The Best iPhone Apps for Students

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Welcome to our top iPhone app roundup for 2018! We’ve scoured the app store to find the most essential iPhone apps every student needs and can use right now (and not only iPhone apps — most of our recommendations have Android, Windows, and MacOS variants). These apps cover a spectrum of uses, from scheduling to graphing calculators, from privacy to note-taking tools. We believe every app on this list is useful for students and scholars, from high school to graduate school. And many will prove useful even beyond school.

Your phone is more than a communications and social media selfie-sharing device. It’s also a portal to a world of data, information, knowledge, and even wisdom. It’s a portable learning laboratory, a mobile classroom, and a virtual mentor ready 24/7 to drill the most arcane and seemingly trivial knowledge skills into your mind until you achieve mastery. While providing an obvious channel to entertainment, these bricks of silicon and electrons can also open portals to enlightenment, mastery, and life-change. Just maybe not kung fu, unfortunately.

Anyhow, Neo, free your mind while we take a quick stroll through the app store.…

Don’t Be Late

iStudieziStudiez Icon

Publisher: Enfiero, Inc.
Platform(s): iTunes | Android | MacOS | Windows
Price: Free | $2.99

“Award-winning student’s planner.”

iPhone screen grab for iStudiez, via iTunes

Sometimes managing a college schedule feels like you’re directing a monkey riot. To stay above it all, you need more than a calendar app: you need a coursework information manager. That’s where iStudiez shines. Widely regarded as an essential planning tool for students from high-school to graduate school, iStudiez boasts an easy-to-use interface, integrates your personal life via Google Calendar and iCal integration, and perfectly syncs across multiple platforms.

The free Lite version is a touch underpowered, but give it a try before laying out some coin. Considering the money and time you’re already investing in your education, a solid planning app may be the first resource you want to level-up.

Features:

  • Overview daily and weekly tasks, showing only the nearest due dates
  • Manage all homework and course assignments
  • Manage course and class details, location, instructor contact details and schedule, holidays, and grades
  • Add online classes without requiring time, location, or room
  • Sort tasks by date, course, or priority
  • Comprehensive grade tracking (using percentages, points, or letter grades)
  • Cloud sync between Mac, iPhone, iPod Touch, iPad, Android, and Windows
  • Use your favorite calendar with Google Calendar and iCal support
  • Share your calendar with friends
  • Configurable push notifications and alarms for class times and due dates

Cons:

  • The app really shines on the tablet and desktop: The calendar can get a bit cramped on smaller devices. But the functionality is still all there.


InformantInformant Icon

Publisher: Fanatic Software, Inc.
Platform(s): iTunes | Android | MacOS
Price: Free | $3.99/Month | $24.99/Year

“Your second brain.”

iPhone screen grab for Informant, via iTunes

Also known as “Pocket Informant,” this is the app your dad’s calendar dreamed of one day becoming. Sure, it comes with the usual stable of features: a calendar with events, tasks, and rich text notes. But let’s throw in unlimited calendars, integration with Apple and Google calendars, integration with Google Tasks and Toodledo, add a contact database, checklists, and the ability to filter tasks based on projects. What? You want voice activation for new events? Check. How about syncing across devices (iPhone, iPod touch, and iPad), and syncing with Evernote? Yep, gotcha covered!

Informant isn’t custom-tailored to the needs of students, but if you already have a busy schedule outside of school, or plan to still Get Things Done after graduating, this may be a better long-term choice.

Features:

  • Informant offers à la carte pricing so you can upgrade to the features you want
  • Voice-controlled event creation
  • Today Widget previews Informant data from lock screen
  • Location Aware: plot today’s events on a map
  • Import Apple Reminders
  • Built-in filtering, including handy smart-filters
  • Task templates to quickly create new tasks
  • “Task Modes” including Simple, Getting Things Done, or Franklin Covey
  • Weather forecasting

Cons:

  • Notes and Contacts are only available as premium features.
  • Taking full advantage of the tool really requires a monthly subscription, and a few add-ons. It’s not expensive, but it’s a factor to consider.

TodoistTodoist Icon

Publisher: Doist, Ltd
Platform(s): iTunes | Android | MacOS | Windows
Price: Free | $28.99/Year

“Tame chaos and organize your life.”

iPhone screen grab for Todoist, via iTunes

If you simply need an efficient way to create lists of action items — but you want to do that superbly and with style — then hurry and install Todoist on your platform of choice, or all of them. (Don’t even bother making a checklist first, just install it.)

