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Mobile Phones

15 best apps for students

Download these apps to start using your phone to its full effect – after you've read this guide, of course...

woman smiling on phone

Credit: WAYHOME studio – Shutterstock

Despite what you might hear from your parents/grandparents/anyone who thinks they've mastered the art of satire, smartphones really aren't that bad.

In fact, short of one which reads your mind and translates your thoughts into a speedily written essay, there are thousands of apps out there that are genuinely worth your time (and sometimes money). You could even say that they'll make your life a little bit app–ier.

We've put together a list of our favourites down below.

Essential apps for university

We really recommend these 15 apps, which can help with all aspects of uni life.

Students in lecture hall

Credit: Gorodenkoff – Shutterstock

  1. Evernote

    Evernote logo

    Good for: Keeping all your notes in one place

    Cost: FREE | Platforms: Android, iOS

    Note-taking apps are ten to a penny, but there's one which stands out from the rather sizeable crowd: Evernote.

    The app's biggest selling point is the ability to sync your notes across all devices, meaning you can type on your tablet and then access all your lecture notes on your laptop when it's essay time. Once they're saved, you can search for any word that appears in the text.

    If you're thinking "Hey, that's a cool elephant logo, but I prefer to handwrite my notes", worry not. Evernote lets you take photos of your written notes and upload them to the app. Assuming your handwriting is legible, you'll then be able to search for words just as you would with a typed note.

    What we like most about Evernote: You can share your notes with other Evernote users, so it's easy to get the lowdown if you or your friends ever miss a lecture.

    Get Evernote » 

  2. Soundnote

    Soundnote logo

    Good for: The intense lectures and the sleepy students

    Cost: £4.99 | Platforms: iOS (iPad only)

    If Evernote is a table knife (tried, trusted, and good for almost any occasion), then Soundnote is definitely a steak knife. When you're in a dense lecture, or just struggling to concentrate, this is the app you'll want to turn to – it's certainly one of the very best apps for students.

    So what does it do? Well, as you're taking notes, Soundnote is busy recording whatever is being said around you (not in a creepy way) and syncing the two. Once you're done, you can simply tap a word and it will take you to that point in the recording!

    In student terms, if your lecturer is throwing some heavy info your way (or speaking at the speed of light) and you're struggling to keep up, this is your get–out–of–jail–free card. Just go back to where your notes tailed off, and give it another crack.

    What we like most about Soundnote: Falling asleep in lectures isn't something we'd endorse, but if you're ever starting to doze off or lose concentration, this app has your back.

    Get Soundnote »

  3. Office Lens

    Office Lens logo

    Good for: Capturing complex diagrams

    Cost: FREE | Platforms: Android, iOS, Windows

    Depending on what you're studying at uni, you might find yourself faced with a real humdinger of a diagram from time to time. But what's the best course of action? Frantically scribble it down, or drop your pen and let the lecturer explain it?

    Thanks to Office Lens, you no longer have to choose. All you have to do is hold your camera up to the board and take a picture, and the app will crop out everything around it (including any pesky backs-of-heads).

    What we like most about Office Lens: If you take a picture of something at an angle, the app will align and edit the image to appear as though it's directly in front of you. If you're ok with this kind of black magic, Office Lens is ideal for when you've been cast to the edge of the room.

    Get Office Lens (Android) »

    Get Office Lens (iOS) »

    Get Office Lens (Windows) »

    Bruce Almighty typing quickly

    Credit: Universal Pictures

  4. EasyBib

    EasyBib logo

    Good for: Saving hours on your bibliography

    Cost: FREE | Platforms: Android, iOS

    Essay writing isn't exactly fun at the best of times, but undoubtedly the worst part of any project is having to fill out the bibliography. One misplaced comma, one phrase wrongly italicised, and all of a sudden you're losing marks that should have been in the bank.

