webOS Holiday Gift Guide: For the student
The holidays are fast creeping up on us, and if you happen to have a loved one (or yourself) that needs some webOS love, then we have a few suggestions on what to place next to the trusty aluminum pole/under the tree. We’ve already gone over what to get the webOS traveler, but what about the student? They tend not to me on the road a lot, but they’re certainly on the move and have some pretty significant demands. After the break – what to get for that webOS fan of a student on your list.
When it comes to webOS smartphones, the Pre3 has no equal. It’s bigger yet slimmer, feels better, and is just darned faster than anything webOS smartphones offered before. But it only ever saw a very limited release. Thankfully, it’s still plenty available, so long as you’re willing to plumb the depths of the PreCentral Forums or eBay.
There are three versions of the Pre3 available: GSM unlocked from Europe, AT&T, and Verizon (in descending order from plentiful to rare). Obviously if your loved one is in Europe or practically anywhere but the United States or Canada, grab the unlocked GSM Pre3 – it will work on 99% of international GSM networks and supports HSPA+ speeds.
In the United States the unlocked GSM will work, but the rare AT&T Pre3 and even rarer Verizon Pre3s are the preferred option. Obviously you have to pick based on the network your loved one is using (sorry Sprint fans).
Say your webOS lover is both a small phones person and on AT&T. If they’re using a Pixi Plus and lamenting how slow and old it is, or a Pre 2 and just think it’s too darned big, then we’d like to point you to the HP Veer – the smallest gosh darn smartphone you ever did see. It uses the same screen as the Pixi, but it runs webOS 2.1 (something the Pixi will never do) and has a better keyboard, more compact design, glass screen, faster processor, and more RAM. Plus the Veer is actually still available from AT&T, and will cost just a penny on a new contract (at least at the time of publishing). If you’re off-contract it’ll cost considerably more, but unlike getting a Pre3 off eBay it at least comes with the option of carrier support. And let’s be honest, between laptops and books and a double shot macchiato, students are lugging around enough as it is. The Veer will lighten the load, especially in comparison to those massive Android phones.
Loved one wants a tablet, but didn’t get onto the TouchPad train while the getting was good? Fret not, dear shopper – there are still TouchPads. Deals with the TouchPad have already been made public for Black Friday that don’t require you to buy an HP laptop too, plus there’s always eBay and Amazon third party retailers. Nothing says “I love you” better than a moderately-hard-to-find collector’s item of a tablet.
Feeling particularly generous? Go hit up eBay for one of the rarer versions of the TouchPad. While anybody can get their hands on a black 32GB TouchPad, how many people can say they have a white TouchPad with a snappy 1.5GHz processor? Your loved one can, so long as you’re willing to pay the price. Amusingly, that price tends to come in below the $500 starting price of the 16GB TouchPad at launch. We might suggest the AT&T TouchPad 4G here, but it’s hard-to-find, expensive, and frankly your student’s campus probably already has a Wi-Fi network for them to latch onto.
So long as your traveling loved one doesn’t already have (or you haven’t already bought for them) a Pre3 or Veer as their webOS smartphone, there’s one thing they’re almost certainly disappointed with: the battery life. The Pre, Pre Plus, Pre 2, Pixi, and Pixi Plus all use the same battery, and they’re available for good prices in standard, extended life, and super-extended life (and size) (Pre only) versions.
Even then, a spare battery is only good if it’s charged. If you need power now and there’s simply not an outlet nearby, the gadget industry has a solution: the backup battery. There are number of good battery packs from the likes of Seidio, Motorola, and others that allow you to just plug up with a USB cable and get charging. The backup battery is also a good option for that loved one that has a Veer or Pre3 (or one waiting for them under the tree), as the first has an integrated battery and the latter never had spare batteries.
If there’s one thing that all webOS devices thankfully have come with, it’s a charger. But only one, and if you’re like us you’ve got it set just how you like it on your desk, nightstand, or side table. It’s one thing to have to unpack a charger when staying at a hotel, but in your own home? That’s just unacceptable. That’s also where a Micro USB travel charger comes into play. They’re cheap, and they’re plentiful, and everybody should have at least one. And go ahead and throw in a retractable Micro USB cable or two – you never know when you’ll need one. And why not throw in a handy inductive Touchstone charger while you're at it?
If you’ve visited campus, you’ve probably noticed the same thing that we have: everybody’s walking around with white buds stuck in their ears. The headphones that came with your webOS phone (if it came with them) are of barely adequate quality, as we’d expect from the earbuds packaged with practically any phone. But fret not, for there’s a solution: get a new pair.
