Phone apps

Ten essential back-to-school iPhone apps

With the calendar flipping over to August, we’re getting ever closer to the day students dread (and their parents eagerly anticipate): Back-to-school time. Stocking up for those rapidly approaching school days used to mean a shopping list packed with books, paper, pens, pencils, and notebooks. But the iPhone’s arrival two years ago has changed things—in additional to its phone, music, and Web-surfing capabilities, Apple’s smartphone can also make the grade as an educational tool.

The iPhone already comes loaded with some built-in apps that might appeal to students—Voice Memos for recording lectures, Calendar for keeping tabs on class schedules, and the like. But peruse the aisles of the App Store, and you can find plenty of apps aimed at students, whether you’re starting your senior year of high school or working on a Master’s degree.

We’ve compiled a list of 10 apps we think are at the head of the class, but they’re not the only education offerings you’ll find in the App Store. So feel free to add to our list with the back-to-school apps that have earned your top marks.

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Google Mobile App

If you still can’t summon the info you need, time for the experts. The free Google Mobile App ( ) taps into the world’s most famous search engine—all you have to do is talk to it. The app’s easy-to-use voice search feature locates what you are looking for in no time. Google Mobile App also gives you one-stop access to all of Google’s major players, including Gmail, Calendar and Docs—handy functions on their own.

Stanza

Stanza

Whether it’s in paper form, on a Kindle, or even via an iPhone, you’re going to to do a lot of reading in the coming school year. Try Stanza ( ), which offers more than 50,000 books available to download for free, and more for purchase. Brush up on The Art of War, get spiritual with Siddartha, or explore your Machiavellian side with The Prince. With a list like this, you’re sure to find something you can read for English class.

Amazon Mobile

Amazon Mobile

Textbooks are a reality for students. But why pay what the college bookstore is asking if you can find a better price somewhere else. Look for your books with the free Amazon Mobile ( ), the mobile companion to the Amazon.com Web site. You might just find whatever textbook you’re looking for, and for a lot less. The app’s search feature is quick, and Amazon has virtually everything. Even after shipping, you might still get a better deal and get your books in time for the first day of class.

Wordbook English Dictionary and Thesaurus

Wordbook English Dictionary
When reading or writing, having a good dictionary is essential. The App Store offers a number of possibilities, both high-end and inexpensive. The $2 Wordbook English Dictionary and Thesaurus ( ) is debatably the best in the latter category, with more than 150,000 entries, a built-in Thesaurus, Web links and even spoken pronunciations; it even does a passable job as a spell checker. This wealth of information is indispensable to the student, and even fun to use. No one ever said that about their dusty old dictionary.

Documents To Go Go

While working on anything from an AP History essay to a Masters’ thesis, Documents To Go allows you to bring your .doc or .docx files along for the ride, storing them on your iPhone or iPod touch in full formatted glory. At $5 for the Microsoft Word version, Docs To Go is inexpensive, allowing you to do real work instead of settling for a watered down “text only” version.  Format, cut and paste, and find and replace to your heart’s content. Now you can feel free to jab out that research paper late into the night, and worry about getting the style right on the bus. APA formatting never looked so good.

Mobile calculators

Thomas Fors’ FIN 12-C Financial Calculator
The iPhone’s built-in calculator is nice enough, particularly if you turn the device on its side to access more advanced functions. Still, today’s math courses require some serious number crunching. And the beast most professors are looking for is the Ti83, faithfully recreated by PigLit as the PI83 Graphing Calculator. Tally statistics, algebraic functions, trigonometry and other fun stuff all without spending a fortune—the app costs $1—or carrying a giant, geeky calculator. Graphing not your thing? Try the $5 FIN 12-C Financial Calculator or the $15 SCI 11-C Scientific Calculator, both from Thomas Fors, for great apps representing two other popular devices.

Mint.com

Mint.com

Not all of these school materials are free. To keep from getting in over your head, turn to Mint.com ( ), a free app that helps you keep track of your financial situation on the go. Set up your account on your computer, then sync your financials direct to your iPhone. Check balances, maintain a budget and see your spending before you ask mom and dad for a loan.

Pandora Radio

School isn’t all work and no play—there’s nothing wrong with some entertainment while studying. Pandora Radio ( ) serves as your instant music collection on your iPhone. Just build playlists based on your favorite songs or artists, and listen as Pandora fills your ears with the songs that keep you going for those long nights of cramming.

myHomework

myHomework

This whole school scenario can be a mess of classes, lectures, concerts, and dates. myHomework ( ) helps students stay on top of their busy schedule. Get your assignments organized by list or calendar, edit details, and track your class schedule, all with an interface that might make keeping up with your homework fun.

iFlipr Flashcards

You’re going to need all the help you can get studying for that big exam. Don’t discount the power of flashcards when it comes to drilling and memorization. iFlipr Flashcards ( ) offers extensive customization, especially when compared to some of the other flashcard-creation tools on the App Store. And it uses an algorithm specifically designed to boost both memory and retention—just the kind of study aide that pays off come test time.

[Jeff Phillips is an educator, podcaster, father, blogger, husband, photographer and general technology pundit. He has also been known to give the occasional Feng Shui consultation.]

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