Used to be that back-to-school shopping meant ensuring the kids had sharp pencils, a dictionary and lunch money. But today's tech-savvy students require a little bit more than a No. 2 graphite. These days, smartphones top the list of must-haves for many college students.
A study conducted by Ball State associate professor of journalism Michael Hanley, comprised of 11 surveys administered to 5,500 university students at six-month intervals from 2005 to 2010, showed the percentage of students with a smartphone rose from 27 percent in February 2009 to 49 percent in 2010. While a few of those students might be using their iPhone or Droid to call their parents, you can bet that the majority are using them for a variety of other things, not all educational. Here's a look at a few iOS and Android apps the student body might use this fall to increase their efficiency when they hit the books and a few that might just help them relax.
Webster's New World College Dictionary: Lugging around even a paperback dictionary is so last year. Available for $14.99 in the App Store, the Webster's New World College Dictionary boasts 160,000 entries and more than 800 illustrations. This interactive, electronic dictionary could come in handy for the student looking for just the right word to describe the newly discovered bodily condition (re: hang-over).
iStudiez Pro: Available for iOS for $2.99, iStudiez Pro might be installed on their child's phone by anxious parents prior to sending said child off to college (whether it will be used is another matter entirely). iStudiez Pro allows students to schedule, track grades/GPA, provide appointment alerts via push notifications and generally help alleviate some of the chaos inherent in the student's life.
ScanLife: Available for free at both Android Market and App Store, ScanLife allows students to scan UPC codes or 2D barcodes while they're out shopping for textbooks, then comparison shop online for the cheapest prices online. This is assuming the kids are paying for the books. If Mom and Dad are footing the bill, they're more likely to forgo the bargain shopping.
ShareYourBoard: A free app for Android that allows students to snap a photo of the classroom's whiteboard. We all know what those notes can look like. ShareYourBoard promises that no matter what angle, lighting or type of whiteboard or markers are used, this app will improve the readability and extract all the information users need.
Snoozerr Recordings: Available for 99 cents at the App Store, Snoozer Recordings syncs audio recordings with pictures so that students can go back and reference specific images with exactly what the professor was saying when said image was captured. For instance, a student could record an entire lecture and click on a photo of a slide that was presented and immediately queue up that portion of the lecture. Equally impressive is that all associated audio and pictures are linked together, so that sharing the lecture with an absent friend doesn't have to mean sorting through a pile of random files.
DocumentsToGo: There's going to be days where every student is running late but still needs to make a few last-minute adjustments to that term paper. DocumentsToGo, available for $14.99 at both the Android Market and App Store, allows users to create, view and edit a variety of Microsoft file formats, including Word, Excel and PowerPoint. Tapping away some last minute typos while riding the bus to class, before dashing off to computer lab to print, might just boost that final grade from an B+ to an A.
Dragon Go!: Nuance's latest speech-enabled search app is a must for any college student lost in a new town. "Just say it and Dragon Go!" is Nuance's tagline for this app. Users can say just about anything and the app lets users search everything from maps to specialized services like Yelp! and Wikipedia. Dragon Go! is available for free at the App Store.
Netflix: Every student has to relax from time to time, and while it's a subscription service ($7.99 per month), Netflix streaming-only option is pretty slick on both the iPhone and a variety of Android devices. Just think how impressed the parents will be when you return home and tell them that you made it through three seasons of the Rockford Files while away at school. Who knows? There might even be a couple of documentaries available to stream that will help complete that paper on the Enron debacle.
Graphing Calculator: Who needs to spend $150 on a separate graphing calculator, when you can just download an app to your iPhone that will do the same thing? Rated as one of Time Magazine's top 10 back-to-school iPhone apps, Graphing Calculator is available for $1.99. This app will do pretty much everything that bulky Texas Instruments thing can do and at a fraction of the price.
Epicurious: Mom won't want her baby living on pizza and mac-n-cheese while he's away at school. With Epicurious' app for both Android and iPhone, newly independent students can find recipes, organize grocery lists and hopefully manage to avoid the dreaded "freshman fifteen," by eating more real meals while away from home.
Appzilla 2: 100 apps in one, Appzilla 2 is available for 99 cents for the iPhone and makes good on the promise of the Swiss Army knife concept. This one little app includes everything from a currency convertor and alarm clock to a pitch pipe and metronome. For the student who isn't really sure what's she's going to need her freshman year, this is a good place to start.
Add to the power of the app-infused smartphone all the other gadgetry to which today's modern students are privy – eReaders, tablets, wireless hotspots, powerful laptops – and it seems almost unfair to those who forged the path of academia with little more than a slide rule, a set of encyclopedias and a fat pink eraser. With note-taking apps and digital personal assistants with on-the-fly editing, shouldn't every kid be getting a 4.0 and graduating with honors?