Todoist is one of the best personal task management tools around, and it can easily track whatever academic due dates, projects, and frat mixers your school throws at you. You can create projects and child-projects, tasks and child-tasks, assign due dates, track assignments, set reminders, bookmark URLs, and store notes. Plus, you still get powerful cross-platform functionality — including integration with leading email clients like Outlook, Gmail, Thunderbird, and Postbox.

Even better: Todoist offers a generous discount for students, teachers, and academic institutions!

Features:

  • Natural language “Quick Add” feature
  • Collaborate on projects with team members
  • Assign tasks to teammates
  • Comment on tasks, attach PDFs, images, documents, etc.
  • Available as an app or extension on 10+ platforms
  • More than 60 app integrations (Dropbox, Amazon Alexa, Zapier, IFTTT, Slack, etc.)
  • Real-time synchronization across all devices
  • Free forever with the option to upgrade to Todoist Premium
  • Get alerts & reminders via email or push notifications
  • Powerful labeling and filtering toolset

Cons:

  • Task labels & reminders are a premium feature
  • Task comments & file uploads are a premium feature
  • You can’t bulk edit projects, tasks, labels, etc.
  • Layout is beautiful, but not always intuitive in terms of usability

Offload Your Brain

EvernoteEvernote Icon

Publisher: Evernote Corp.
Platform(s): iTunes | Android | MacOS | Windows
Price: Free | $34.99/Year

“A platform for human memory, designed to help you remember everything.”

iPhone screen grab for Evernote, via iTunes

Evernote is your brain, online. Fans and evangelists of this note-taking tool swear by its life-changing ability to ease the mental strain of having to remember everything — or perhaps anything?

To take full advantage of Evernote’s power as a student, think of this as more than a note-taking app. It’s far more than a cloud-based rich-text editor. Each document you create in Evernote can be a collection of tasks, action-items, checklists, notes, attachments, dates (due date, date-created, etc.), URLs, voice recordings, hand-drawn illustrations, and other metadata. And all of it is cross-linkable, searchable, and synchronized with the cloud and all your devices.

If you’re looking for a way to make all your course notes linkable, searchable, and easy-to-access (and share!), Evernote is more than capable. The next time you’re curating hundreds of Web pages, peer-reviewed abstracts, obscure blog asides, and the odd Reddit thread, Evernote stands ready to archive every morsel of data for later collation and citation. When you’re ready for it, though, Evernote stands ready to grow to meet your academic needs — and will continue to grow with you post-graduation.

Features:

  • Great search tool with numerous filtering options
  • Great desktop clients in addition to Web app
  • Capture anything: Notes, words, images, drawings and sketches, scanned documents, checklists, to-do lists, audio, video, web clippings, and more.
  • Save it and forget it. Evernote will remember it for you.
  • Share and collaborate on content within folders
  • Set due dates and reminders
  • Can password lock individual items, or even text within an item
  • Search within OCRd content including scanned receipts, images, and PDFs

Cons:

  • The folder/subfolder hierarchy is finite. You can only go, at most, two levels deep.
  • Tag management can be a little cumbersome if you wind up mis-tagging content, you’ll miss critical associations.
  • No obvious way to set up recurring due dates
  • Rich text editor can sometimes get wonky when you copy-and-paste content from the Web
  • Offline access a premium feature only
  • Free plans no longer allow email-to-notes
  • Search inside Office docs and attachments a premium feature only
  • Evernote’s future as a company seems uncertain at times

Microsoft OneNoteMicrosoft OneNote Icon

Publisher: Microsoft Corp.
Platform(s): iTunes | Android | MacOS | Windows
Price: Free

“Ideas take shape with OneNote.”

iPhone screen grab for Microsoft OneNote, via iTunes

Virtually everything said about Evernote, above, can be said about Microsoft’s OneNote app. They are true competitors in every way. There are obvious interface differences, of course. Evernote’s rich-text formatting is simpler (and perhaps cleaner) than OneNote, but OneNote will integrate better with all your Microsoft Office apps (if that’s your thing). So, when it comes to moving content from your OneNote archive into the Master’s thesis you’ve been crafting in Word, OneNote will fare better.

Plus, biggest bonus of all, OneNote is free. And after you graduate, any organization or institution you work for will likely already be using OneNote as part of their standard Office installation.

