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Smartphones 101: Picking Out The Best Phone For The Teaching Professional

High tech gadgets in the classroom are quickly becoming less of a novelty and more of a standard. From iPads to SMART boards to elective classes on coding and building websites, teachers now, more than ever, need to stay on top of what’s available in modern technology.

Even more importantly, they need to be able to utilize it in a productive manner. Having the right smartphone can make all the difference.

Picking a smartphone

Price: Teaching is not the most lucrative profession, so price is certainly going to be one of the big factors in picking out the right phone. But if you’re signing up for a new plan, oftentimes you can get a decent smartphone for free or a severely discounted price.

If you’re buying a phone mid-plan, however, it might be smart to look into buying a phone that’s just under top-of-the-line. For example, after the iPhone 5 came out, the price for new, used and refurbished iPhone 4S dropped significantly. If you’re deadest on an iPhone 5, a refurb model will save $50.

Prices for smartphones vary significantly according to carrier, plan and model so it’s typically better to pick the type of phone you like and then decide on whether you want to go with a plan, monthly payments or a less expensive model. Carriers like Sprint and T-Mobile can offer significant monthly savings over AT&T and Verizon, but the trade off is reception and coverage.

Also consider that teachers may want to invest in a tough case like the Otterbox to prevent breaking their investment amidst a busy day.

Storage: The number of apps you wish to use, the size of each, and whether or not you want to stream or store a lot of videos and images will help you decide how much storage space you’ll need on your phone. Additionally, the larger the memory, the faster your apps will tend to run. For comparison, the light to average user tends to need about 16GB of storage for all of their apps, videos and photos, but if you’re going to be using more interactive programs, you might want to consider a larger memory or a phone with the option of an external memory slot to add more storage later on.

Battery life: Teachers work an incredible number of hours during the school year, sometimes pulling 12 to 14 hours a day or more, so having a phone that can last for long periods of time without a fresh charge is important. The Razr Maxx HD claims to boast a 32 hour battery life, while the new HTC One has an excellent battery life of close to 17 hours of 3G talk time, followed by the Nexus 4 with just over 15 hours. The Samsung GS 3 comes in at 11.6 hours and the iPhone 5 falls at about 8 hours 3G talk time.

Useful apps for teachers

All smartphones come with their own native apps such as camera and video, and some function on a more interactive level than others. Because the Android phones are made by Google, pictures taken with the phone’s native camera, for example, can be shared directly with Picasa, making it incredibly easy to access photos and share photos taken during class. iPhones offer similar services through apps such as Pixelpipe HD.

As for video, both Android and iPhone have excellent streaming video apps that can be used to record presentations, science experiments, plays or anything you want to document in class. You can stream the videos live to your classroom website and save them afterward.

The ability to interact with a SMART board is also an important feature to look for in your smartphone. While it can be a bit of a chore to connect your smartphone to a SMART board, you can access app sites from your SMART board and control those sites interactively with your smartphone.

MindMeister, for example, is a great classroom tool that can be controlled via smartphone and accessed by both you and your students, allowing you to interact in real-time on projects, presentations and study sessions. Many of these apps are set up for quick access through Google (Android) or iTunes (iPhone), so a quick look at your favorite apps can help you determine what platform will serve you best.

Some popular teaching apps that work with both iPhone and Android phones are:

  • CourseSmart: a subscriber-based service that allows users access to thousands of textbooks, this app works on most smartphones.
  • Dropbox: an interactive document storage app that works between computers and smartphones, Dropbox allows access to important documents from almost any location.
  • Edmondo: a social media program designed for students and teachers and created specifically for schools.
  • Leadership Challenge Mobile: this tool offers articles, activities and inspiration for generating good leadership skills.
  • The Chemical Touch: use this touch-activated app to explore periodic table chemical information and view color-coded information such as atomic mass.

Whether you’re looking for a smartphone for personal use or for optimizing your classroom time, the right smartphone can help you interact more effectively with your tech-savvy students and keep on top of the latest teaching trends. Just make sure you keep an eye out for the particular aspects and features, such as memory size and battery life, that are most important to you and your teaching lifestyle.

What are some ways that you’ve found to utilize your smartphone in class? As a teacher, what phone features have you found to be the most helpful in the class and everyday life?

Written By

Norman Fong is CEO and Co-Founder of BuyVia, an online and iOS App smart shopping service that finds high quality products at the best price available. Deals on popular products like tablet computers, including the iPad and Android tablets, can be sent automatically to users.



  1. Bob J

    April 18, 2013 at 6:52 pm

    A slight correction on the Leadership Challenge Mobile app. It is not available for Android from anything I have seen or read.

    • Admin

      April 18, 2013 at 6:56 pm

      Thanks Bob. I hope Norman will respond to your comment asap and explain why he included the Leadership Challenge Mobile app in the list.

  2. Frank Cern

    April 19, 2013 at 2:23 am

    I’m interested in the chemical touch app. That seems to me to be one that could be quite useful

  3. Sudipto

    April 21, 2013 at 9:54 am

    Hey Norman,
    Nice post and Thanks for sharing this tips for picking out the best phone. Yes, price and storage are main factor for selecting any phone.

  4. Pranjal

    April 21, 2013 at 11:40 am

    I think iPhone 4S would be the perfect choice for teachers, since it’s cheap in comparable to new new iPhone 5 and also comes with decent hardware. And for apps, there’s a plethora of quality apps at the iTunes.

  5. Alan Foster

    April 23, 2013 at 5:26 pm

    I have a Windows 8 phone which I bought today the Nokia Lumia 620. Will these apps run on it? I’m using a windows phone for the very first time and am still learning how to use it.

  6. Norman

    May 23, 2013 at 11:18 pm

    My bad on the Leadership Challenge app. It is only available on iOS.

    Later this summer the iPhone 5S should be out, pushing the iPhone 5 down to the $99 mark. The larger screen and faster LTE networking is very nice.

    Alan – We covered iOS and Android apps. I searched and did not find any of the apps I mentioned, on Windows Phone 8.

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