Choosing a mobile device

When choosing a mobile device for educational use, price needs to be balanced against features (for example, you may be willing to pay more for extra memory). Here are the main considerations.

Operating Platform: Apple, Android, or Windows?

Each operating system has its own benefits, and its own apps. It’s important to check which operating system your school recommends, as some apps which work on an Android device may not work on a Windows 10 device! Find out the key differences between operating systems below.

Android: Android varies the most out of all operating systems, as manufacturers tend to customise the appearance to suit their own devices. These changes are usually minor, but can lead to some devices having menus in different places to others. Android also offers the most free apps, through the Google Play Store. The Play Store has a relaxed attitude to apps, which means more experimental apps and the occasional broken one might make it on there. Make sure your device can access Google Play, as some devices like the Kindle Fire have their own app store.

Apple iOS: iOS is a ‘fixed’ system, and while it does receive regular updates it very rarely changes its layout. All iPads have the same menus in the exact same place, regardless of the version of iOS they are running. All apps must be authorised by Apple before they appear in the store, which means fewer free apps (but all the apps in the store should work just fine). You may need support from your school’s IT department with setting up an iPad, but once set up should rarely need changing.

Microsoft Windows 10: This operating system is used with Microsoft Surface tablets as well as some third-party devices like the Asus VivoTab. It’s the successor to Windows 8 and brings the full Windows experience, making it a true competitor to Windows laptops. The Microsoft app store is quite small in comparison to Android and Apple’s stores, but programs normally found on computers can also be installed on Windows 10.

Battery life

The battery should last for a full school day. Check the mAh capacity rating – this is the storage capacity. For example, 6000 mAh delivers a current of 6000mA for one hour. Your battery life can change depending on how bright the screen is set, whether it’s connected to the internet and the kind of app that’s running on it. You can compare ratings for the same battery type, but not for different types of batteries. It’s always good to check product reviews before purchasing!

Internal memory

The amount of memory you need will depend on student needs – will it be used mainly for reading, or for multimedia such as videos? It is recommended that your device has built-in memory of at least 8GB, which can hold roughly 1,750 music files, or 10,000 photos. You can buy a 32GB or 64GB memory card to expand on the built-in memory, but not all devices will have the capability to add memory. Check whether you can add extra memory by looking for an “SD Memory Card Expansion” option on the specifications.


Look for devices with toughened glass – often branded as ‘Gorilla Glass’. Also, check whether your insurance policy has requirements with regard to durability and protective cases. To provide the fullest protection a hard case is essential and while many cases protect the back, sides and corners of your device, some cases come with a hinged flap to protect the screen too. Always make sure to get the correct case for your device, as you may find your USB, camera and memory card are obstructed if the wrong one is fitted.

Preventing access to unsuitable websites

You can activate parental control on all types of devices. Parental controls aren’t just about keeping questionable content out of reach of children, but also about protecting the device should it be lost. Android apps are available for this purpose, and the iPad can be locked down for security too. Windows 10 has its own built-in parental controls which can be managed through a Microsoft account, allowing for total control over what your child sees as well as what time they can use the internet. For more information, visit Online Safety & Security. For recent research around online safety, visit E-Safety Research.

Best screen size

Screen size is measured diagonally, and ranges from 6.1 inches upwards. Most schools opt for 7, 8, or 10 inches:

  • 7-inch tablets (such as the Nexus 7, the LG G Pad or the iPad mini) are easy to carry, rugged, and tend to have a good battery life. However, they are not usually recommended for presentations or graphics on their own unless using features like Miracast or Apple AirPlay, mirroring the tablet’s screen to a projector or a second display.
  • 7.9 – 8-inch tablets have a good balance of battery life and screen space.
  • Devices above 9.7 inches (particularly 10”) are the best for viewing media, but can be difficult to carry due to awkward sizing and increased weight in some models.

Screen resolution

Screen resolution is important if students will be watching HD media, or reading text. A minimum requirement of 720p (720 vertical lines of resolution) is recommended, which most devices now meet. Some devices go as far as 2k and 4k resolutions, which are slightly overpowered for most schoolwork.

Make sure the device works with your school’s Virtual Learning Environment

Virtual Learning Environments (VLEs) are systems used to deliver learning materials to students, and can be integrated into many devices. This means students can access resources such as links, blogs, comments, and feedback at home as well as school. Schools can also develop tailored educational content to be accessed through their VLE. Check with your school if they have a VLE and if there are any devices which definitely won’t work with it!

This content was provided with the support of Dixons Carphone.

One comment

  • Great tips!

    It’s also important to consider the logistics – who will look after them, where will they be kept and how to make sure they’ll be kept up to date and charged!

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