Evernote led the cloud-based note-taking race for a long time. But in the past few years, Microsoft has made significant progress catching up.

Features:

  • Microsoft removed all premium restrictions, so it’s completely free
  • OneNote has tight integration with other Microsoft Office apps
  • You can import your Evernote into OneNote, in case you’re curious
  • OneNote offers richer on-page formatting than Evernote, allowing you to create page templates and float elements anywhere on the page
  • OneNote’s hierarchical organization is superior to Evernote, with notebooks, section groups, sections, pages, all the way down to individual notes

Cons:

  • Users of both OneNote and Evernote widely prefer Evernote’s Web-clipping tool and browser integration
  • OneNote’s Web capturing defaults to a screen grab of the page
  • Seems to offer the best experience on the Windows desktop app
  • OneNote stores and syncs content across Microsoft’s OneDrive cloud, so you’ll run into limitations there quickly unless you buy storage beyond the free 5GB

WorkflowyWorkflowy Icon

Publisher: Workflowy, Inc.
Platform(s): iTunes | Android | MacOS | Windows
Price: Free

“Find your focus.”

iPhone screen grab for Workflowy, via iTunes

I confess, I’m adding Workflowy as a personal favorite because it allows you to do one thing very, very well: create a structured outline of ideas.

Workflowy is an outliner, plain and simple. There are very few formatting options. There’s no fancy rich-text formatting. There’s very little in the way of file attachment, collaboration, due date assignments, etc. But I find it indispensable for when I want to quickly capture notes and retain their hierarchical structure without fiddling with indentation commands. As an outliner, it just works perfectly at keeping points and sub-points in their proper place, yet the keyboard shortcuts that allow me to move lines and whole sections around are superb.

Workflowy works best for me in one of two scenarios: One is where I want to capture notes or ideas in a logical, organized structure. The tool is so hierarchical that I hardly have to think about how ideas relate to each other while typing. The second scenario is when I’m curating ideas in research or organizing my thoughts while brainstorming. In this regard, Workflowy works much like a mind-map, but without the visual component. It’s strictly an outline.

You can “hack” Workflowy to use dates if you want to assign a due date to something. Workflowy has a superb search-engine/filter, and it is very amenable to hashtags to link notes together and, incidentally, to indicate due dates. To mark a due-date, you could simply use a hashtag, like #2019-01-01. Any search for #2019 will show all “Due” items for 2019. Similarly, any search for #2019-01 will consequently show all tasks due for January, 2019. With these hashtag filters, you can also associate notes and folders with relevant topics in your collection of notes, making it easy to cross-reference topics as you go along

Features:

  • Infinitely nested lists
  • Zoom-in on any sub-list
  • Tag and filter list items
  • Works offline
  • Automatic syncing between devices
  • Shareable lists, collaborate with others
  • Add notes to any list item
  • Mark items as complete
  • Full text search
  • Export as HTML, OPML, plain text

Cons:

  • Limited rich-text editing
  • No markup/markdown support
  • Not date-aware (no time-created, time-complete, time-due stamps)
  • Formatting sometimes lost when copying-and-pasting from a list to an email or document
  • Developer seems slow to add features

When Details Matter

Wolfram|AlphaWolfram|Alpha Icon

Publisher: Wolfram Group, LLC
Platform(s): iTunes | Android | Windows
Price: $2.99

“Get answers. Access expert knowledge. ”

iPhone screen grab for Wolfram|Alpha, via iTunes

Wolfram|Alpha is a “computational engine” that can serve up curated facts based on your queries. It’s basically the Spock to your Captain Kirk.

Serve it up questions about statistics, linguistics or even colors and Wolfram|Alpha will tap its network of algorithms and magical cyber squirrels to deliver a computed answer, a generated report, maybe even a graph or two. And owing to Wolfram Alpha’s background in mathematical software (Mathematica), it’s really, really good at grokking math.

But, really, throw anything at it and see what happens. Curious about the average price of gasoline in Kansas in 2015? Trust me, Wolfram|Alpha knows. What about the phase of the moon on February 14, 2002? It. Knows. (PS: it can also define “trivial” for you, too. Just in case.)

Start with small queries to get the hang of Wolfram|Alpha. As your queries become more complex it becomes a bit more obvious how to lead Wolfram|Alpha to the datasets you want to plunder. See some examples to get you started.

