Just over a year ago now, I wrote an article entitled 25 Superb Mac Apps for College Students on Mac.AppStorm detailing the best Mac apps to grab to help you with your studies. As a college student myself in the third year of an Economics with German degree, deciphering all those apps in the Store and trying to figure out which ones are useful for my studies was an absolute minefield.
So, without further ado (and in no particular order), here are my personal top 25 applications for college students with iPhones. As with my previous article, I have tried to keep this list relevant to any major and, in order to save on costs, I have tried to include free software wherever I can!
Evernote is a cloud-based note taking service and is currently one of my favourite apps on my iPhone. You can make notes, take pictures and even record audio notes as well, and all these can be easily categorised into folders — perfect if you want to remember something or take a quick audio memo during a lecture.
The app syncs across all your devices (including Mac, Windows, other iOS devices and Android) so there’s no e-mailing stuff to yourself anymore — simply load up Evernote on your home computer and all your notes are ready and waiting for you right there. A free account allows you to upload 60 MB of data a month (which is equivalent to 30,000 notes, around 600 medium-res photos and 60 audio clips), which is usually more than enough.
A calendar, homework diary and planner in one, iStudiez Pro is the ultimate tool for any student. It lets you add your entire class schedule along with the room and teacher, and you can add assignments to each individual appointment (or module), ensuring no feeble excuses for forgetting to do your homework. You can also specify exactly what kind of appointment, whether it is a lecture, seminar, workshop or exam.
The app has a built-in sync function, so if you use iStudiez Pro on your iPad or Mac, then all your data will be kept in harmony and can remind you when assignments or exams are due (from 5 minutes to 2 days before). You can also keep track of your grades for each module directly from the app.
I know how easily my mind wanders (especially in really boring lectures), so if you want a simple, distraction-free writing environment on your iPhone, then iA Writer is a great little app to use. It’s got no fancy features or settings that you have to mess around with before you start — simply load up the app and let your imagination run wild.
IA Writer modifies the default iPhone keyboard slightly so you’ve got quick access to certain punctuation marks such as colons, question marks and apostrophes, and you can also sync with Dropbox and iCloud, avoiding the need to email documents back and forth constantly.
Dropbox has been my saviour more times than I can count, and I really do not know what I would do without it on my devices. For those of you who don’t know what it is (and I’m sure these people are few and far between!), it allows you upload virtually any file onto a cloud-based server, which can then be accessed from pretty much any device with an Internet connection.
The iPhone app allows you to upload photos and videos straight from your phone, however I use Dropbox mostly for storing large (and very boring) academic journals which I can then read on my phone. A free account gives you 2 GB of storage and if you refer your mates, you both get 500 MB of free storage (up to a limit of 18 GB) if they sign up.
Google really needs no introduction, so I won’t bore you with the details, but the default search function on Safari is a little lacking. Yes, it does the trick, but there is so much more Google has to offer, and this is where the official Search app for iPhone comes in handy.
You can search for pretty much anything, including images, places, news and books, and if you’ve got a Google account then the app integrates with most of Google’s applications, such as Calendar, Docs and Reader. You can also search by voice, and the app also features Google Goggles, so you can search for something on the Net just by taking a picture of it (though this feature can be a little sketchy at times).
iTunes U was released back in January of this year and lets you download lectures, course material, presentations and related content from top universities around the world. The amount of stuff out there is quite amazing and you can learn pretty much any new skill using professional-grade material, from iOS programming to basic Chinese.
The app synchronises with your iCloud account, meaning that all your downloaded material is shared among all your iOS devices and the web-based course manager tool means that you can easily gather all the materials required for a certain course no matter what format they are, whether they’d be presentations, documents, PDFs or the textbooks in iBooks.
After you’ve completed university, you’ll (hopefully) want to go out and get a decent and well-paid job, and LinkedIn can help you here. Think of it as Facebook with a more professional edge. Potential employers can search your profile (which is much more business-orientated than the Facebook approach) and check you out based on the skills you add to your profile.
