and read a wide range of books right from your device. On top of leisure books, it would definitely be worth it to check and see if your textbooks are available for purchase (especially if you have an Android tablet).
If your preferred way to read is through Amazon or you already own a Kindle device, then the Kindle app for Android is for you. You can browse and purchase books as well as sync existing ones, including progress and annotations.
The original dictionary now has a free (ad-supported) app for you to download. This one will even accept voice searches and read words out loud for you. You can favorite words and view your history as well. And the best part? No internet connection is required.
If you prefer a different source, Dictionary.com also has an app, with a few more features to boot. This app will also pronounce words for you and accept search by voice, but it has more; widgets, word histories, and even popular and local trends. Plus, it pulls information from Thesaurus.com too – no need for a second app.
Being a college student can mean problems keeping track of (or acquiring) money. Mint.com’s Android app (which I reviewed a while back) is a truly fantastic app that connects to your bank accounts and helps you organize and track your spending, bills, and even loans. It’s the perfect tool for getting your money situation in order.
Especially now that we are moving into a cashless world with NFC and more, Paypal is a great way to send and receive funds. The Android app allows you to do view your balance, make withdrawals, find local businesses that accept PayPal, and even make donations through the app.
Amazon Student allows you to scan in textbooks (and more) to do price-checking, or to buy or sell books right through the app. It also gives you easy access to Amazon’s trade-in program so you can ditch old textbooks for Amazon Gift Cards. This can come in especially handy at the end of the semester when it’s time to get rid of textbooks and you need an alternative to the school store.
If you’re looking for something less textbook-centric or want to keep your student status hidden from Amazon, the Amazon Price Check app might be a better match for you. Scan a barcode, take a photo of a product (book, movie, or CD), or say a product, and Amazon will check the price for you at several sources. You can even add products to your wish list right from the app.
I lived on ebay and it’s sister site, half.com in college. With the Android app you can find, bid, and buy as well as easily list items to sell. The app will even send you notifications when you’ve been outbid or when an auction is ending.
The Fun Stuff
You gotta have fun in college, right? Kicking off the fun app list is Netflix, which allows you to manage your queue and stream movies right to your device, so if you have some downtime in between classes or get out of a test early, this is the app can be a great time-killer.
(I should point out as a professor that you shouldn’t watch movies during class, but as a student, I probably would have if given the opportunity.)
Spotify may be the best thing I pay a subscription to. Unlimited access to most music, anywhere at anytime is fantastic and invaluable to a student. You’ll have your collection whether you’re at home, in the dorm, in a classroom, in a lab, or on a road trip. Music discovery was really important to me in college (and still is) and Spotify can really help with that too.
At 900 Million active users, Facebook is the best way to connect with people, and you’ll likely meet a lot at school. Not only that, but between events, photos, and more, Facebook is the best way to keep track of what’s going on, both on and off campus.
Twitter can be another great resource for news, events, and of-course, what your friend had for lunch. Create lists of classmates, professors, and industry professionals to stay on top of your classes, major, and career. While I link to the official app here, there are a bunch of clients (for the time being). I recommend TweetLanes.
Pretty often I find myself wondering, “who is that guy in that show?” And in college, you’ll be granted ample opportunity to watch movies and TV shows you’ve probably never seen. A great reference tool while watching is IMDB and their fantastic Android app. As an added bonus, it can also be used to quell arguments over if that guy is Bill Pullman or Bill Paxton.
If you’re anything like me, you’re going to play tons of video games throughout high school and college. I still remember huddling around a TV and ’old-school’ N64 playing MarioKart 64 until the wee hours of the morning.
Of course, today you don’t necessarily need to be huddled around a TV to play games with friends. I know it has petered out over the last few months, but I still think Draw Something is a lot of fun and a great way to kill time with pals.
…Of course, if you’d rather play by yourself, there are a lot of games out there for that too. Angry Birds isn’t new, but I chose it because it’s still very addicting, and the number one free game on Android. If you by chance haven’t played it, you should definitely check it out!
Especially in college or university, you’ll likely spend a lot of time in a new, unfamiliar town. Android apps have made it incredibly easy to get a feel for what’s around town with location based apps. Google Maps, a stock Android app, is the perfect tool for seeing what’s around you, getting directions, and even getting reviews and ratings.
I don’t know about you, but I hate the sound of a traditional alarm clock. If it were up to me, I’d wake up to my favorite song (or one I’m not afraid of getting sick of at least). With Alarm Clock Plus, you can do that and more. You can set all kinds of alarms and snooze settings, including shake to snooze or even a “math alarm,” which requires you to do a simple math problem to snooze or dismiss your alarm. If that won’t wake you up, I don’t know what will!
You’re going to meet tons of new people at school, whether it’s at high school or college. Evernote Hello makes it incredibly easy to keep track of important details about meeting someone for the first time, including: a photo, location, notes, and even a link to their LinkedIn profile. While it’s marketed more for a professional setting, I’ll bet you’ll find it super useful at school.
If you’re using even a fraction of the apps I’ve recommended here, I bet you’d be pretty upset if you lost the information in those apps. You won’t have to worry about that with My Backup Pro, which will make full backups of your device, either manually or on a schedule. You can then restore that backup at any time.