Features:

  • Computed reports based on generally trusted sources
  • Math and graphing outputs built on over a quarter-century of app development
  • Good enough for Siri
  • Access thousands of domains (and growing) of curated knowledge

Cons:

  • Sometimes seems slow
  • Free information is good, but you always bump up against the Premium offering
  • There’s little guidance on how to structure your query to get the best results
  • Exporting options are limited

Dictionary.comDictionary.com Icon

Publisher: Dictionary.com, LLC
Platform(s): iTunes | Android
Price: Free | $3.99

“All big changes of the world come from words.”

iPhone screen grab for Dictionary.com, via iTunes

I’m a lifelong native English speaker with arguably many decades of fluency to my credit. However, one of the first tools I install on any of my computing devices, whether it’s a mobile device, a laptop, or a desktop workstation, is a robust dictionary app. I find a good dictionary with a deep database to be indispensable when perusing material written above my understanding or just to check myself. (Have you ever looked up the definition and history of a word or phrase, just to see if you truly understand its meaning? Be careful, it can lead you down a rabbit hole!)

A lot of the free dictionaries available in the app store are based on older, infrequently updated word lists and public-domain definitions. And most lack even the most rudimentary etymological or usage data. Dictionary.com, however, comes loaded with two million definitions. The basic app is ad-supported, and remains free, and provides you with a search history, word origins and word history, synonyms, antonyms, a thesaurus, and so on. You will be quite satisfied with this app even if you have to tolerate ads, but if you do level up, you get a medical dictionary, encyclopedia, and a few extra goodies.

Dictionary.com’s content largely comes from the Random House Unabridged Dictionary along with content from the American Heritage dictionary and Harper Collins. You or your institution might prefer some other dictionary as an authoritative source for citations, or for style, but for personal use nobody beats Dictionary.com and its set of free features.

Features:

  • Word of the Day
  • Audio pronunciations
  • Voice search
  • Quiz widget
  • Word origin and history
  • Favorite words and search history
  • English Spelling help
  • See words searched by location
  • Learner’s dictionary
  • Optimized for Apple Watch!

Cons:

  • The ads can be super annoying

Merriam-Webster DictionaryMerriam-Webster Dictionary Icon

Publisher: Merriam-Webster, Inc.
Platform(s): iTunes | Android
Price: Free | $4.99

“America’s leading and most-trusted provider of language information.”

iPhone screen grab for Merriam-Webster Dictionary, via iTunes

Every school I’ve ever attended, from grade school to graduate school, and every organization I’ve ever worked for (save one) relied on Merriam-Webster as the standard and authoritative reference on all things lexical. Most folks on the street will trust a definition sourced from within a red-and-white Merriam-Webster tome. It’s a part of the American heritage and woven into our DNA: In 1806, Noah Webster published his first dictionary and over two hundred years later, few things in this country are older than a book with his name on it. A Merriam-Webster dictionary on a school desk is about as quintessentially American as apple pie and baseball on a Saturday afternoon.

So, why fight the system? Your instructor wants to know that you know what Merriam-Webster says a word means. So learn it. Get the app, and I promise you won’t regret it. Even the free version is packed with great features, despite the ads. (And even then, getting rid of the ads costs less than a decent espresso.)

Features:

  • Authoritative and trusted
  • Universal App
  • Voice Search
  • Vocabulary-building quizzes
  • Word of the Day
  • Integrated Thesaurus
  • Example Sentences
  • Quick Definitions
  • Audio Pronunciations
  • Favorite Words and Search History
  • Apple Watch extension

Cons:

  • The app doesn’t tap into autocorrect or suggestions, so, learn to spell
  • Smaller corpus than Dictionary.com (I’ve read approximately 200,000 word choices and examples)

Quick GraphQuick Graph Icon

Publisher: KZ Labs SAS
Platform(s): iTunes
Price: Free | $2.99

“High-quality 2D and 3D mathematical expressions.”

iPhone screen grab for Quick Graph, via iTunes

While Wolfram|Alpha is great for spitting out a finished graph based on a query you give it, sometimes you need an actual graphic calculator to figure out, well, math.

Clearly, I’m a word guy.

But, hey, Quick Graph has been named a Top 10 Education App in over 100 countries and has been featured in the app store in more than 130 countries. According to the tin, this is a graphing calculator that finally uses your phone’s and tablet’s multi-touch display to create 2D and 3D graphic visualizations.