The iPhone app is pretty neat and allows you to search the entire network (no profile editing, unfortunately), view your connections and updates from other people and add people based on your previous connections. The interface is nice and simple, and works well on the iPhone, especially since it was given a redesign a couple of months back.
Reading long articles on the Web can be a little tricky, especially when you’re trying to view a page designed for a desktop PC on your iPhone. Although Safari has a great Reader view, it doesn’t always work on some websites and there’s absolutely no synchronisation (yet).
Readability however, strips down all the garbage from a webpage and gives you a simple reading view. When you sign up for an account (which is completely free, by the way), all articles added sync automatically, meaning you can view any saved articles on your computer at home via the web interface and vice-versa. The app also allows you to change the theme and font of the text you’re reading, making it easier on your eyes and giving it one up over Reader.
Although we students get criticised for being lazy, a good night’s sleep is absolutely essential as it sets you up for the next day. Sleep will monitor your sleep patterns by movement (you have to stick your iPhone under your pillow) and analyse them to determine how much sleep you’re getting and whether or not it is enough.
The app also includes a built-in pedometer for the fitness freaks among you, and there is a built-in alarm function which wakes you at the optimum time, ensuring you don’t oversleep (which actually can be more detremental than you think). Be aware though, that you have to configure the app before you start using it (which doesn’t take long) so that it can obtain accurate statistics.
College life doesn’t have to be all work and no play and I’ve found that if I’ve got a spare hour between lectures, there’s nothing better than going and finding a quiet spot on campus somewhere, plugging in your headphones and chilling out to some music.
Spotify lets you listen to its entire library directly from your iPhone and, if you use it on your desktop, will sync all your playlists and allow you to download songs for offline listening — useful if you haven’t got any signal or limited data. You’ll need a Spotify Premium subscription though (which costs $9.99 monthly), but with this you also get unlimited listening (as supposed to 10 hours a month) and no annoying adverts, a definite bonus. Be aware though, that streaming music does eat into your data plan an awful lot, so make sure you’ve either got enough data or you’re connected to the college’s Wi-Fi network!
It’s BBM for pretty much any mobile device and WhatsApp has, for me anyway, become one of the main ways to communicate with my mates — mostly because it’s free and a lot quicker than sending a text. Unlike BBM, there’s no “PIN” — your WhatsApp account works via your phone number and any contacts who have WhatsApp installed will pop up in your Contact list.
You can send short messages, pictures, audio notes and contacts via WhatsApp, and there is a useful Group Conversation mode (great for discussing group projects, I find!). The app itself costs 99 cents, but with that you get a subscription for life — a small price to pay for such a useful app!
Despite the evil frowns you’ll get from lecturers who deem it an “inaccurate source of information,” Wikipedia is the first place for research for most students. However, trying to view an article on mobile Safari is incredibly irritating as I find myself constantly having to flick back and forth to read it (the mobile view can screw up sometimes), so this is where the mobile version comes in handy.
Although it can be a bit buggy in places (and sometimes throws a hissy fit and doesn’t load a page), it is still the best way to view Wikipedia on a mobile device and allows you to save articles for offline reading and switch easily between languages. Plus, it’s free (unlike many Wikipedia clients for iPhone on the App Store).
Probably one of the only services more knowledgeable than Wikipedia, Wolfram Alpha manages to answer pretty much any question you throw at it, from the population growth rate of Belarus (-0.466% per year) to what percentage of kids are repeating primary school in Mexico (3.615%). It can intepret pretty much any question and access a wide range of databases.
No matter what your major is, WolframAlpha will be an invaluable app if you just want to look up a quick fact, and can save you an awful lot of time in the long run. Its examples also cover a wide range of fields, including mathematics, physics, chemistry, earth sciences and linguistics, and is well worth the small fee.
