The holiday shopping season is in full swing. If you are looking for a present for the handheld-enthusiast in your life, there are plenty of options. In fact, there are so many options it can be intimidating if you aren’t an experienced handheld user yourself. And the fact that many accessories will work with only a single type of handheld can make shopping even more challenging. That’s why I compiled this collection of gift suggestions for any handheld user, no matter what device they use.
Still, when it comes to buying a handheld-related gift, knowing something about the handheld help a lot. You don’t want to ask a bunch of questions if you’re trying to keep your gift a secret but the most important thing you need to know whether it is a Palm OS, Pocket PC, or BlackBerry model. These are the three main types of handhelds, and knowing which type you are buying for is important. Fortunately, you can find out with just a quick glance at the handheld in question. Every handheld has the name of the manufacturer on it somewhere. If it is made by palmOne or Sony, it is a Palm OS model. If it is made by HP, Dell, or Toshiba, it is a Pocket PC. The BlackBerry is even easier; it will say “BlackBerry” on the front. This isn’t every handheld maker, but it is the vast majority.
Sadly, if the person on your list uses a BlackBerry, I’m going to suggest you drop the idea of getting them a handheld-related gift. These devices don’t have memory card slots or touch screens, and there isn’t a lot of third-party software available, which doesn’t leave you very many options on what to get them.
Almost all Palm OS and Pocket PC models have a slot that allows an external memory card to be inserted. These cards are used to store additional files and applications. If you know someone with a handheld and haven’t a clue what to get them, it is tough to go wrong with a memory card, as just about everyone can use one of these, even if they already have one or more. As the saying goes, you can never be too rich, too good looking, or have too much Storage space.
However, it isn’t as simple as one might hope. There are several kinds of memory cards and no handheld can use all of them. However, the safest bet is to buy a Secure Digital card, generally called an SD card. This will work in most handhelds.
If the person uses a Sony Clie, though, you need to get a Memory Stick. Sadly, as I said, BlackBerries don’t have memory card slots.
How big a card should you get? The best answer to that is “As big as you can afford.” If you just want a stocking stuffer, you can pick up a 64 MB SD card for about $20. Or if you want to spend more, Shopper.com shows a few places where you can get a 1 GB SD card for under $100.
While we’re on the subject of cost, I highly recommend you do your shopping for memory cards on the Web. You local electronics store offers them, but they are much less expensive on the Web.
There is a ton of software available for Palm OS and Pocket PC handhelds. This includes everything from business applications to role-playing games. However, a lot of this is available only by electronic download, which presents a challenge for someone who wants to give it as a gift.
But don’t despair, a growing number of stores sell handheld software on their shelves. I’ve seen racks of handheld applications in both CompUSA and Office Max and I’m sure there are plenty more. This gives you something you can wrap and give as a gift. Plus, these packages generally have both the Palm OS and Pocket PC version of the applications, which means you don’t have to worry about what kind of handheld they will be used on. Unfortunately, because the applications generally come on SD card, this excludes Sony models.
The prices for these range between $30 and $50 and you can go for a productivity application like the Oxford American Dictionary and Thesaurus, or a game like Atari Retro.
Also, Astraware sells several of its most popular game titles in boxed CD versions. You can find these on the Astraware web site (www.astraware.com).
Accessories and Peripherals
Buying accessories for a handheld user presents a special challenge. Almost all of these work only with a few handhelds. So if you want to get, for example, a hardcase or a screen protector for someone, you have to know exactly what model of handheld he or she uses. Because of this, I’d suggest you avoid trying to buy most types of accessories to give as gifts unless you are an experienced handheld user yourself.
Another possibility is a stylus/pen combination. These are regular pens that also can be used with the touch screen on any handheld. I’ve seen these for sale in just about every store that sells handhelds. You can also find them online at StylusCentral (www.StylusCentral.com), PDA Panach (www.PDAPanach.com), and others. This is a good choice if you’re just looking for a small gift.
If you are thinking about buying someone his or her first handheld as a present, I’d suggest you look for something in the $200 – $250 range. You can definitely find models for less (like the $150 palmOne Zire 31), but for $200 or so you get a lot more handheld.
There are quite a few models in this price range and they are all pretty good deals. This includes the Dell Axim X30, the palmOne Tungsten E, and the HP iPAQ rz1715. Brighthand has reviews of most of these models and you can find the lowest prices for them at Shopper.com
If the person you are buying for already has a handheld, I strongly recommend you talk with them about what they want in a new model before making a purchase. Odds are they already have their eye on model, or at least have some opinions on the features they would like in a new handheld.
The Last Resort
Picking out the right handheld-related gift isn’t easy, especially if you’re not a handheld user yourself. If you just don’t know what to get the person on your list, a gift certificate is always good.
You can buy one of these online from Handango (www.handango.com), and the recipient can make his or her own choice from thousands of software titles.
MobilePlanet (www.mobileplanet.com) also offers gift certificates. This online retailer offers all kinds of handhelds and accessories.