If you’re mathematically inclined, head over to the app store to read the finer details, but all the reviews say this graphing app is where it’s at.

Features:

  • VGA Output
  • 2D & 3D equation plotting
  • Common equation library
  • Wireframe and solid visualization
  • Support for Cartesian, polar, cylindrical and spherical coordinate systems
  • In-app email so you can share graphics and equations
  • Save to photo library
  • Copy to clipboard
  • Enhanced equation visualization
  • Hyperbolic and Inverse functions
  • More … seriously

Cons:

  • Those who claim to know what they’re talking about report nothing negative. I’m suspicious. But.…

EasyBibEasyBib Icon

Publisher: Chegg, Inc.
Platform(s): iTunes
Price: $2.99

“Generate citations in MLA, APA, & Chicago automatically”

iPhone screen grab for EasyBib, via iTunes

You’re stuck in a system of rigid hierarchies and impenetrable style guides with arcane rules that seem to serve little or no purpose. Welcome to academia!

You need to know how to cite your sources. And different fields of study tend to prefer one style over another — there’s no guarantee that mastering one citation style will suffice for your entire academic career. Whether your poison is the American Psychological Association (APA, think behavioral sciences students), the Modern Language Association of America (MLA, think language and literature students), or The Chicago Manual of Style/Turabian (Chicago/Turabian, think humanities, journalism, or probably anybody attending the University of Chicago, or anyone getting published), without guidance, you will wind up a gibbering mess by the end of your paper.

EasyBib is here to save your bacon. Don’t question it. Just feed it citations and obey its directives until you learn the proper forms. You’ll be glad you did.

Features:

  • More than ten years of citation generation
  • Accurate citations checked by librarians and teachers
  • Create citations by scanning book barcodes
  • Use search to create citations for books and websites
  • Export to email
  • Switch between MLA, APA, Chicago, Harvard, and over 7,000 citation styles, including ASA, AMA, CSE, and ACS formats
  • Fifty-six different source types (databases, newspapers, etc.)

Cons:

  • iPhone app is not as full-featured as the website
  • Developer is not very active. As of this writing, the app was last updated in September, 2017.
  • No default iOS actions to send a webpage to the app to automatically create a citation

Backpack in the Cloud

Google DriveGoogle Drive Icon

Publisher: Google, Inc.
Platform(s): iTunes | Android | MacOS | Windows
Price: Free | $1.99/Month/100GB

“A safe place for all your files.”

iPhone screen grab for Google Drive, via iTunes

Look, if you’re not a Microsoft Office user, you’re probably a Google Apps user, and the Venn diagram visualizing those who use both is a very large intersection. However, as Google has gotten better and better at providing a fully cloud-based app environment, more people are turning to Google as their operating system of choice, even if they don’t realize it. If you use Gmail and Google Calendar, you’re already using Google Drive even if you’re not thinking about it. You might as well embrace the zeitgeist and use Google Drive to store ALL the things!

The nice thing about using Google Drive to store everything, even your Microsoft Office documents, is that the Google apps can still read them. Plus there are a gazillion app integrations that allow you to access your Google Drive as though it was built in to the app.

The other nice thing about using Google Drive to store your documents is you never again have to worry about losing that thumb drive with the only copy of your class presentation on it — worth only about half your grade!

Features:

  • View documents, PDFs, photos, videos, etc.
  • Search for files by name and content
  • Share files and folders with others
  • Set sharing permissions to view, comment, or collaboratively edit
  • Restore previous versions
  • Enable viewing of files offline

Cons:

  • Gmail can quickly eat up your free 15GB, so you may need to pay for storage anyhow
  • Interface changes and redesigns will occasionally mess you up
  • The Google Drive app really requires you also install the rest of the Google App suite of mobile apps in order to really use it

iCloud DriveiCloud Drive Icon

Publisher: Apple, Inc.
Platform(s): iTunes | MacOS | Windows
Price: Free | $0.99/Month/50GB

“For safekeeping. And easy sharing.”

Really, it’s built-in to your iPhone. You’d have to work hard not to use it! So, if you are going to use it in any way beyond the default backup of your iOS apps, you should probably get on board with the Windows and/or MacOS versions so you can have easy access and sync files properly between devices.