As a student, I know how important it is to keep track of your finances and keeping on top of them is an absolute chore — especially when you check your bank account after that enjoyable night out on the town. Unless your bank has developed an iPhone app, then the best way to manage your money on your iPhone is MoneyWiz.
You can add all your accounts to MoneyWiz (including your current/checking account, credit card, student loan account and the amount in your wallet) and the app allows you to enter each transaction as it happens along with a category, so you can keep track of your spending easily. The app will also help draw up budgets (just make sure you adhere to them!) and manage your bills, reminding you on the date it is due. It is slightly expensive, but for such a polished app with a wide range of features, the asking price really seams trivial.
Instead of forking out for one of those printery-scanny combo things (the ones where replacing the ink cartridges often costs more than the printer itself, something I’ve never quite figured out), why not turn your iPhone into a document scanner for a much cheaper price? GeniusScan takes pictures of documents via your iPhone’s camera then converts them into a readable document using a clever post-processing technique, which makes them good enough for printing and emailing.
You can manipulate the scanned images directly on your iPhone, and if you choose to get GeniusScan+ (which is available either as a separate app or via an in-app purchase of $2.99) then the program loses its annoying ads and gives you the ability to export your scans to a variety of services (including Box, Dropbox and Evernote) as well as printing via AirPrint.
Although I consider myself to have a (pretty) good command of the English language, sometimes I find myself forgetting or simply not understanding a word. But the Oxford English Dictionary is a hefty book to carry around to your lectures and isn’t cheap either — you can end up spending £30 (around $50) on one.
Dictionary for iPhone is a lot more portable (and cheaper), and has a database of over 2-million definitions, synonyms and antonyms. There’s also offline access, so most words and phrases can be accessed without being connected to the Internet, and a built-in thesaurus function, so you can find fancier words for your essay or term paper to make you appear much more intelligent to your lecturer (yes, we’ve all done it). The free version is ad-supported — if you want to get rid of these you’ll have to buy the premium version for $2.99.
I’m not going to patronise you by explaining what eBay is and for students, it’s not just the place to find odd bits and pieces at cut-price rates, it’s a great place to find discount textbooks. Academic books are, without a shadow of doubt, extremely expensive (currently I’ve spent around £400, or around $600 on books for my studies) and you can grab some great bargains by having a search around on eBay, even if they are a bit dog-eared and scrawled over with notes (hey, these might come in useful someday!).
The eBay app lets you search the entire product range and manage your eBay account, such as ratings and payments and also helps you keep the items you want to sell in order, which is great if you’ve just left university and you want to get rid of all your old books (and raise a bit of extra cash!).
The default calculator in iOS is, in my opinion, a bit lacking in features (even after I discovered all those extra ones when you turn it on its side) so I prefer to use Calcbot, especially to add up lists. It’s made by the same geniuses behind Tweetbot (which we’ll come to in a minute) and comes not only with the standard calculator commands (add, subtract, multiply and so on) but also with quite a few advanced functions (swipe to the right on the keypad to reveal these) and an expression history which comes up as you type, meaning you can make quick corrections to long sums.
The calculation history can be saved or emailed, and you can pick out individual values out for calculation just by tapping on them, which will transfer that result into the main calculation screen. It’s a little on the expensive side for a simple improvement over the default (and free) calculator app, but you’ll find that Calcbot’s features are extremely useful over time.
TED is a great app to help you find inspirational talks from some of the world’s most interesting people in a wide range of fields, such as education, technology, medicine, business and music. There are over 1,100 videos already in its library (with more being added each week), and on the iPhone, you can search the entire library in either online or offline mode and bookmark your favourite speeches for later use. You can also share interesting videos and playlists with your mates and download your favourite TEDTalk for playback anywhere.
No matter whether you love or hate Twitter, you’ll probably find yourself using it at some point during your university career as it is such a useful way to discover information and find out about the latest goings-on in the world (and I mean proper news, not what Kim Kardashian was wearing out lately).
