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Thursday, Aug. 25, 2016

Gadgets on back-to-school lists

Sunday, August 14, 2005

Heather Lawson, 16, looks at cell phones at ESI.
SIKESTON - While students are out buying their pens, pencils and notebooks for school, they are adding some untraditional items to their school supply lists.

For many high school and college students, cell phones and accessories are a must-have.

"We always get a back to school rush," said Erin Alcorn, sales manager at ESI.comm in Sikeston. "Kids going away (usually) get family talk - free mobile to mobile, and nationwide service."

Homestead Wireless encourages family plans, with mobile to mobile, nationwide, no roaming service, said Richard Breland, sales associate.

He also recommends text messaging options for teens, such as a plan with unlimited text messaging or a fixed amount each month.

For students like 16-year-old Heather Lawson, who will be a junior at Sikeston High School, text messaging plans are good. "When you can't talk on your phone, you just send a text message," she said.

But college students aren't the only ones getting cell phones to keep in touch. Several high school students are, too. But rather than including younger students on a family plan, some parents are opting to buying a phone with prepaid minutes.

"No one wants to put them (high school students) on a plan," said Kevin Alexander, sales associate at Radio Shack in Sikeston. "They may talk 1000 minutes."

Several customers have taken advantage of Radio Shack's prepaid phone options, from Tracfones, where a customer purchases the phone and then buys minutes as needed, similar to a calling card; to contract-free phone plans.

ESI.comm offers a go phone, similar to prepaid plans, where a phone doesn't work until the next billing period once it hits the number of minutes. "It's good for high schoolers," Alcorn said.

Prepaid plans have also been popular at Homestead, Breland said. They have an easy pay plan available, with no contract, simply an activation fee and monthly rate, including unlimited nights and weekends and free mobile to mobile.

"It's a little more expensive, but there's no contract," Breland said.

And not being committed to a contract is quite appealing, said Lyntoria Anthony, assistant manager at On Cue. "Anybody can get it - you don't have to worry about credit," she said. "You just pay for the phone and buy minutes."

Camera phones have been in demand, Alcorn and Anthony agreed. "Kids are wanting the camera phones so they can be out anywhere and email pictures to each other, home or whatever," Alcorn said.

Alcorn and Breland are both recommending Bluetooth compatible phones. "It's a wireless headset, compatible with different phones," Breland said. "You're able to have a wire-free device to your ear and people like that."

The headset rings, and also offers voice-command dialing and works within 20 to 30 feet of the phone.

"It's a lot safer," Alcorn said of Bluetooth, especially for students driving long distances. "You can drive and don't even have to look at the phone."

If a customer is unsure whether they want Bluetooth, Alcorn still recommends they buy a compatible phone. "Regardless if they buy Bluetooth today, they may get it later," she said.

Heather, who likes phones with a camera and speaker phone capabilities, uses her mom's Bluetooth quite often. "I like it because I don't have to hold on to the phone - I can walk away and still talk," Heather said.

A lot of students have been buying flash, or thumb, drives this year, said Marc Edwards, store manager at Office Max.

These small drives can fit on a key chain and plug into a USB port. Instead of using floppy disks, much more information can be stored on these drives, depending on the number of megabytes.

"Some spread sheets and digital files can't fit on floppy disks, but can on flash drives," Edwards said. Plus, some new computers don't have floppy disk drives, he pointed out.

Heather just purchased a flash drive, which she uses to save pictures on, freeing up a lot of memory on her computer. She doesn't intend to use it for school, but isn't ruling it out for other uses down the road.

And as far as computers go, college students are seeking laptops computers with a wireless card, Alexander said. "We've sold three or four in the last two days," he said last week.

While portable CD players are still hot items, some students prefer iPods or MP3 players. "I use my iPod a lot," said 16-year-old Riley Lape, who will be a junior at Sikeston High School. "It's easier than carrying CDs."

When it comes to buying MP3 players, customers look for compatibility with programs they already have and are familiar with, such as Windows Media Player, Anthony said.

The amount of memory is also important for an MP3, Heather said. "Make sure you can put a lot of songs on it and it's not going to die too quick," she advised. For her, the MP3 player will be used on bus rides when school rolls around.