Dropbox PlusDropbox Plus Icon

Publisher: Dropbox, Inc.
Platform(s): iTunes | Android | MacOS | Windows
Price: Free | $9.99/Month/1TB

“There’s plenty of space for everything.”

iPhone screen grab for Dropbox Plus, via iTunes

Sometimes you run into a situation where everybody on your team, your school, or organization, all settled on a different solution. Most of the same arguments that work for Google Drive also work here, for Dropbox, except for the cloud-based Office solution. Dropbox has narrowed its focus and mainly provides a really robust online file-storage system with versioning, sharing, and automatic syncing to your desktop.

One good thing about Dropbox, compared to Google Drive, is your email quotas won’t suddenly soak up all your available disk space.

If you’re at all concerned about how much access to your personal and private information you’re giving to Google these days, this is another good reason to consider hosting your files on Dropbox or elsewhere.


Microsoft OneDriveMicrosoft OneDrive Icon

Publisher: Microsoft Corp.
Platform(s): iTunes | Android | MacOS | Windows
Price: Free

“Save your files and photos to OneDrive and get them from any device, anywhere.”

iPhone screen grab for Microsoft OneDrive, via iTunes

If you’re a Live365 user, or even a Microsoft Office user, you may find OneDrive a better alternative than either Google Drive or Dropbox. Like Google Drive, OneDrive enjoys tight integration with an office application ecosystem (especially with Word, Excel, PowerPoint, and OneNote). In fact, OneNote uses OneDrive to store and sync across devices, so if you’ve decided to store class notes and research materials in OneNote, it might make sense to double-down on OneDrive as your home base for file storage.

Features:

  • Quickly open and save OneDrive files in Office apps like Word, Excel, PowerPoint, and OneNote
  • Easily find photos thanks to automatic tagging
  • Get notified when a shared document is edited
  • Share albums of your favorite photos and videos
  • Highlight, annotate, and sign PDF files
  • Offline access for most important files

Cons:

  • Sometimes there are document conflicts when multiple people collaborate on a document
  • It’s a Microsoft app on an Apple device — sometimes there are glitches

Save the Trees

Chegg BooksChegg Books Icon

Publisher: Chegg, Inc.
Platform(s): iTunes | Android
Price: Free

“Saving broke students, one textbook at a time.”

iPhone screen grab for Chegg Books, via iTunes

One of the most painful recurring expenses of your academic life will be the buying of heavy slabs of knowledge printed on dead-trees. If you take care of the textbook you might be able to sell it back and recover some of your expense, but if the professor changes textbooks before the next semester, you’re stuck. As an investment in your training and education, textbooks are worth the investment, but sometimes it seems the whole publishing industry is set up to make the creation, updating, and foisting of textbooks a massive moneymaking scandal. Any ethical way you can lessen the cost of textbook acquisition is well worth exploring.

To that end, Chegg’s app allows you to access your recently purchased or rented textbooks via the eReader while you wait for it to be shipped to you. According to Chegg, you can save up to eighty-percent on textbook rentals and with eTextbooks, and you can save up to ninety percent on buying used.

You can also sell your textbooks to Chegg with the built-in barcode scanner.

Features:

  • Easily search for textbooks by title, author, ISBN or by scanning a barcode
  • Buy or rent textbooks cheaply
  • After ordering, get seven-day free instant access to your eTextbook

Cons:

  • Broke students were so delighted to save money, they forgot to complain. Odd.

OverDriveOverDrive Icon

Publisher: OverDrive, Inc.
Platform(s): iTunes | Android | MacOS | Windows
Price: Free

“Read, listen, watch, enjoy.”

iPhone screen grab for OverDrive, via iTunes

You have access to a library, in fact you probably have access to two or more library systems: Your university library, your local public library system, and your home-town public library system. Any one of these libraries may have just the textbook you need to get your cramming session done, or maybe you just want to take a long, sad, country drive while listening to Frank McCourt’s audiobook of Angela’s Ashes.

A lot of people simply don’t know that they can check out books from their local library using OverDrive. And, yes, it seems crazy, but there is literally a finite inventory of ebooks and audiobooks, so it’s possible for all the copies of the latest Lee Child novel to be checked out for the next several weeks. So, if you need a book and one library doesn’t have it, check all the library systems you have permission to access through the app.