    The good people at EasyBib understand that referencing is as tedious as it is time-consuming, which is why they've made an app that does it all for you. All you have to do is search for the book, journal or website that you're using, and EasyBib will generate the bibliography entry for you.

    The app has over 7,000 citation styles built in (including arguably the most common: Harvard), so no matter what format your uni uses, EasyBib's got it covered.

    Once you've got the reference you can save it or email it to yourself, and then it's just a simple case of copy and pasting it into your bibliography. You can even create lists for separate projects, allowing you to copy an entire essay's worth of citations at once!

    What we like most about EasyBib: Save yourself the hassle of searching for the book you're referencing by using your camera to scan the barcode. EasyBib will then trawl through its database to find the citation for you!

    Get EasyBib »

  5. Microsoft Office

    Word, Powerpoint and Excel logo

    Good for: Not having to carry your laptop everywhere you go

    Cost: FREE | Platforms: Android, iOS, Windows

    Ok, so technically this isn't just one app. But picking just one Microsoft Office offering is too big an ask, so we've decided to take the easy way out and just suggest the whole package.

    Now, unless you're a total hipster, you'll almost certainly use Microsoft Office to get your work done. Chances are that you only really use the Three Amigos (PowerPoint, Excel and Word), but it's comforting to know that Microsoft Access is there should you ever need to do... erm... whatever Access does.

    The good news is that Microsoft has made apps for Office's leading lights, and they're available on all the major platforms. It's great to be able to escape your work, but equally it's a massive pain when you're out and about and suddenly realise there's something huge that you should (or worse, shouldn't) have included in your essay.

    The Office apps make this a thing of the past, and as long as you make sure to save your files to the cloud, you'll be able to access them whenever and wherever you are.

    What we like most about Microsoft Office: Microsoft has finally caught up with Google and introduced a collaboration function, meaning anyone with access to a document can simultaneously edit it. Aside from the obvious prank potential, this is a great feature if you're working on a group project.

    Get Microsoft Office apps »

Check out our list of the best free software for students and kit out your laptop too!
  1. Mathway

    Mathway logo

    Good for: Solving those head-scratchers

    Cost: FREE | Platforms: Android, iOS

    If you're going to encounter numbers at any point in your degree, you should seriously think about downloading Mathway – an essential app for so many students.

    From the simplest of sums to the most fearsome of formulas, Mathway can do it all. For those of you who deliberately tried to avoid doing maths after your GCSEs but ended up doing a degree that involved it anyway (here's to you, social sciences students), this app will call an end to the hours spent crying, wondering what this weird E-looking thing is: ∑.

    All you have to do is type in your problem and Mathway will solve it for you. If you'd like to know how to get the answer rather than just what it is, Mathway can also give a detailed step-by-step guide to finding the solution. This is where the app really comes in handy for the more mathematically minded students – it's like having your lecturer around 24/7 to help explain anything you're trying to get to grips with.

    What we like most about Mathway: Can't be bothered to type up all your workings? Just take a picture of your problem and Mathway will recognise it.

    Get Mathway »

  2. Any.do

    Any.do logo

    Good for: Making a big job feel easier

    Cost: FREE | Platforms: Android, iOS

    Is there anything more satisfying in life than ticking tasks off a to-do list? The answer is: probably, but it's still a nice thing to do.

    To-do lists are a great way to break down a big job into a few smaller, more manageable chunks, and you'd have to go a long way to find a better app for this than Any.do. Its beautifully simple design makes getting things done even more satisfying – or, depending on what you're doing, a little less painful.

    Like a lot of the apps on this list, Any.do allows you to sync everything across any compatible device. It also offers reminders, as well as the ability to share lists and assign tasks to different users – ideal for a group project, or making sure everyone in the house does their fair share of cleaning!

    What we like most about Any.do: The app comes with a widget to add your to-do list and tasks to your home screen, so there's no need to scroll through your apps to find this one.

