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Smart Living | Digital Parenting

Digital Parenting | 08 Sep 2021

Top of the class: The best apps and gadgets for the new term

Whether you’re preparing for the first day of school, packing for university or planning a triumphant return to the office, these apps and gadgets are designed to make the transition as smooth as possible.

BACK TO SCHOOL

The start of the academic year is a busy time for families. So why not let the latest apps and gadgets take you straight to the top of the class?

Teach your monster to read (Android/iOS/Amazon)

Younger children will love this fun app that covers everything from matching sounds with letters to reading full sentences. The computer version is free, while the mobile version costs £4.99.

GoConqr (Android/iOS)

For older kids, GoConqr is great for creating revision charts, flash cards, notes, and quizzes, while connecting with their classmates or other school-age children around the world. You can try it out for free, with subscription costs starting from around £1.50 a month.

Moshi (Android/iOS)

Perfect for lulling little ones off to sleep, this mindfulness app is designed for babies and children up to 10 years old. It can be downloaded for free, but access to Moshi Premium’s library of soothing stories, music, meditations, and sounds costs £29.99 a year.

Children’s laptops and tablets

While it’s important to manage time spent on digital devices, tablets and laptops can be very handy for young learners. Aimed at three-to-seven-year-olds, the Fire HD 10 kids’ tablet from Amazon comes with a two-year guarantee and costs about £200. And if your kids need a laptop, the Microsoft Surface Laptop Go is a lightweight option costing about £550.

BACK TO UNI

From apps that record lectures to noise-cancelling headphones to help you concentrate whatever your flatmates are doing, this student tech gets top marks from us.

Alarmy (Android/iOS)

Alarmy requires users to complete small tasks (such as taking a photo of something specific) to turn off the alarm – meaning you’ll never sleep in and miss a lecture again. It also gives you weather updates, so you know whether to take a coat. Free to download, it can be upgraded for as little as £3.49.

SoundNote (iOS)

This popular lecture capture app for iPad users acts as both a notepad and an audio recorder, so you can store lectures in visual and audio form. Well worth the £4.99 price tag.

Noise-cancelling headphones

Student halls and houses can be rowdy, so noise-cancelling headphones could prove a godsend if you need to study when your friends are having fun. Goji and Daewoo do good low-cost options that will only set you back around £30. If you prefer earbuds, Urbanista and Huawei also do student budget-friendly versions.

Back-up providers

Imagine spending months on your dissertation, only for your laptop to give up the ghost and take all your hard work with it. So backing up your work is an essential activity for any student. These daus you can easily back up to the cloud, using one of a number of cloud storage providers – Google Drive, Microsoft OneDrive, Dropbox, Apple iCloud to name but a few – many of which offer huge amounts of storage capacity.

Or you can buy an external hard drive – typically for about £50 – if you prefer not to be reliant on the internet for access to your backed-up files. If you’re the cautious type, you can adopt a belt-and-braces approach and use both options.

BACK TO WORK

Despite many companies taking a hybrid approach to on-site working as things gradually return to some kind of normality, millions of workers will be making at least a partial return to an office environment this autumn. Make it an easy ride with these apps for everything from transcribing meetings to managing your schedule.

Todoist (Web/Android/iOS)

While far from new, Todoist remains the go-to productivity tool for office workers keen to meet weekly and daily goals, while also keeping track of long-term trends. What’s more, there’s a free version, while Todoist Pro costs around £35 a year.

Otter.ai (Android/iOS/Zoom)

Otter.ai takes the legwork out of transcribing interviews and meetings by both recording the conversation and taking real-time notes. It’s a good idea to check the result for any inaccuracies, but it’s still a lot quicker than writing them up yourself and comes with a generous free tier offering 600 minutes of recording a month. If you need more, prices start at £6 a month for the premium versions.

BitWarden (macOS/Windows/Android/iOS)

Accounts, apps, devices… you need a password for everything nowadays. So keep your money and your personal information more secure by downloading password manager BitWarden, which should help to ensure you never find yourself locked out of the tech and accounts you need again – even after an extended break from the office. You can get the core features for free or pay £7 a year for the full service.

FamilyWall (Web/Android/iOS)

Slide back into the office routine with ease by using FamilyWall to take back control of your home life. With schedules, meal planners, custom locations, photo galleries, messaging, lists, and family member profiles, it can be used by the whole family and can also be synced with your Google calendar. You can trial it free for 30 days; to continue after that you have to pay £3.99 a month or £35.99 a year.

HOW CAN VODAFONE HELP?

Connectivity is key to smooth working these days, whether via mobile or fixed-line broadband. Vodafone has a range of products to help you make the return to school, uni or work as seamless as possible.

For example, its new Pro Broadband guarantees WiFi in every room or you can leave for free. And you can now get Alexa built-in to the WiFi booster for some extra cool functionality. According to Uswitch, Vodafone comes highly commended in the fastest broadband provider category, offering average speeds of up to 900Mbps with its full-fibre broadband service.

If you’re thinking of upgrading your mobile, Vodafone’s EVO plans offer great flexibility over how quickly your pay for your device, and you can also receive a guaranteed trade-in price for your old phone.

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