Features:

  • Available 24/7
  • No more late fees. Titles are automatically returned
  • Place holds, create wish lists, and return titles easily
  • Sync libraries, bookmarks, and recent positions across devices

Cons:

  • No more late fees. Titles are automatically returned.
  • A valid account with a participating library, school, or other institution is required
  • Each library builds its own collection of titles
  • It’s not Kindle
  • As with any library book, you can only keep what’s in your head

Amazon KindleAmazon Kindle Icon

Publisher: Amazon.com, Inc.
Platform(s): iTunes | Android | MacOS | Windows
Price: Free

“Read anytime, anywhere.”

iPhone screen grab for Amazon Kindle, via iTunes

Look, I love the feel, the smell, and the pulpy heft of bound papers when I dive into a good book, but the truth is, they’re heavy and they add up. When I was a freshman, everything I owned fit comfortably into the back-seat of a two-door Mustang. By the time I left grad-school, I needed a U-Haul — and most of that was books. And still is, even today.

Embrace your digital revolution. Remember that every book you own brings certain costs with it: you are paying its rent for the space it takes up in your home, it consumes fuel every time you transport it from one home to another, it shames you every time you look at the spine and wonder why you haven’t read it yet. The more you have, the more the costs pile up, year after year.

So, trust me, invest now in your youth and save yourself the backache of moving the thousands of books you’ll fall in love with from home to home, from state to state, and cross-country. You see a book you want to read? Buy the Kindle edition, and know that it’s there at your fingertips literally any time you want it. And you can annotate it, highlight it, and even export those highlights for your amusement or for that literary analysis you’ve been working on.

Features:

  • Newsfeed, exposing what readers you trust are reviewing
  • Sample any ebook for free
  • Magazines, newspapers, graphic novels and textbooks with high-res color images
  • Unique features like X-Ray, Whispersync, Page Flip, Print Replica, flashcards and more
  • Instant translations and definitions, without leaving the page (using the New Oxford American Dictionary, perhaps my favorite dictionary)
  • Create and share in-page highlights

Cons:

  • The iPhone app doesn’t have text-to-speech narration built in
  • Syncing highlights between the iPhone app and Kindle devices doesn’t always match

BrainscapeBrainscape Icon

Publisher: Bold Learning Solutions, Inc.
Platform(s): iTunes | Android
Price: Free | $9.99/Month

“The world’s smartest flashcards.”

iPhone screen grab for Brainscape, via iTunes

Spaced repetition seems to be all the rage these days when it comes to learning something new — and retaining it. That means the old-school, reliable flashcard is seeing an educational resurgence, even (and especially) in graduate school hallways. Now, with the advent of the smartphone and flashcard apps like Brainscape, you can create custom flashcards to study anything, anytime, anywhere.

But what’s so powerful about the new flashcard economy is that you can share your cards with others, and access card decks they’ve created as well. In fact, in all likelihood, you could find a study deck made by someone taking the very same course you are in right now. Further, Brainscape partners with publishers, schools, and educators to create flashcards for diverse subjects such Foreign Languages, MCAT, Music Theory, SAT prep, AP Exams, Series 7 prep, Sports Trivia, and more.

Let your inner geek out and get some spaced repetition to help build those mental muscles!

Features:

  • One million subjects available on the marketplace
  • Learn twice as fast, and remember longer
  • Based on cognitive science research
  • Collaborate with classmates
  • Share your class
  • Bulk upload entire decks
  • Any type of rich media that can fit on a flashcard

Cons:

  • Quality decks from experts can get expensive quickly
  • You can make your own flashcards, but this can be time consuming, and you’re also not the expert
  • The price for the lifetime license is steep, but if this learning model works for you, it could well be worth it

QuizletQuizlet Icon

Publisher: Quizlet, Inc.
Platform(s): iTunes | Android
Price: Free | $1.99/Year | $19.99/Year

“Simple tools for learning anything.”

iPhone screen grab for Quizlet, via iTunes

The benefits of using Brainscape apply equally well to Quizlet, but what sets Quizlet apart, currently, are gamification features and the integration of imagery and audio. One of the latest additions to the Quizlet app is the ability to “see what you’re learning” with diagrams, charts, maps, images, and figures using “Learn and Match.” With diagrams, for instance, you can quiz yourself on the various parts of the diagram with hidden annotations and labels that only reveal themselves when you review your answer.

