/Back-to-school tech dos and don’ts

Back-to-school tech dos and don’ts

The beginning of every school year is filled with new school shopping. Finding that one device or piece of tech that will help you finally reach your academic goal, or more easily maintain it, can be hard; but, don’t worry. I’m here to make it easy for you. This year’s tech releases have been filled with ups and downs, but the following gadgets and apps are either worth the investment or best left alone. 

Apple released its most recent version of the iPad March 2018, lowering the price and adding support for the Apple Pencil, something which on the surface doesn’t seem like anything special; but, in the hands of a student it is a game changer. The Apple Pencil was originally introduced with the 12.9” iPad Pro in November 2017, and still retails for $99; however, given the chance the Apple Pencil will revolutionize the way you take notes in class. 

The iPad has the ability to replace your textbooks and notebooks all in one small, easy-to-carry device. This can allow you to secure amazing deals on textbooks via Amazon’s Kindle app, as well as cut the expense of notebooks completely out of your yearly budget. A keyboard can also be purchased for the device allowing it to replace a laptop if needed, as versions of Microsoft Office are available. 

Another way to potentially improve your performance in class is to get organized, and Google Calendar is one of the best ways to do this. A few minutes spent at the beginning of the semester allow you to quickly glance at your daily schedule. It may also help you keep track of important due dates and events coming up. The best part, though, is that Google Calendar is available for free from Google on all your devices and allows you to update it once to see the change anywhere. 

Keeping healthy is just as important as remembering when your classes are. Studies have shown that extended studying without breaks can be detrimental to retention, so having something that will prod you to stand up every hour can be very beneficial.  

Often, I won’t be paying attention while studying and notice that I’ve spent hours siting at a table without taking a much needed break. The gadget that can help with encouraging physical activity is the Fitbit Alta Fitness Tracker, available on Amazon for $99.95.  

The device includes a super bright OLED display and up to five days of battery life. Along with the ability to track your steps and activity, the device can even track how well you’re sleeping and act as a vibrating alarm.  

Of course, for every good deal, there is also an equal but opposite bad deal. For instance, Apple’s MacBook Pro line was recently refreshed with new processors and an updated keyboard, but the issues which faced the device are still present in this generation.  

Lackluster performance and a severe lack of anything but USB-C ports, combined with a keyboard that feels like you’re jamming your fingers against a brick wall have led to me being unable to recommend Apple’s flagship laptop. 

Additionally, Apple was recently the subject of a class action lawsuit involving the keyboards on their MacBook Pro line, and, while saying the issue is fixed, they are still using a similar keyboard design, so I would be hesitant to drop over $1,000 on the device. 

With the amount of time we spend on our phones it’s often exciting to get a new one, but even though Samsung’s Galaxy S9 and Note 9 were just released, I recommend waiting on making a purchase. Apple and Google are expected to announce their next generation of phones in September, with Apple’s iPhone line looking at major upgrades on both the inside and outside.  

It’s expected there will be three new iPhones released this upcoming September, two of which will have brand new OLED displays and significant hardware upgrades. Unfortunately, both the new Google Pixel and all iPhone models are expected to come without a headphone jack. 

No matter how you choose to spend your money, buying any of the products I recommend here can help you this semester as you strive for better grades or for more efficient time management.  

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Waid Jones was the editor-in-chief of The Alabamian during the 2019–2020 academic year. In 2018, while managing editor of The Alabamian, he received the Veterans of Influence Rising Star Award from the Birmingham Business Journal. Prior to coming to UM he was in the U.S. Marine Corps for two and a half years. Jones graduated with a degree in political science from UM in 2020. He is currently the news editor for the Jackson County Sentinel in Scottsboro, Alabama.