Below is a buying guide for parent in regard to purchasing a new device for your child to use for education purposes in our school. In addition, please take a moment to visit and read the FAQ about BYOT.
When choosing devices for BYOT, there are a few factors to consider beyond choosing a device for home use. The majority of devices will work well at home and school, but some devices perform certain tasks better.
There are several great tablets to choose from, and websites such as www.cnet.com post regular reviews that compare tablets. The majority of tablets fall into the range of 7”-10” screens, but there are considerations other than size.
It’s important to ask yourself how you intend to use the tablet. Features such as browsing the Internet, email, watching movies, listening to music, and playing games are common on all mainstream tablets.
Apple: Apple sells the iPad which runs the Apple iOS operating system. There are multiple generations and models to choose from with varying storage capacity (16GB, 32GB, etc). The full size iPads have a 9.7” screen and the iPad Mini has a 7.9” screen.
iPads are high quality tablets that work well for productivity and for entertainment, but they are more expensive than some other high quality tablets, especially in the 7” category. All current models of iPads have front and rear cameras, so they can be used for video conferencing, taking pictures, and scanning QR codes.
iPod Touch: The iPod touch functions very much like a small tablet. It can also be thought of as an iPhone without the ability to make phone calls, with the exception of VoIP apps such as Skype. When purchasing an iPod touch for BYOT, remember that older models (3rd Gen and earlier) do not have cameras.
Google/Android: Several manufactures make tablets with the Google Android operating system (Samsung, Asus, Motorola, Amazon, etc). There are many more choices with Android, but your best bet is to stay with a prominent manufacturer and to purchase a modern tablet. Google doesn’t charge manufactures for the Android OS, so there are budget tablets available that don’t have access to the official Google Play store. Mainstream tablets also receive updates that the less expensive models may not.
There are currently a few popular 7” Android tablets, including the Nexus 7, the Samsung Galaxy Tab 2, the Kindle Fire HD, and the Nook HD. These smaller tablets are less expensive and offer portability.
Nexus tablets (7” and 10”) are Google devices, meaning the offer a pure Android experience. The advantage of these tablets is they are very high quality and they receive updates as soon as Google releases them. The Nexus tablets only have a front facing camera, which works well for video conferencing. If a student wants to scan a QR code or take a picture/video, they can only use the camera on the front of the device.
The Samsung Galaxy Tab 2 is available as a 7.0” and a 10.1” tablet. The 7.0 model is the same size as the Nexus 7 and Kindle Fire HD 7”, but it offers both front and rear cameras. Like the iPad, the rear camera can be useful in BYOT activities such as scanning QR codes and taking pictures and videos.
Amazon and Barnes & Noble: The Kindle Fire and Nook tablets use the Android operating system with an Amazon or Barnes & Noble custom user interface. These are media consumption devices that are designed to offer content from Amazon and Barnes & Noble, though they do have access to the majority of popular Android Apps. The experience is different from tablets such as the Nexus and Galaxy Tab, but it has more to do with the appearance and use of the device when not in an application. Like the Nexus tablets, the Fire HD only has a front facing camera and the Nook HD does not have a camera. Also realize there are differences between the original Kindle Fire and the Fire HD, with the lack of a camera on the original Fire being one.
Microsoft: Microsoft has recently launched new tablets along with the release of the Windows 8 operating system. Tablets such as the Microsoft Surface RT are designed to compete with the iPad and high end Android tablets. Although these tablets are newcomers to the market, they are certainly worth researching while comparing products.
Similar comparisons can be made between phones as were made with tablets. One difference is the price factor. Phone carriers subsidize the cost of smartphones when purchased with a contract. This places the cost of most high end Android and Windows phones in line with the iPhone. Older model phones can be purchased for less or come free with a contract, but understand that they will reach obsolescence earlier. For example, the iPhone 4 is free with a contract from certain wireless phone providers. It runs the latest version of iOS, but certain features aren’t available on the older model. At the same time, older phones often make great BYOT devices. One consideration is for parents to keep their current phones when upgrading and give them to family members as BYOT devices. They can be used as wifi only devices without a phone number/SIM associated with the device.
Purchasing a used phone is also an option for a BYOT device. Websites such as http://swappa.com/ sell used Android and iOS devices, including tablets. Many of these devices have front and rear cameras as well as a microphone and speaker which make them very useful BYOT devices. These phones can be purchased and used as wifi only devices, or they can be added to a wireless phone plan.
Notebooks/laptops and netbooks are still popular devices, though the tablet market has affected their popularity. Laptops are great productivity devices since they support the full version of software applications that are also used on desktop computers. The downside is they aren’t as portable as tablets. Netbooks are smaller versions of notebooks/laptops and they are normally much less expensive. They are also more portable, but they generally lack the processing power of full size laptops which are better for gaming and video editing.
Before making a decision on a device, consider using online resources to make comparisons. Visiting an electronics store and using the devices in person is also a great way to evaluate which would work best for you.
CNET Tablet Reviews http://reviews.cnet.com/tablets/
CNET Phone Reviews http://reviews.cnet.com/cell-phones/
CNET Laptop Reviews http://reviews.cnet.com/laptops/
Apple Store http://store.apple.com/us
Google Play Store https://play.google.com/store/devices?feature=corpus_selectorInformation above is shared by Tim Keyser, the ITS at NFHS