The best free Android apps for going back to school

Sadly, it's time for fewer games and more productivity. Here's how to get your Android device ready for another school year.

back to school apps android
Credit: Derek Walter
Yes, you have to go back

Denial isn’t going to work. It’s time to head back to school, which means you can’t spend your days wandering around and playing Pokemon Go.

The least you can do is get your Android phone or tablet ready so it can serve as your ally with the upcoming deluge of scholastic tasks. We’ve pulled together key apps that will help you during all aspects of the school year, such as taking notes, keeping up with your tasks, and making sure you can quickly pay for that batch of energy drinks. 

kindle android
Amazon Kindle

Even if picking up the latest Harry Potter book isn’t your thing, you’ll find more and more teachers and professors are assigning books for class that can be found in Amazon’s massive library. And going with the digital copy comes with a whole batch of advantages, like the ability to mark books up, add notes, and access them across devices. It also doesn’t hurt that the Kindle editions are usually much cheaper than the physical copy.

Amazon Kindle

google keep
Google Keep

My favorite lightweight note-keeping app is Google Keep. It’s perfect for scratching out a short list, noting down what upcoming assignments you have due, or important to-dos like calling your mother. Reminders that you set will also show up in Google Now, so you can always count on getting an alert about that homework assignment due in six hours that you haven’t started on yet. Google has kept plugging away at improvements, adding inking capabilities so you can mark up your notes.

Google Keep

graphing calculator
Graphing Calculator + Math

So you need a graphing calculator? Then check out Graphing Calculator + Math. Despite the awkward name, is one of the better options out there. It handles several advanced algebraic and graphing functions and includes some tutorial features to help you out if there’s something that you struggle with. The app comes with ads, but if you like what you see you’re able to kill them off with the $5 in-app upgrade.

Graphing Calculator + Math

word android versions
Microsoft Office

There’s a good chance you’re going to need to use Office for multiple assignments. While much of that work will probably take place on the desktop, you can’t beat the convenience of being able to make edits on the excellent versions of Word, Excel, and PowerPoint for Android. (There’s Outlook too, if your school assigns you an Office 365 email address). While all apps are free, certain advanced features are only available with an Office 365 subscription.

Office for Android

dashlane
Dashlane

You’re bound to find yourself signing up for a ton of different services throughout the year, be they requirements for class, new bank accounts, or just some new services for fun. Keeping track of passwords and logins can be a nightmare without a service like Dashlane. It’s our favorite among the many options on Android, and it’s worth the premium level of $40 per year for sync across all your devices.

Dashlane

google docs floating action button
Google apps

If your school isn’t using Office, then there’s a good chance that they’ve signed up with Google apps. That means you’ll want to have Docs, Sheets, and Slides to pair up with Drive for your productivity needs. Even if it’s not supported by the school, Google’s apps are hands-down the best options for real-time collaborations and to avoid the nightmare of emailing documents back and forth to one another.  

Google Docs

scribd
Scribd

Scribd is like a Netflix for reading. With a subscription, you get a nearly unlimited selection of other books to read. The app also has a number of great tools for marking items up and syncing across your devices. For students there’s a great selection of audiobooks, sheet music, and other topics that are sometimes a little harder to dig up when using one of the other large providers.

Scribd

uber android
Uber

There’s going to be a night when you need to get a ride home. Whether that’s because you had too many, errr, sodas or just would rather not walk the two miles back to campus, then it’s time to grab an Uber. It’s cheap and better than a cab because you have instant visibility of where the car is and can offer feedback if the ride isn’t up to par. If Uber isn’t your cup of tea there’s also Lyft, which is the other major competitor in the ride-sharing market.

Uber

wikipedia
Wikipedia

OK, so it won’t count as a source for your research paper, but you can’t beat Wikipedia when it comes to trying to get a quick grasp of a topic. The app is helpful to have as you can save your past searches and pages and get everything in a much easier-to-read format. There’s also a Wikipedia Beta app if you want to try out the latest features before they go mainstream.

Wikipedia

remind
Remind

More teachers, schools, professors, and even districts are embracing Remind as a simple way to, well, remind everyone about assignments, due dates, and other school events. You can get messages through SMS or see and reference all your notifications inside of the Android app. If you have a large study group, you could even use Remind in this manner as a way to pester everyone about key dates in your timeline.

Remind

onenote
OneNote

You’ll have the distinct privilege of listening to lots of lectures while you’re in school. For this and other note-taking services I like the organizational and pen-friendly services of OneNote.  It’s great for hand-written notes or to highlight articles that you’ve saved. There’s even a OneNote badge that will live on your home screen if you want to be able to save items more rapidly. Given that Evernote appears to be a sinking ship, OneNote is a competitive offering.

Microsoft OneNote

android pay menu
Android Pay

Since you’re on your phone all the time anyway, you may as well use it to pay when it’s time to hit the checkout counter. It works with most major banks and credit unions by now, though the killer feature is how it saves a digital copy of all your rewards and gift cards. NFC payments still aren’t available as widely as we’d like, but when you do find it you’ll love the convenience of leaving your wallet where it is.

Android Pay