Whether they’re just learning their ABCs or ready to venture off to university, the students in your life will rely heavily on digital devices. But it can be hard to pick the right Apple device in a sea of iPads, iPhones, and Macs. Our student buying guide will help you choose new tools and accessories for grade school, middle school, high school, and college students so you can get the most practical—and stylish—devices to make the grade.
Electronic devices are terrific learning tools for young children, with plenty of apps and games to teach them the basics of reading, writing, and arithmetic. If you’re worried about how much time your child spends on the device, Apple has Screen Time, which can be used to set access limits. You may also like to read Best iPad for kids.
There’s something to be said about having one central station for reading, learning, building, and playing. At $329, the ninth-gen iPad can support each endeavor and more, all set to your controls. With an A12 processor, 10.2-inch display, and Apple Pencil support, it’s a great tablet that won’t feel entry-level in the slightest.
The grade schooler you’re shopping for has probably never seen a number two pencil in their young life, and they may not ever have a reason to see one unless you educate them with an Apple Pencil skin styled to look like a stick of graphite. It doesn’t protect the actual tip of the Apple Pencil, but it’s a lot more fun to use with such a festive little costume.
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Studies and work in middle school work become more demanding than in elementary school, so you’ll need tools that are more versatile. Also, as kids enter their teenage years, they’ll start to be more involved in social media. It could be time for their first iPhone!
iPhone SE (2022)
Price When Reviewed:
$429 (64GB); $479 (128GB); $579 (256GB)
Starting at $399, Apple’s most affordable iPhone is a good place to start if you’re ready to bring your middle schooler into the iPhone life. It has a great processor and a solid camera, and will let you stay in touch with your tween-ager when they’re with friends or at school. With Screen Time, you’ll also be able to set limits on what they can do and how long they can do it. Be sure to check out our guide to buying iPhones for kids.
At $599, the iPad Air is an economical alternative to an iPad Pro that is the same size and starts at $200 higher, and it brings a lot more functionality than the iPad mini. A student can design, make music, shoot high-quality photos and videos, and edit their ideas right from the tablet.
Middle school is when some of the most powerful music memories are formed, a joy that can be encouraged with a pair of AirPods. And when they’re not rocking out, they can stream audiobooks, podcasts, and other educational audio experiences.
It might not matter to mom and dad, but the AirPods case is really boring, nondescript, and easily misplaced, but it’ll be much harder to lose keychain-attached cases shaped like an Arizona Iced Tea and a dispenser of Hubba Bubba Bubble Tape.
one photo / Shutterstock
There’s a lot of pressure to succeed in high school—the last thing you want to worry about is your gear. The proper laptop will help you with research and projects. And when you don’t feel like lugging a MacBook around, using a powerful iPhone is a great tool to help you create the content you want to make—and it’ll help you keep track of social media. (For advice about buying an iPhone for kids read: How to choose the best iPhone for kids).
A more modern choice than the iPhone SE to consider for a high school student is the iPhone 13. It’s more than sufficient for selfies, texting, and staying in touch with home, with the bonus of powerhouse apps for making music (GarageBand) and editing films (iMovie). It’s not quite as fancy as the iPhone 14, but the iPhone 13 has an excellent modern design and a great camera.
The MacBook Air is speedy, lightweight, and lasts all day—all things a growing high school student needs. You get an M1 processor, 13.3-inch Retina display, and the excellent Magic Keyboard, all starting at $999.
College is a huge step in life—in addition to taking your education in a direction that could determine what you’ll be doing as a career, you could be leaving home for the first time. Students need to be set up properly and have all the tools needed to tackle coursework, the start of a career, and whatever else comes along. For more advice read Best iPad for Students and Best Mac for Students.
Price When Reviewed:
Now $699 (128GB) | $799 (256GB) | $999 (512GB)
Every college student wants the latest iPhone, and the iPhone 14 packs a big punch. They’ll be able to work, play, and take great pics without breaking the bank—but don’t forget to pick up AppleCare+ for Theft and Loss if they’re traveling away from home.
Students living out on their own for the first time are going to lose stuff so a few AirTags will come in handy. You can slip it into a bag or attach it to a keychain so they’ll be able to track it with the Find My app on their iPhone.
The best laptop for a college student is one that can simultaneously support educational and creative pursuits and can last for four years and beyond without delivering headaches that can slow everything down. The latest MacBook Air absolutely fits the bill with incredible speed from its M2 CPU, battery life, and portability. It’s so good, it’ll probably still be humming when your kids are pulling all-nighters in graduate school. (Note: This is the new redesigned model that was released in June 2022. It is different from the M1 MacBook Air in the High School section.)
It’s a rude awakening when new iPhone buyers realize that the newer models don’t come with a power adapter. You do get a USB-C-to-Lightning cable, however, so you’ll want to pick up a USB-C charger that’s at least 20 watts so you can fast-charge. Apple’s 20W adapter is a little big, but you can also use the plug that came with your MacBook or if you want something smaller, this 20W Anker power adapter is a good choice.
If you’re going to carry a bunch of high-priced gadgets around, you’re going to need a good bag. We’re big fans of Timbuk2’s spacious and stylish bags, and this Messenger tote caught our eye. Waterproof, versatile, and big enough to carry a laptop, phone, and more, it’s the perfect companion for any hard-working college student.