AD's Back-to-School Tech Essentials 2023

Cooler fall temperatures may be a thing of the past, but there’s still a surefire way to tell the school year is about to begin: a bevy of must-have back-to-school tech from Apple, Anker, and more! 

While TV shows and movies might trade in back-to-school fantasies—all-oak desks for college students, maps to the cafeteria’s social stratas for high school teens, and an alluring new kid in school—the truth is that getting ahead in the classroom is hard work. If everyone else in Intro to Neuroscience is studying with an Amazon portable fan around their neck, noise-canceling headphones shushing the cross talk, and a smartwatch timing out the Pomodoro Technique, to forgo the latest and greatest is like docking GPA points before the semester has even begun.

With that in mind, here are AD’s best back-to-school essentials, with gadgets and apps for people at every stage of learning, from preschool to post-retirement.


For all those kids who don’t have enough gadgets or get enough screen time, this Amazon tablet is a perfect choice. It combines a sturdy, colorful exterior with a yearlong subscription to the Kids+ service, which features child-friendly entertainment as well as apps like foreign language education. Buying this is also a great way to keep peanut butter off your iPad.

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Yoto Mini + Make Your Own Card Screen-Free Bluetooth Audio Player

Biggie Smalls was certainly a genius, but this doesn’t mean your eight-year-old needs to experience his oeuvre right away. The groovy Yoto player comes with age-appropriate audio cards that play music or lessons via Wi-Fi. Parents can even record personalized content. 

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Hatch Rest+ Baby & Kids Sound Machine

Whale sounds may be soporific, but they can also be scary. Instead of playing these for your little insomniac, lull your child to sleep with the Hatch sound machine, which offers a complement of soothing wind and water noises that, unlike melancholy mammal crooning, won’t provoke existential questions before you’re ready to answer them. 

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Gabb Watch 2 Smart Watch for Kids

The Gabb is a streamlined smartwatch built around what parents care about most: safety. GPS, an SOS button, and unlimited talk and text will keep your child within a lightweight digital lasso. Plus, the built-in step counter could motivate them to leave the couch and explore the limits of their domain.


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Boogie Board Blackboard Smart Scan Reusable Notebook

For about the price of one 20-pound carton of printer paper, your incoming first-year could be using this digital notepad to scribble equations and play on apps. With precise erasing and the option to upload documents to Google Drive or Dropbox, spiral-bound notebooks, staplers, and lost homework will be things of the past.

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School buses, and even schools, may not be air-conditioned. Help your teen maintain their composure with a portable neck fan. Weighing less than a pair of chunky headphones and capable of blowing air omnidirectionally for up to 16 hours, this Amazon-purchased gadget will allow your industrious student to keep their cool. 

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In the 2023 Say Anything remake, a digitally de-aged John Cusack might stand outside his beloved’s window with a sleek, powerful Echo Dot. Beside its stereo sound, the Echo Dot provides all of Alexa’s favored apps, including weather updates, so your teen will know exactly when they can ditch the trench coat.

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HENGTO Fitness Tracker Watch for Kids

Your kid already thinks they’re smarter than you. So give in and get them a smartwatch. The Hengto fitness tracker offers Apple Watch looks while helping your kid keep track of everything, from reps at the gym to the amount of time they spend in REM sleep. (As well as calendar reminders for that family dinner they keep pretending they forgot about.)

College Students:

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Anker 622 Magnetic Battery (MagGo)

With the amount of time we spend on phones, there’s no such thing as too much battery. This magnetic, USB-C compatible Anker charger case limits the bulk with microcell technology, plus it doubles as a kickstand that keeps your phone perfectly positioned for mini movie nights. 

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Logitech Signature M650 Wireless Mouse

Though failing body parts seem an impossibility to an invincible coed, help your young adult protect their wrists and vulnerable nerve endings with a portable mouse. This Logitech is Bluetooth-enabled and ergonomic, which reduces strain on the tendons, and features a startling 24-month battery life.

