Fifty percent of back-to-school shopping was finished by Aug. 1, reports the shopping research firm Brand Key.

But for those who've procrastinated, Gizmo Guy is pleased to serve as your personal shopping assistant.

A bargain phone alternative.Don't want to send a loved one to class without a mobile communicator? If you're not into a "family plan," the a la carte prepaid service Ting offers a bargain option for lite users (young and not-so), which is especially cheap if you bring an "off-contract" (paid off) phone to the party.

Activating a Ting thing costs just $6 a month. Keep the talk under 100 minutes and pay a mere $3! $9 buys 2,000 texts. Surf the web lightly for $12 (500 MB).

Ting leases access to Sprint's CDMA network and an unspecified GSM network (reportedly T-Mobile). So it works with many a phone - almost any T-Mobile model, lots of AT&Ts, as well as Verizon LTE smartphones released on or after September 2012 and dual-band iPhones (5S, 5C, 6 series.) Full details at

Get a charge on. "Gee, mom, I meant to call. Then I forgot to plug in and recharge my phone."

That lame-o excuse loses all power if the kid is carrying a new Samsung 6/6S or Nexus 6 smartphone, because merely resting the mobile on a special induction pad wirelessly recharges the communicator.

Neater still are the dorm room-friendy Ikea night stands (Selje, Nordli, $59.99-$109.99) and work lamps ($69.99-$119) likewise featuring a built-in Qi-(pronounced "chee") standard induction charging station.

FYI: iPhones, the LG G3 and some older Samsungs can be Qi-enabled by wrapping the mobile in a special charging jacket, $10-$25 at

Convertibles. Slim in proportion, weight and (sometimes) price, the newest crop of two-in-one laptop convertibles offers a best-of-both-styles solution.

Open the screen-holding lid 90 degrees or so and it functions like an ultra modern laptop with both keyboard and touch screen control. Fully swivel the lid 180 degrees. Now the thing looks and operates as a tablet, with all keyboard buttons (on the back side) disabled. It also stands alone in an "upside down V" formation, for passive Netflix or YouTube viewing.

A mere $249 buys the nifty, 10.1-inch ASUS Flip C100 Chromebook convertible, fine for writing, Web surfing and movie streaming. But it's painfully short on apps (Google is working on that) and reliant on the "cloud" to store and deliver most content.

Primed for Windows 10 (with free in-store or at-home update), the convertible HP Spectre x360-13t Touch ($900) is Consumer Reports' newly top-rated "high end" laptop, while the happenin' Lenovo Flex 3 14-inch ($650) convertible is a CR best buy in the "sweet spot" mid-range. Acer's Windows 10-ready Aspire Switch 11 SW5-111-102R ($375) with detachable (so now it's a stand-alone) 11.6 screen earned CR's "best buy" in the budget realm.

Keyboard to the rescue. A good tablet (iPad Air 2, Samsung Galaxy Tab Pro 10.1, Amazon Fire HDX 8.9 or Google Nexus 9) can also handle school assignments reasonably well, if paired (by Bluetooth) with a Logitech K480 Multi-Device Keyboard ($49.99).

This multitasker holds both a tablet and a smartphone upright for reading and typing. It also wirelessly controls a desktop or laptop computer!

Echo again. Yes, we've touted the new, voice-activated, music playing Amazon Echo smart speaker ($199) before. But new enhancements make it even more essential to dorm life.

Voice "Alexa" (her name) "Flash Briefing" brings topic-customized news or game scores. Announce "Alexa set alarm for 7 a.m." and you'll never sleep through chem class. Well, at least not in bed.