Back to school 2019: the best phones for college and university

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The experts at T3 have here compiled a list of the very best phones for students no matter your budget, helping you get back to school or university and transitioned into the student lifestyle as smoothly and easily as possible.

Our smartphone guide for students covers different operating systems, hardware from Apple, Samsung, and others, and a range of prices, too – from the expensive iPhone XR and Galaxy Note9 to the super cheap Google Pixel 3a and Nokia 6.1

On any of these handsets, you can game until your hearts content, file last-minute homework, chat to friends, and aimlessly scroll social media. These are quality all-round phones that don’t break the bank and can act as serious studying tools.

Pick of the bunch

(Image credit: Google)

It’s hard to do better than the Google Pixel 3a in terms of bang for your buck: amazing hardware, a great screen and camera, and guaranteed Android updates until 2022 – something few other manufactures that don’t rhyme with “chapel” can offer. Oh, and did we mention the price? £399, or around half of its expensive Android-toting cousins. It really is a steal.

And you really do want a phone that won’t let you down as, after all, going off to university or to a different college can feel daunting and scary, so having a good phone is essential – for emergencies, chatting to new friends, whiling away the hours, taking notes, and keeping in touch with worried parents (or maybe not…) 

We’ve thought long and hard about which phones to include to give the best overview for any aspiring academic, weighing up the pros and cons of every device – how good the camera is, the display, the speed, and so on, compared to how pricey (or not) the smartphone is. We only include the absolute best phones in this list, so you can be sure you’re reading about the very latest, cutting-edge devices.

So, without further delay, read on to find the best smartphones for students in 2019.

Apple iPhone XR

It doesn’t get much better than a colourful iPhone.

(Image credit: Apple)

1. iPhone XR

It’s cheaper than the XS but just as good – and maybe better.


Weight: 194g

Dimensions: 150.9 x 75.7 x 8.3 mm

OS: iOS 12

Screen size: 6.1-inches

Resolution: 828 x 1792

CPU: Apple A12 Bionic


Storage: 64/256/512GB

Battery: 2,942 mAh

Rear camera: Dual 12MP

Front camera: 7 MP

Reasons to buy

+Amazing, vivid display+Comes in great colours +iOS runs like a dream+Exceptional cameras

You’ll likely already know about the iPhone XR, the latest in the long line of stunning devices Apple has released over the past decade. Unlike the XS (and its Max variant), the XR comes in a range of really fun colours – the standard grey, white, and black alongside red, yellow, pink, and blue – which adds to the appeal and unique feel. If you really want to stand out on campus, we recommend the yellow one

In terms of software, you’re graced with the latest version of iOS – which is currently version 12 before a new one is released later in summer – and all of its associated apps, spanning more things than you could possibly imagine. The camera app, too, has been given a boost here to make your pictures look extra amazing. Behind-the-scenes work has also made the battery life in the XR very much above-average, complimented by fast-charging.

But the main reason we recommend the XR over the XS is simple and important, especially for students: price. A brand new XR with 64GB storage starts at £749, a considerable amount less than the £999 price tag on the base-level XS and £1,099 XS Max. The bigger storage options do increase the price quite a bit, but it’s hard to do better for a top-of-the-line iPhone. 

A top tip: If you’re lucky enough to own an iPhone 5s or above, Apple also offers a decent trade-in discount, starting at £25 and going up to £445 for an iPhone X. 

So there you have it: Apple has made the perfect phone for students, especially for those who don’t want an Android. It looks and feels superb, has amazing battery life, a great camera, and enough oomph to do whatever you want. Plus, you can have it in a really cool colour. 

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