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Apple – MacBook Air 15″ Laptop – M2 chip

After years of anticipation, Apple has brought out a 15-inch version of its venerable lightweight MacBook Air. This skinny stunner combines Apple’s latest M2 chip with a bright retina display and a 1080p webcam. Unless your kid is a professional film editor, or a junior Oppenheimer, this is probably the only Mac they’ll ever need.

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C-series 2.1ch. DTS Virtual:X Soundbar

Sure, most smart TVs have built-in speakers, but those slim gadgets are about as bassy as EarPods. Get quality resonance to match your picture with a next-gen Soundbar. This Samsung number has 3D sound and includes a subwoofer—only when you hear the murderer’s footsteps “behind” you will you realize how much scarier good sound can be.

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Good news for dorm rooms lacking in AC: Compact, powerful, and quiet, the Dreo Smart Tower Fan can be controlled by an app or through Alexa voice control. That means no losing the remote and the end of your tween practicing “autotune” by speaking through the fan blades. (Of course, there’s an app for that now.)

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Apple gear is never the cheapest, but often combines quality design and performance to unbeatable effect. Pair your iPhone or Android with the latest AirPod earbuds, which are sweat resistant and have spatial audio, bringing immersive sound in a tiny package. So your spawn can blast T Swift during CrossFit and passersby won’t know if the tears are from the music or the workout.


Google Pixel Tablet with Charging Speaker Dock

Even if you love smart-home gadgets, it can be difficult to wrangle those little minions scattered about your domicile. Consolidate power with the Pixel Tablet, which enters Hub Mode on its charging base to form the perfect domestic command center. Dim the lights, strike up the band, lower the temp, and start the spin cycle, all from one screen. 

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Coway Airmega 250 Smart Air Purifier

The pandemic forced everyone to learn what a HEPA filter is. Now, bring this aerospace gadget into your home with the sleek Coway Airmega 250, which can quickly and quietly scrub the air of a space of more than 900 square feet. And the sound is so minimal, you’ll think you’re constantly wearing noise-canceling headphones.


Bang & Olufsen Beoplay HX

The Beoplay HX noise-canceling headphones combine a slender profile with big sound. The size of a cookbook, they’re meant to blend in on a bookshelf, though eagle eyes will spot premium materials like aluminum and oak, and a lack of instructions to use pomegranate molasses.  

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Samsung 32″ Class QLED 4K Q60C

In sizes ranging from 36 to 85 (!) inches, the Samsung Q60C offers 4K resolution, proprietary Quantum Dot color technology, and warm/cool dual-LED backlights in a package so thin it’ll make a framed photo look chubby.

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Keep in touch with your student in stunning 13-megapixel quality—or should your weekly Sunday afternoon check-in go a bit sour, you can remember rosier times by turning the Echo Show 8 into a digital picture frame and reminiscing through some baby photos. 

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With the sleek Google Nest, you can use the app to preheat or precool your home prior to your arrival, and save money on bills by raising or lowering the temperature at times when you aren’t around to bathe in your HVAC. This thermostat is so attuned to your needs, the only thing you’ll sweat is the kids’ tuition bills. 

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Sonos – Roam SL Portable Bluetooth Wireless Speaker

Though Sonos is best known for elegant in-home speakers, the Roam SL performs just as well outdoors. Dustproof, waterproof, and shockproof, the Roam SL will survive even cringe-worthy ice-breaker games on the first-year dorm getting-to-know-you camping trip. 

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Kindle Paperwhite Signature Edition

The new Kindle Paperwhite Signature Edition comes with an 6.8″ display, wireless charging capability, and auto-adjusting front light. The gadget has enough space to store more than a thousand books, so even if you fancy yourself as a bibliophile, you’ll have plenty to choose at your fingertips. And with a glare-free screen, you can quite literally enjoy this book inside, and out.

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