    Get Any.do »

  3. Oxford Dictionary of English

    OED logo

    Good for: Writing an essay that Shakespeare himself would be proud of

    Cost: FREE on Android and iOS | Platforms: Android, iOS, Windows

    An absolute staple app of any phone, no matter which brand of dictionary you go for.

    We've gone for the Oxford English Dictionary (OED) because, well, it's the daddy of dictionaries. The OED is the ultimate authority on definitions, spelling and whether a word is actually a word (a godsend for when Microsoft Word isn't prepared to help you with technical terms).

    Plus, in what's quickly becoming a trend in this list, the app lets you take a picture of a word in order to search for it. Academics love to show off how many big words they know, so this could be a real time-saver when trying to figure out what the hell they're actually on about.

    What we like the most about the Oxford Dictionary of English: The Word of the Day feature is as good a way as any to expand your vocabulary and woo your tutor with some absolutely stonking adjectives.

    Get Oxford Dictionary of English »

    Rebel Wilson with a bottle of wine partying

    Credit: Warner Bros.

  4. Drunk Mode

    Drunk Mode logo

    Good for: Not waking up drenched in shame

    Cost: FREE | Platforms: Android, iOS

    Let's face it – we've all done things we regret. For a lot of us, a fair amount of these stupid things were done while drunk. So, it can only be good news that there's an app that should stop you doing at least some embarrassing things before it's too late.

    Mobile phones, as great as they are, have turned nights out into a bit of a bear trap. Except, instead of a bear, it's you, and instead of getting your leg caught in a clamp, you call your ex and beg for them back.

    Drunk Mode understands this pain, and before drinking you can ask it to hide selected contacts for up to 12 hours (we'd add landlords and bosses to the list of people to try and avoid when you've had a few too many).

    If you're not prone to drunk dialling, then stay with us – Drunk Mode has a few more tricks up its sleeve. You can use the GPS function to find any of your friends who also use the app (because we've all been separated from the crowd at least once), and the Breadcrumbs feature lets you retrace exactly where you ended up going when you were three sheets to the wind.

    What we like the most about Drunk Mode: This app isn't just about staying shame-free – it's about keeping safe and making sure that the best nights out are exactly that: the best.

    Get Drunk Mode »

Drinking games can be a great way to inject a bit of fun into a night out, but don't feel pressured into overdoing it!
  1. Uber

    Uber logo

    Good for: Emergency trips when you're running late

    Cost: FREE (fares apply) | Platforms: Android, iOS, Windows

    We're not exactly reinventing the wheel by recommending Uber, but it's worth emphasising just how useful it is. This isn't just an essential app for students – it's essential for everyone.

    Back in the day (basically any time before 2014), getting a taxi was an expensive privilege that students either avoided or begrudgingly paid for when cheaper options weren't available. Uber is the very definition of a game-changer, bringing the potent combination of cheap fares, hassle-free booking and cash-free payments straight to the palm of your hands.

    Uber cabs still tend to cost more than bus passes and train tickets, but on days when public transport is running at a snail-pace and you need to get somewhere quickly, this app can be a lifesaver.

    What's more, once you're in the cab, you can send a link to your friends or family so that they can track your journey in real-time. Throw in some exclusive Snapchat filters to use while you're in the taxi, and hailing a cab has never been better.

    What we like most about Uber: Drivers can rate you as passengers. It will never stop being fun to compare your score with your friends.

    Get Uber »

  2. Circle of 6

    Circle of 6 logo

    Good for: Keeping safe on a night out

    Cost: FREE | Platforms: Android, iOS

    Nobody goes on a night out expecting to get into trouble, but on the off chance that you find yourself in a sticky situation, it's good to have a plan.

    Circle of 6, as the name suggests, lets you choose up to six contacts to add to your trusted circle. If you find yourself in an uncomfortable or risky situation, all it takes is two taps and the app will send a pre-programmed text alert to your circle.

