OnePlus’s latest smartphone is easily its best yet, faster Wi-fi in the skies, Thailand’s bringing in ridiculous new laws for buying SIM cards, and if you want a second monitor while traveling, there’s a fold-up version coming soon.
All in this, the final Travel Tech News of 2017!
OnePlus Releases Its Latest Smartphone… and It’s Fantastic
Chinese smartphone maker OnePlus launched its latest model a couple of weeks ago, and the 5T is easily the company’s best device yet. In terms of specs, there aren’t that many changes from the previous OnePlus 5 (hardly a surprise, since it was less than six months old!), but the design is completely new.
The 5T has a sleek, edge-to-edge metal design like the Samsung Galaxy S8 or iPhone X, but in a device costing just under $500. It’s fast, with plenty of RAM and storage, and the company has significantly improved the low-light performance of the camera, which was one of the major complaints about the previous model.
There’s even a headphone jack, a rarity in late 2017. The only minor issue is a lack of waterproofing, but that’s really about it — for five hundred bucks, you get nearly all of the features of premium devices costing hundreds of dollars more.
Given that, it’s probably no surprise we’ve made it our top mid-range smartphone pick for 2017.
Emirates and Cathay Pacific Announce Faster Wi-fi in the Skies
In-flight Internet is, slowly but surely, moving away from the glacial speeds we’ve been used to in the past, towards a brighter (or at least, faster) future. Two major global airlines have both announced significant upgrades recently, although one will happen much sooner than the other.
First up, Cathay Pacific (and regional offshoot Cathay Dragon) will be outfitting its Boeing 777 and Airbus A330 fleet with Gogo’s speedy 2Ku service from the middle of next year.
On a rather longer timescale, Emirates said it’ll be using Inmarsat’s rival technology to bring 50Mbps Wi-fi to its Boeing 777X fleet — but don’t get too excited quite yet, since you won’t see it before 2020.
Thailand to Introduce Biometric Scanning for Buying SIM Cards. Yuck.
Buying a prepaid SIM card has long been super-easy in Thailand. I’ve done it in gas stations while waiting for my minivan driver to fill up the tank, at the airport in Bangkok once or twice, and at more 7-11’s around the country than I care to remember. In every case, I’ve just picked the package I wanted, handed over a few baht, and had a working SIM in a couple of minutes.
That’s all set to change this month, as the military government continues to erode privacy under the guise of enhanced security. From December 15, vendors are required to take a biometric scan (either face or fingerprint) from anyone wishing to buy a SIM card anywhere in the country.
Thailand joins places like Bangladesh, Pakistan, and Saudi Arabia in requiring this type of highly-sensitive information, but a spokesperson says “you can rest assured that all personal data will be kept private and safe.” Oh, ok, that’s totally fine then…
I’m planning to head back to Thailand early next year, and can’t wait to test out this new process in person.
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Want a Second Monitor on the Road? Try a Foldable Spud
One of the big trade-offs for digital nomads is choosing between a mobile lifestyle and a decent-sized screen. TMA contributor Pat sent through this report last week, pointing out the solution could well be putting a spud in your backpack.
For the Brits among you, he’s not suggesting lugging a potato around in your backpack — the SPUD he’s referring to is the Spontaneous Pop Up Display, a new foldable screen being developed by Arovia.
The basic premise is an ultra-portable device that has a 24″ display when unfolded, but collapses to about the size of a paperback novel, and weighs less than three pounds (1.4kg). It will run via mains power, or for 4-10 hours off its own battery.
It connects to laptops and mobile devices wirelessly or with an HDMI connector. You can also connect it to TV streaming gadgets like a Chromecast, Amazon Fire, or Roku.
Developed to work in normal lighting conditions, the screen is extremely durable. Unlike traditional glass displays, SPUD uses a flexible polymer that can be washed if it gets dirty, and is far less likely to break.
So, what are the downsides? Right now, the biggest one is price: at $424 for pre-orders, or $529 after launch, it’s not cheap. The resolution, too, isn’t as high as standard desktop monitors, at 1280 x 720 pixels.
Still, if you spend most of your working life on the road, and know you’re far more productive with two screens than one, it’s definitely worth a look.