The best smartphones, tablets and smartwatches for students
Some people swear by the iPad Pro for note-taking, and thankfully, Apple took just about everything that made the tablet ideal for schoolwork and transplanted it into a more affordable package. This is the first iPad Air that Apple has made in three years, and the wait was worth it: The new Air shares a processor with last year's iPhone XS and is compatible with Apple's Pencil and Smart Keyboard accessories. Because of the way the tablet market has been shrinking, you'd also be hard-pressed to find a device with a 10.5-inch screen that looks as good as this one.
More importantly, the Air is going to get better with time. We already know that iPadOS packs significant enhancements to performance and multitasking, but new additions -- like the ability to save and manage files directly on the tablet -- mean the iPad Air will be better-suited for getting work done.
What sounds better: lugging around a backpack full of books or toting a sleek e-reader to class? The answer is clearly the latter, and Amazon's latest Kindle Paperwhite is still one of the finest ways to access loads of books in one place. It's slightly slimmer than the model it replaces, the screen's lighting is more even, it comes with even more storage (8GB, up from 4GB) and it's fully waterproof. There might not be a more convenient way to blow through all that Chaucer you were just assigned.
Admittedly, though, Kindles are less than ideal in certain ways. For one, not all Kindle books have page numbers that correspond to written copies, and lit majors won't have much luck downloading Norton Critical Editions. That said, these devices make for a pleasant reading experience; that's nothing to sneeze at when your list of required books starts piling up.
Don't discount Wear OS watches yet. With a user-friendly activity-tracking interface, compatibility with a ton of apps and the powerful Assistant baked in, Google's wearable platform is useful for those looking for convenience who don't need a lot of frills. The best thing about this ecosystem is the vast amount of options available, so you can pick one from your favorite luxury brand or simply go with the prettiest.
In our humble opinion, the Skagen Falster 2 is the most attractive, thanks to its clean, minimalist design. It's also impressively light and comfortable yet water-resistant enough that you can take it for a lap or two in your pool. One thing to note though: Most Wear OS watches available last about a day, regardless of the chipset they use, so maybe get a bedside charging stand too.
The Apple Watch has come a long way since its debut in 2015. And with the Series 4, Apple made its wearable even better than the previous model, thanks to a bigger, edge-to-edge screen; longer battery life; more-accurate step-tracking; and an electrocardiogram test that can detect an irregular heartbeat. That's in addition to being water-resistant and working with thousands of popular apps out of the box, which is what makes the Series 4 a well-rounded package.
The Apple Watch Series 4 starts at $399 for the GPS-only, 40mm model or $429 if you want the bigger 44mm screen. Meanwhile, the LTE version, which lets you make calls from the Watch without a paired iPhone nearby, costs $100 more. If you already have an iPhone, though, your best option may be the GPS edition, since you can still make calls from your wearable as long as your smartphone is within range.
This Apple Watch lookalike is actually quite pretty in its own right, especially if you get it with a rose gold case and lilac strap. But looks aside, the Fitbit Versa is also a powerful fitness-tracking smartwatch that's ideal for those who care more about their workouts than being able to reply to messages from their wrist. You can track a variety of activities, including swimming, and refer to the Versa's built-in workout guides if you need some inspiration at the gym.
If you really need to save $30, consider the Fitbit Versa Lite, which does most of the same stuff but lacks a gyroscope to count laps in the pool, an altimeter to detect flights climbed, not to mention WiFi, music storage and on-screen tutorials. That's why, if you have the funds, we strongly suggest the Versa instead.
You'll be pleasantly surprised by how much better Samsung's wearables are at tracking your activity than Fitbits and Wear OS watches. The Galaxy Watch Active is Samsung's most affordable smartwatch, and it's proactive about reminding you to get up and move when you've been idle for an hour. By calculating your heart rate variance, the Watch Active can also gauge your stress levels to tell you to take a breather -- a useful feature when midterms roll around.
In addition, the device tracks your sleep, lets you dictate or type out email and text replies, and has a no-frills aesthetic that will blend with most outfits. It can even act as a remote control for your presentation so you can advance to the next slide by swiping your watch face. Plus, it lasts two to three days on a charge, which means you'll still be able to track your morning run if you stayed out all night.