    Not only is it swift and discreet, but Circle of 6 also connects you to an online sexual health resource, as well as 24/7 hotlines to help you stay safe as a student. Downloading this app truly is a no-brainer.

    What we like the most about Circle of 6: We're not the only ones who rate it – former US Vice President and one half of the most iconic duo in meme history, Joe Biden, has publicly praised the app's developers for helping to protect young people.

    Get Circle of 6 »

    Buddy the Elf smiling

    Credit: New Line Cinema

  3. Sleep Cycle

    Sleep Cycle logo

    Good for: Waking up in a half-decent mood

    Cost: FREE | Platforms: Android, iOS

    The wait for next semester's timetable is always an anxious one. Will you get an extended weekend? Will you get Friday afternoons off? And most importantly of all, will you manage to avoid having any lectures before 11am?

    All 'students like to sleep' jokes aside, if you're able to have a lie-in on six out of seven days, getting up on the seventh day is going to be a challenge. Fortunately, Sleep Cycle is like Mother Nature 2.0 and can wake you up when you're in your lightest sleep.

    Being woken up during deep sleep is what causes us to feel groggy and grumpy, so by tracking your movement, the app is able to decide when to raise you from your slumber. A solid eight hours is still the best course of action for feeling well-rested in the morning, but Sleep Cycle is the next best thing.

    What we like most about Sleep Cycle: You can add 'sleep notes' before you go to sleep each night, such as 'got drunk' or 'went to the gym'. Over time you're then able to see which habits have a positive or negative effect on your sleep!

    Get Sleep Cycle »

  4. Shopmium

    Shopmium app

    Good for: Getting free shopping

    Cost: FREE | Platforms: Android, iOS

    There's a few great apps out there that can help you to get cashback when you buy certain items at your local supermarket.

    Shopmium is one of the better ones among them.

    You can usually get money off quite a few items, and every now and then there's a juicy freebie up for grabs. All you have to do is take a picture of your receipt at the end of your shop, upload it to the app and then bingo... you get your cashback.

    What we like most about Shopmium: Free stuff, of course.

    Get Shopmium »

  5. Trainline

    Trainline app logo

    Good for: Super easy booking

    Cost: FREE | Platforms: Android, iOS

    We Brits have a bit of a love-hate relationship with trains. Our rail network is the oldest in the world and a train hands-down beats a stuffy coach for comfort, but good lord can they be expensive.

    When you see stories of people flying from Glasgow to London via Spain just because it's cheaper than getting the train down, you know things are bad. Thankfully, with the Trainline in your pocket, you should be able to avoid having to fly across the continent just to get to the next town.

    This app can help you save money on train travel – booking in advance via the Trainline should chop around a third off the cost of a ticket, which doesn't even include the additional discount you can get with a 16-25 railcard.

    What we like most about Trainline: The app's BusyBot feature uses live data to tell you where you'll find an empty seat on the train. Perfect for when you forget to reserve a seat and have a two-tonne suitcase with you.

    Get Trainline »

  6. BigOven

    BigOven logo

    Good for: Transforming leftovers from a trial into a treat

    Cost: FREE | Platforms: Android, iOS, Windows

    When it comes to student cuisine, nothing quite beats cooking pasta in bulk. But what about when you fancy something different? And what about the foods which need more than just a simple reheat? Enter: BigOven.

    Although BigOven does normal recipes too, it's the leftovers option which makes it a must-have for any student. All you have to do is whack in the ingredients that you've got, and BigOven will suggest loads of recipes which could make best use of what's lying around.

    So say goodbye to dreading leftovers (or avoiding them altogether), because they're back, and they're more delicious than ever.

    What we like most about BigOven: Wasting food is bad for the environment and your bank balance. New ways to use leftovers will always be welcome here.

    Get BigOven »

We know that 15 apps for uni is a lot, but you can cover all bases by downloading one or two from each category (i.e. for lectures, productivity, nights out and student life).

Now you've downloaded these, try out apps that pay you to walk.

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