Features:

  • 95% of students learning with Quizlet improve grades
  • 220 million study sets and counting
  • Get test-day ready with Learn, test memory with Write, race the clock in Match
  • Share flashcards with friends, classmates, or students
  • Listen to your material pronounced correctly in eighteen languages
  • Enhance your studying with custom images and audio

Cons:

  • Quizlets “Sets” and “Classes” are less organized that Brainscape’s “Subjects”
  • Marketplace content is mostly user-generated
  • User base is mostly K–12

Lock your Doors

You know the drill, once you’ve accessed a WiFi network on your phone, the next time you’re in whistling distance, your phone desperately tries to connect, throwing out digital lifelines and SOSs like a drowning midshipman. So, if you’re not careful, you could connect to an unsecure or compromised network without even intending to. And one packet-sniffing hacker grabbing unsecured credentials later, suddenly your whole network of online identities can come crashing down. Why? Because you, like 60% of all users, probably use the same password on all your sites. Right?

That, and you didn’t use a Virtual Private Network (VPN).

The beauty of using a VPN, especially on your phone, is that it encrypts all the IP connections your phone makes with the network. So, whenever your email client negotiates the password with your email server, that handshake is encrypted. Whenever you log into Instagram to check your latest selfie action, using a VPN ensures your username and password are sent through an encrypted connection.

Even better, because the connection is encrypted and it is being routed through a secure proxy, the dark-hooded hacker brooding in the corner won’t even know which website you’re accessing, let alone what your user id or password is.

But the problem is, while encrypting your traffic isn’t that big a deal (that’s what HTTPS is for, and it’s becoming commonplace to require an HTTPS connection now, instead of HTTP), when you start routing all your requests through a separate server that acts as a proxy, pretending to be you on the Internet, it adds time to every single data request your phone makes. So the best VPNs cost money, because they have to sit on really fat Internet backbones and use really sweet servers that run hot and hard and make lots of whirring, blippity noises while they crunch your data into inscrutable 1s and 0s and protect your privacy.


IPVanishIPVanish Icon

Publisher: IPVanish.com
Platform(s): iTunes | Android | MacOS | Windows
Price: Free | $6.49/Month

“Private connections, fast speeds, online freedom.”

iPhone screen grab for IPVanish, via iTunes

With that said, IPVanish is generally regarded as one of the best VPNs that balances speed of data transmission, uptime reliability, a large number of servers (as in, they’re all over the world, not just in Norway), and affordability.

Armed with a VPN on your phone, you should activate it and let it mediate every WiFi connection you have, even on your home network, in your dorm, at the library, and especially at the local espresso joint.

Features:

  • The only true commercial Top Tier VPN service in the world, owning all of their VPN servers, managing their own network, and developing their own apps
  • No logs are recorded or kept
  • Network presence in sixty countries with over 40,000 shared IP addresses
  • Access to more than 700 VPN servers worldwide
  • Unlimited VPN server switching
  • Automatic interval IP switching
  • 24/7 customer support

Cons:

  • Speed is reduced, but that’s par for the course with all VPNs
  • Occasionally I have to reconnect to a different server because, for whatever reason, the server I’m on gets blocked by Gmail, Google, Microsoft, Netflix, or whoever. This is also typical with VPNs.

SaferVPNSaferVPN Icon

Publisher: Safer Social, Ltd.
Platform(s): iTunes | Android | MacOS | Windows
Price: $3.49/Month | $9.99/Month

“Fastest & simplest VPN.”

iPhone screen grab for SaferVPN, via iTunes

If you need faster transfer speeds more than you need wide network coverage and reliability, etc., you might want to give SaferVPN consideration for its above-average transfer speeds. You can easily connect to the VPN with one tap and it will connect to the best server for your location.

Features:

  • 700+ servers
  • 35+ server locations

Cons:

  • Records a lot of session data according to reports — more data than what most competitors collect

ProtonVPNProtonVPN Icon

Publisher: ProtonVPN AG
Platform(s): iTunes | Android | MacOS | Windows
Price: Free | 4€/Month

“Easy to use VPN for everyone.”

iPhone screen grab for ProtonVPN, via iTunes

ProtonVPN deserves a place here because of all the best VPN services out there, it is a well-regarded VPN, and it has an unheard of free offering! Admittedly, it’s going to feel a bit like you’re the digital turtle trying to cross the highway on a banana peel, but if you can’t afford a premium VPN and you still must use that dirty, nasty, old public WiFi at the taco shack behind the bus stop, then at the very least get yourself signed up for ProtonVPN.

And change your passwords!

Features:

  • FREE!
  • Servers in three countries
  • One device
  • ProtonVPN is a no logs VPN service

Cons:

  • Only one device supported at the free level
  • Speed definitely low

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