When the iPhone 3Gs came out, Apple released a commercial that proclaimed "there's an app for that." Google the catchphrase now and it'll pull up dozens of headlines from the day in iPhone app news: "Attend [insert college name here]? There's an app for that." "Need a loan? There's an app for that." But really, how many of those apps (including ones for the new iPhone 4) are essential for day-to-day uses at school? Let's take a look at a few apps that aide college students in the classroom and have a price tag labeled F-R-E-E.
It's the most basic reference that we keep going back to since elementary school -- the dictionary. But this dictionary is unabridged and doesn't require an Internet connection. A complete thesaurus is also included.
But a free app does come with a price: advertisements. Many reviews on the Dictionary.com iTunes page point out that there are a lot of ads, which users say intrude on the experience. Be sure to compare the Dictionary.com experience to other free Dictionary apps. Or you could splurge and download the $24.99 Merriam-Webster's Collegiate Dictionary, which is compatible with both the iPhone and iPad.
Although students should certainly read the books assigned to them, it's no secret that students still use SparkNotes all the time. And even if they have read the book, SparkNotes is a great resource for reviewing and studying. EZ Read is an unofficial SparkNotes app that lets users search for the book of his or her choice and read through the SparkNotes summaries. It's a simple black-and-white app that just shows the text and moves on, but it certainly gets the job done if you're in a pinch to remember what happened in the last chapter of Brave New World.
FREE Spanish Tutor
Taking Spanish as your foreign language? Try out this free Spanish study guide. This app quizzes you to see if you're up to snuff on the basics of Spanish. However, this probably isn't for somebody taking Spanish III-- this is for beginners and people learning basic phrases for traveling.
There are also apps for French, Italian, German, and many other languages. Need help with sign language? The app store has that covered too. (You can also download free instruction from iTunes in a wealth of languages.)
The Chemical Touch: Lite Edition
Although it isn't that super fancy iPad app of the periodic table of elements, The Chemical Touch offers the basic information about the elements in the periodic table. And although it doesn't give a comprehensive guide to each element, it does link up to Wikipedia to offer users more information.
Taking a U.S. history class? Try an app with one of the longest titles I've yet to encounter, "iAmerica -- The Pocket Guide to United States History and the Presidency." The guide lets users review presidents throughout American history. Plus, there's a nifty scrollable window of the U.S. presidents, from Washington to Obama.
But don't expect a full-blown guide to every event in American history -- this is almost exclusively about the executive branch.
Instead of getting a "Map of the World" app or an atlas app, try Google Earth. For those unfamiliar, it's a fully searchable digital globe. Looking at a map of Chicago but you want to know more about Sydney, Australia? Zoom out, spin the globe, touch Australia and zoom in. Done. For those taking any global awareness class, like Human Rights or Geography, Google Earth could certainly come in handy in the classroom.
Free Wi-Fi Finder
This one isn't a study guide, but certainly essential. Got a laptop but no way to connect to the Internet? Free Wi-Fi Finder will locate the closest free, open hot spot. In a pinch, you'll have to settle with sitting in the corner of a McDonald's to finish a term paper, but that's just how college goes.
Evan Minsker's Thrifty Tech appears Tuesdays. Got a hot, cheap-tech tip, question or comment? Write to Evan via our email address, MoneyCollege@WalletPop.com.
Free, essential iPhone apps for college students