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Airlines don’t want your smart luggage onboard, Google Maps gets more useful on public transport, smashed phone screens may become a thing of the past, and UK mobile operator Three gets even better for travelers.
It’s Travel Tech News time again, in our first post for 2018. Happy New Year!
US Airlines Start Banning Smart Luggage
It was probably only a matter of time. In an unwelcome Christmas gift to their customers, American Airlines, Delta, and Alaska Airlines announced that as of January 15, luggage with “integrated lithium-ion batteries” can no longer be taken onboard.
Citing safety concerns, the airlines said unless the battery is able to be removed, the smart luggage that contains it can’t be used. That applies to both checked and carry-on bags, since there’s always a small chance that the latter may end up in the hold due to overcrowding or other reasons.
Passengers and smart luggage manufacturers have been unsurprisingly vocal in their disappointment, but with lithium-ion batteries in checked bags having long been cited as a potential fire hazard, there’s no sign of the airlines backing down so far.
For now, at least, if you’re taking a trip on one of those airlines and plan to take your smart luggage with you, check it carefully. If the battery can’t be removed, you’ll be out of luck after the middle of this month.
Google Maps Gets Better on Public Transport
While Google Maps has long been the most reliable navigation app for travelers, it always felt a bit limited on public transport. Rather than the step-by-step details you get while driving, it just had a map and a flat list of instructions for bus and metro stops. For me, at least, that meant checking my phone all. the. time, especially when on an unfamiliar route.
After an update shipped last month, that’s no longer the case. After selecting public transport directions as usual, there’s a new “start” button available. Tap that, and you’ll now see the next stage in your journey available as a sticky notification.
Even if your phone is locked, you can see at a glance what’s coming up, and scroll through the other steps on your journey via a pair of little arrows. That same information is available in the top notification bar.
Perhaps most usefully, you’ll get a popup alert (including a vibration, if you’ve enabled it) as you approach each step. That’s super-useful on a bus or busy metro — even if your phone’s in your pocket, you’ll be told it’s time to get off.
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Saying Goodbye to Smashed Phone Screens?
There’s nothing quite like that sinking feeling when you drop your phone and hear a distinctive crack as it hits the ground. Replacing the screen typically costs hundreds of dollars — and that’s assuming you’re anywhere near a repair centre at the time.
A student at the University of Tokyo may have accidentally found an answer while working on a new type of glue. Cracks in glass made from the new “polyether-thioureas” polymer can be repaired at room temperature, simply by pushing it back together by hand for less than a minute. The glass returns to full strength after a couple of hours.
We’ve seen this sort of approach before with certain types of plastic and rubber, but never with glass. Being able to quickly fix a broken screen — especially if you could do it yourself — would be a huge bonus for phone owners. There’s a big difference between lab work and the production line, of course, but this is one invention I’m really hoping sees the light of day.
Three Improves International Roaming Yet Again
Mobile operator Three has long been the best choice for frequent travelers from the UK, offering free international roaming to its customers across dozens of countries. Even when other companies were forced to follow step across the European Union last year, Three continued to include countries elsewhere in the world on most of its plans.
Now, the list of destinations has expanded yet again. Everyone on pay-as-you-go (ie, prepaid) plans, and many postpaid customers, can now use their domestic call, text, and data allowances in 71 other destinations around the world.
The latest update is focused mainly on Central and South America, adding Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Nicaragua, Panama, Peru, and Uruguay. Vietnam has also been added, for those heading to South East Asia.