Do students need an Apple iPad?

We investigated the issue thoroughly, and the answer is a resounding 'maybe'

In this digital age, laptops and tablets have become a common sight in lecture theatres and seminar rooms. It goes without saying that a laptop has become an essential feature of student life (as has a USB stick for when the aforementioned laptop inevitably crashes...), but are iPads going the same way? Are iPads now essential for university life?

Unless you have the patience of a saint, chances are you’ll still need a laptop to type essays and reports with ease. Even the most loyal of iPad users would struggle to write 2,500 words using a touchscreen (although compatible keyboards are available for use with the iPad). So is it really necessary to have an iPad on top of this?

Day to day, an iPad is certainly easier and lighter to carry around campus. Depending on which model you get, an iPad weighs around 600 grams, whereas most heavy duty laptops come in at 2kg. Consider the fact that you’ll probably have to carry a laptop charger with you as well, and your once empty satchel is beginning to look a little over-stuffed.

It’s worth noting that if you do decide that you need an iPad, there are other tablets out there that might suit you just as well, without breaking the bank. Take, for instance, the Samsung Galaxy Tab 2. It's about half the weight of an iPad, so it's ideal for chucking in your bag (actually, you should avoid physically chucking your tablet anywhere… just to be on the safe side). Even the most recent Kindle Fire could be up your street, and at just £159 for the HD version, you’ll be saving yourself a few of those precious pounds.

The might of itunes

Of course, the downside to getting a tablet that isn’t compatible with the iTunes store is the number and quality of apps available, although this problem has become less pertinent over time. There are some great apps available that may well be beneficial to your studies. Evernote is a fantastic free note-making app that not only allows you to make your own notes, but also save web pages and images in one place. If you’re working on a research-heavy project, it’s certainly helpful to have all of your notes collated.

Invaluable for any student is the Easy Harvard Referencing app. As referencing is the bane of any student’s life, it is £1.49 well spent. This app will generate a Harvard reference for any source you are using, whether it be a book, journal, website or even a podcast. While time-saving might be the first benefit that comes to mind with this app, marking schemes sometimes include accuracy as an element, so the precision provided by Easy Harvard Referencing could be the difference between a 2:1 and a first.

These amazing apps alone do seem to make it worthwhile to invest in an iPad. However, they’re not iPad exclusive, so you can find the same (or very similar) for any self-respecting smartphone. Popping down to your local Apple store just to get the same apps on a larger screen isn’t worth it, even if you are clutching your student card for a cheeky discount.

It might seem old-fashioned, but as useful as having your notes in one digital area is, it’s often easier to write a report when all of your scribbles and random lecture annotations are spread out around you. It might irritate the hell out of your library colleagues, but those seemingly insignificant annotations could form the basis for a world-changing paragraph. Maybe.  

At the end of the day, let’s face it, the only app you’ll be accessing during those dark, dark mornings in the library at 6am will be Angry Birds. Or you’ll be on Face Time telling your friend (who is also in the library, but on a different floor) just how many words you’ve still got to write and just how much caffeine you’ve consumed.  

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