My favourite client for the iPhone is Tweetbot, which was given a huge update a few months back and has loads of smart features, such as multiple timelines, smart gestures, native push notifications and mute filters, so you can shut out users without unfollowing them. There is built-in support for a number of third-party services such as Pocket, Instapaper, Readability and Droplr, and the interface is very easy to use, making it one of the most powerful clients out there on the App Store.
TuneIn Radio Pro is a little client for your iPhone which allows you to listen to and record over 60,000 radio stations worldwide, including most of the popular ones. You can search for radio stations either by location or genre, and the built-in player lets you pause, rewind and fast forward live streams.
You can also record streams either on demand or via a record timer, and the app integrates seamlessly with iOS, so you can control playback either using the built-in music controls, Apple’s headphone controls or the dock controls. Although it costs a little tad extra, I prefer the Pro version as it gives you the ability to record and gets rid of those annoying banner ads, something which I would gladly pay 99 cents for.
Chegg is a great little app that allows you to rent textbooks either for one semester or the entire year straight from your iPhone. There are millions of titles to choose from in most academic fields, and you can search for titles either by name, author, ISBN or via the book’s barcode (there is an built-in barcode scanner as well).
Chegg lets you compare the rental price of the book to the actual store price, and once you’ve finished using it, returning the book back to them is totally free via UPS (the app will even help you find your nearest UPS returns location). It is a great way to save money on textbooks, and their website also has a range of eTextbooks to rent and buy as well (however, as far as I know, Chegg is only available in the United States).
Any.DO is one of the smartest task managers on iPhone I’ve seen for a long time, and can really help to keep your student life in order. Finding a good task manager on iPhone is, in my opinion, an absolute minefield as there are so many out there on the store, but after trying a few (including some expensive ones like OmniFocus, which costs $20), I can safely say that Any.DO is one of the best in terms of value for your money (it’s free!).
You can create tasks for today, tomorrow, this week or for later on, and set individual priorities and reminders for each one. Once you’ve finished a particular task, simply swipe to the right to mark it off as completed. The minimalistic interface and functional features of Any.DO really do (no pun intended) make it a vital tool for all college students out there to help keep your life in order.
If you’re studying for a language degree at university or simply fancy learning a new one, then Language Coach is a great little app with 29 different foreign languages on offer that helps make those boring vocabulary drills a little bit more exciting. Each foreign language in the app contains around 2,100 words, all articulated by a native speaker. Language Coach works off the flashcard principle, where you constantly repeat words until they are drummed into your long-term memory.
There are a number of exercises to perform to help you remember the words you’ve learnt and you can also practice your pronunciation by repeating phrases then having them compared to the native speaker’s pronunciation, helping you to improve your accent. I reviewed it back in Marc,h but beware if you’ve got limited space on your iPhone — the download clocks in around 740 MB (mostly due to all the audio files).
Probably one of the most useful weapons in a student’s arsenal is a good (and loud) alarm clock to get you out of your pit of a bedroom for that 9 AM lecture. But instead of buying one of those noisy beepy things which give you a heart attack when they go off, get Alarm Clock Pro instead. You can wake up (and fall asleep to) your iPod music and you can also set other options, such as sound/music fade in (so you can wake up gradually) plus there’s a snooze function.
The app also doubles up as a bedside clock with a number of different themes to choose from, a flashlight and a weather forecast (which can be disabled). Alarm Clock Pro has constantly featured on some of the top paid utilities apps recently and its features far outweigh those on the default alarm clock function on iOS, so go ahead and grab it whilst it’s still cheap!
Well, there it is readers. I really do hope that this list will help any students out there with their studies. I certainly found that the applications in this list will really complement your university degree, making life just that little bit easier as well as ensuring you get the full functionality out of your iPhone!
In the meantime, best of luck with your studies!