There are numerous excellent wired and Bluetooth wireless options, including the RF3 LIVE, RF3 ENVI (which are made with real wood), and Qmadix Qi-5 on the wired front and the Motorola S9-HD and Plantronics BackBeat 903 (our personal favorite) for the wireless Bluetooth crowd. And while those will do for tooling around the quad, once dear student heads back to their dorm/apartment/bedroom (sorry they’re still at home), they can pump out some tunes into the open air with the excellent Jawbone Jambox portable Bluetooth speaker.
While webOS phones typically have good-to-great physical keyboards and the TouchPad’s virtual keyboard is quite excellent, there’s something to be said for a nice big physical QWERTY spread beneath your fingers. Compatible with webOS 2.x phones (Pre 2, Veer, and Pre3) and the TouchPad, the HP Wireless Keyboard hooks up over Bluetooth for speedy note-taking in class. Heck, if your student is so inclined they can use it to pound out a dissertation or two using the available document editors on the TouchPad. Other Bluetooth keyboards will work, but they aren't designed to be as supremely compatible with webOS.
If your student has a Pre3, we’ve got bad news: there are no Pre3-specific cases out there. Same goes for the Veer. And that’s a shame, as life as a student can be occasionally rough. You never know when you’re going to get roped into a game of ultimate out on the quad or slip and fall on spilled beer juice at the frat house cafeteria. If dear student has a Palm-branded Pre (original, Plus, or 2) or Pixi, there are thankfully several case options available, including tough-as-nails-and-nuclear-bombs Otterbox cases (Pre, Pixi) and slim-but-protective-and-colorful snap-on cases by Incipio, Smartphone Experts, and Seidio.
Thankfully the Pre3 and Veer are pretty toughly built, but the TouchPad can be another story. It’s big, thin(ish), and faced with an expansive sheet of glass on one side and easily-broken plastic on the other. For the custom-fit option, there’s the HP Folio case, which in addition to protecting also folds around to serve as a stand for watching videos or typing at an angle. To protect from scratches and gouges, you can slap on protective films by BodyGuardz, and to keep a TouchPad safe in a bag, there are a number of available padded protective sleeves (though to be honest, pretty much any original iPad-compatible sleeve will also work)
This is where things get less clean (and you thought hacking together phones was dirty). There currently are no mechanisms for gifting individual apps from the webOS App Catalog or even sending app credit to friends and family. But you want your studying loved one to be able to make the most out of their webOS companion. You’ve got a couple of options, including sending them money over PayPal and telling them to use it to buy a specific app, or just forcibly grabbing their phone, downloading the app, and handing it back with a few Washingtons for their trouble. Now, what apps should you be forcibly downloading?
Flashcards long been a mainstay in any studying regimen. There’s simply no replacement for the trusty stack of index cards. Or is there? There is, and it’s the aptly-named Flashcards ($2.99) app by independent developer James Harris. Compatible with webOS phones and tablets (just one purchase is required to get it on devices using the same webOS Account), Flashcards allows for downloads from Quizlet.com and Flashcard Exchange, as well as the creation of custom flashcard sets.
There’s been a long-standing mantra when it comes to heavy workload classes: work smarter, not harder. The key to working smarter is being organized so you know what you actually have to work on. A+ Student Organizer ($2.99), available for webOS smartphones, is hands-down the single best app to keep track of courses, papers, projects, upcoming exams, professors, and the grades the hand down.
From notes to papers to figuring out your beer hackey sack funding needs fit into your Ramen budget, students are in need of document editing on the go. It’s not a sexy or glamorous feature, but it’s one that can’t be done without. While the TouchPad does now include QuickOffice document editing, it’s a bit of a let-down as far as features are concerned. Picking up the slack in the capability department is Picsel Smart Office ($9.99), an app that brings full Word, Excel, and PowerPoint editing into play. With built-in support for DropBox, you can even make edits to your presentation while away from the computer and have them synced back over by the time you’re hooking up to the projector.
So that’s what we’d get and why we’d get our webOS-loving loved ones to help them make it through the school year. It’s a little bit of everything from stocking stuffers (batteries and chargers) to “Oh, you shouldn’t have!” (Verizon Pre3), but all enough to show that you both care and are paying attention to their needs. But that’s just what we’d get – we know you have your own opinions on the matter. Sound off in the comments!