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Google Fi introduces an unlimited data plan with a difference, your next hotel porter could be a robot, know the speed of a Wi-fi network before you try to join it, and the future of video games could be good news for travelers.
It’s Travel Tech News time!
Google Fi: Now With Unlimited Data
Google’s Project Fi was a bit of a revelation when it first came out in 2015. If you had the right kind of phone, 1GB of data would cost you $10, whether you were using it at home in the United States, or in any of 100+ other countries around the world.
Since then, though, Fi has kinda languished (not unusual for a Google product, sadly). Pricing and features haven’t changed much, while competitors have been upping their game. That ten bucks a month, which seemed reasonable even for domestic use three years ago, now looks pretty expensive for heavy data users in particular.
Last month the company introduced Bill Protection, an unlimited data plan with a difference. Once your monthly bill hits $80 (the $20 base cost plus 6GB of data), additional data doesn’t add to the cost. If you use less, you’ll still pay the regular rate — in other words, that $80 is a maximum price, not a minimum one.
You’ll get the new bill protection whether you’re using data at home or abroad, although Google does say it’ll start slowing speeds once you hit 15GB for the month. If that’s a deal breaker, you can keep paying $10/GB above 15GB to bring speeds back to normal.
So, if you’re the kind of person who uses a lot of data some months and not so much in others, and have a supported phone (Moto X4, or Google’s Nexus 5x, 6P, Pixel, or Pixel 2), Project Fi may well be worth another look.
Hotel Staff to Become Even More Robotic. Literally.
The annual CES electronics trade show was held in Las Vegas last month, and it had the usual collection of weird and not-so-wonderful product announcements that, based on past experience, have about a 50% chance of ever seeing the light of day.
One of the ones that might, if only because of the company behind it, is LG’s pair of new robots aimed directly at the hotel service industry. Named CLOi (no, I don’t know why), there’ll apparently be both a Serving Robot and a Porter Robot, to take care of some of the basic tasks that hotel guests require each day.
The serving model will deliver food, drink, and other items to customers, while the porter version is designed to deal with express check-in and check-out, as well as carry suitcases to and from hotel rooms.
A few hotels are already trialing similar robots from other manufacturers, so it’ll be interesting to see whether LG can gain a foothold in this emerging area, and more importantly, whether travelers would rather deal with harried staff or stoic robots in the hotels of the future.
Android Now Tells You How Bad a Wi-Fi Network Is Before You Even Join It
In a small win for travelers struggling to find a Wi-fi network fast enough to load email before the end of time, the latest Android Oreo update includes a neat little feature.
After Android 8.1 installs on your phone or tablet, you’ll notice a subtle change when you check out the list of available Wi-fi networks. Underneath any open (ie, not password-protected) network, you’ll now see a brief description of how fast Google thinks your connection will be: Very Fast, Fast, OK, or Slow.
While knowing the approximate speed of a network doesn’t do anything to make it faster, at least it’ll avoid wasted time connecting to glacial Wi-fi. Next time you’re thinking about ordering a coffee and getting a bit of work done in a cafe, remember to glance at your phone before you line up at the counter.
Streaming Your Video Games Is Now a Thing
If you’re like me and enjoy playing the occasional video game, you’ll likely already know how difficult it is to find a slim, lightweight laptop with enough power to run the latest releases. Inbuilt graphics cards just don’t have the grunt, but dedicated cards add cost, size, and cooling requirements.
Graphics card maker NVIDIA has come out with a new approach, its Geforce NOW service essentially doing all of the heavy processing work in the cloud and streaming the result over the Internet to you. The end result? You can play even the most demanding of games on almost any old laptop you happen to own.
It’ll absolutely be the future of gaming, but for now, there’s still one major downside for travelers: your Internet connection needs a 25Mbps download speed or greater. You’re lucky to get a quarter of that in most hotels and cafes, although might have more luck in Airbnb apartments or countries like South Korea where very high-speed Internet is standard.
Regardless, the service is currently in free beta (unsurprisingly there’s a waitlist) for North America and Europe, and will run on most MacBooks and almost any Windows machine you’re likely to be carrying.