‘Tis that time of year again, the back-to-school shopping season, which is one of the busiest, if not the busiest, shopping seasons of the year.
Parents are shopping for gear for their grade and high school students, as well as helping their older children get prepared for college and/or university, especially if that means living in a dorm or shared housing away from the comforts of home.
According to a recent poll by Ebates.ca, 72% of parents think their kids are stressed about homework (26%), having to wake up early (23%), or not fitting in with other kids (23%) as back-to-school season looms. The most stressful part of back-to-school season for parents, however, is the expense of shopping (26%), with parents expecting to spend $168 per child on average.
While most parents (94%) say their online spending will be as much or even more than last year, many will be searching retailer websites for deals (70%), searching for online coupons and promo codes (53%), using cash back websites (41%), using mobile apps to find deals (41%), signing up for e-mail notifications of sales and promotions (38%), and using social media to find deals (33%).
Twenty per cent of shoppers get their back-to-school shopping done earlier, but the vast majority (78%) do it in August or early September, believing that they'll get better deals, or simply because they're too busy to shop before then. Which means many readers will be preparing to complete their back-to-school shopping right now.
As you do so, here is a handy list of some great tech ideas to add to the shopping list.
Fitbit Ace 2 Fitness Tracker
For grade school kids, consider getting them an activity tracker like this one, depicted above, that will help them keep track of steps and activities, like extra-curricular sports, as well as sleep. They can use it as a watch as well, and parents can gain useful insight from the app, which they manage through Family Account. They can see how many hours of restful sleep their kids are getting, what time they actually went to bed, and see how their daily activity levels compare to kids of a similar age and gender. About $100
HP Envy Laptop
What is particularly great for students about the HP Envy line-up of laptops is that they come with a neat physical switch that can cut the power to the laptop webcam whenever the student desires privacy. This eliminates the need to cover it with a piece of tape, as so many kids do today. Various models are available to suit differing computing needs and budgets, starting at $1,350.
HP Tango Smart Printer
If assignments are going more and more digital but students still have minimal printing needs, a device like this smart printer might be an ideal solution. It is fully app-based and voice activated, and offers cloud-based connectivity, allowing you to send prints or make scans and copies from anywhere. Using the HP Smart app, which is available for both iOS and Android devices, students can communicate with the Tango printer, printing anywhere using either cellular data or a remote Wi-Fi connection. So an assignment can be printed out and waiting for you before you get back to the dorm, ensuring that it's handed in on time. Ink can be ordered directly from the app, or the Tango can order it automatically when you're running low using HP Instant Ink. With enrolment in HP Instant Ink also comes the ability to print photos for free from your smartphone. Voice capabilities also allow you to activate printing via the Amazon Alexa, Google Assistant and Microsoft Cortana virtual voice assistants. Starts at $180; an X version with a cover is $240.
Philips Indoor Grill
If your college student will be living in an apartment or other shared housing, they might have minimal space for large appliances, not to mention minimal abilities on how to use them. This indoor grill will allow them to make basic items like hamburgers, hot dogs, eggs, and bacon for quick meals. It uses advanced heat technology that Philips says creates 80% less smoke so it's safe to grille inside without setting off the fire alarm. It's easy to set up and clean and has detachable dishwasher-safe parts. $330.
Roku TVs are affordable, available in smaller, dorm-friendly sizes, and come with the Roku streaming platform built-in, allowing for a seamless experience for students who want to access their favourite programming from services like Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, and Crave. Each one comes with a Roku remote, or you can use your smartphone or tablet and the Roku app to control playback and navigate menus. Kids can access more than 4,000 channels and 150,000 movies and TV shows. There are 32" models from RCA, Sanyo, and TCL ranging in price from just $190 to $228; a 40" RCA model for $300; a 43" Sanyo TV for $348, and a 43" TCL model for $350 that even boasts 4K resolution (with an appropriate streaming subscription).
Teksavvy DSL High-Speed Internet
College kids living in their own housing will have to set up Internet, which can cost a pretty penny, especially with the requirements of multiple students who want to connect online, stream video, and more. Teksavvy offers DSL service packages starting at $41/mo., and high-speed cable packages starting at $53/mo.
Epson EcoTank ET-3710 All-in-One Supertank Printer
It will cost you more upfront at $480, but hands-down for a secondary and/or post-secondary student who will be in school for the next 4-8 years, this printer will pay for itself over time. The reason is that you don't need to keep changing ink cartridges. Rather, it uses refillable ink reservoirs, with one set of bottles (included) lasting for up to about two years' worth of prints. When it runs out, simply buy another set of bottles, which is comparable in price to a set of standard ink cartridges. It has a 150-sheet paper tray, auto-sided printing, and hands-free voice-activated printing, all features that a busy student with heavy printing needs will appreciate.
Rocketbook Fusion Reusable Notebook
Perfect as a secondary device for taking notes during class or at a study group, this notebook uses synthetic paper and a Pilot FriXion pen with Everlast technology. Jot down notes, upload them to a cloud service like Dropbox, Evernote, or Google Drive, or e-mail them, then use a damp cloth to wipe the page clean. It comes with 42 pages, some with dot and grid lines and others with templates. Each book comes with the pen and a microfibre cloth. The executive size is $47 and letter-sized is $49.
Microsoft Surface Laptop 2 + Office 365
With 14.5 hours of battery life and a 13.5" touchscreen, this $1,300 laptop is a great option for students. Slim and sleek, it boasts an 8th Gen Intel Core processor, and is, according to Microsoft, 85% faster than the original Surface laptop. Pair the purchase with a subscription to Office 365 which will provide all of the necessary software a student would need to complete projects and assignments, including Word, Excel, and PowerPoint. The $109 price point provides access to up to five household members from anywhere, which means you can access it from the home computer while a student can tap in from their school. Each person gets 1TB of cloud storage, which is ample room to back-up school projects and personal photos and videos, along with 60 monthly Skype minutes so college and university students can call back home.
Klipsch T5 True Wireless Earphones
Kids who want quiet study sessions or need earphones for their commutes to and from school or classes on campus will appreciate a handy wireless pair like these ones. They run for up to eight hours per charge, and you get an additional 24 hours using the charging case. Four Clear Voice Chat (cVc) microphones allow for crystal clear calls and ambient noise reduction, allowing them to call home or listen to tunes in a busy study hall. The new Bluetooth 5 battery efficient chipset offers increased signal and range, while snap-fit oval ear tips provide comfort. They are also digital-assistant ready. The T5 True Wireless is available in black. $249
Scosche FlyTunes Wireless Audio Transmitter
This tiny device is a great solution for two people to listen to the same source device from separate pairs of wireless headphones, which can come in handy for school-aged kids binge-watching a show or watching YouTube videos during lunch breaks, or college-aged kids wanting to watch TV while another roommate needs quiet study time. It can plug into any 3.5mm AUX output, then pair with one set of headphones followed by a second set. It has two folding prongs so it can also plug into a single- or dual-output on a plane. It also works with fitness machines, TVs, stereos, and portable gaming systems like the Nintendo Switch. It runs for up to eight hours per charge. US$40; a charge case with an 860mAh battery is US$30.
If you want to surprise a soon-to-be post-secondary student with a brand-spanking new Apple laptop, consider the MacBook Air, which is lightweight and functional, and available for a lowered starting price of $1,449, or $1,319 as a special deal for college and university students. As part of Apple's Back to School promotion, college and university students will also receive a pair of Beats Studio 3 Wireless headphones with the purchase of a qualifying Mac notebook or iMac.
Ultimate Ears Megaboom 3 Portable Bluetooth Speaker
A portable Bluetooth speaker is a must for dorm-dwellers to prevent them from listening to music directly from their smartphone speakers. Headphones are great for personal listening, but if you have friends over or are hanging with the roommates and want to share tunes, a simple portable Bluetooth speaker will enhance the audio. This one offers 360-degree sound and deep bass. Plus, it is IP67-rated so it can be safely used by, or even in, water. Yes, it can actually float. The PartyUp feature in the app lets you connect multiple ones together for an even more immersive sound experience. It comes in four two-toned colours: might (black), sunset (red), lagoon (blue), and ultraviolet (purple) for US$200.