Phone taking photo in Dubai

Travel Tech News, January 2018: No More Smashed Screens?

  by Dave Dean4 Comments

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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

Airport travelers with 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

Person and moving train

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?

Smashed phone

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

Woman taking photo with phone

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.

Images via Tim GouwchuttersnapFabrizio Verrecchia, Dustin Main, and Ragnar Vorel 

About the Author

Dave Dean

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Founder and editor of Too Many Adapters, Dave has been a traveler for 20 years, and a geek for even longer. When he's not playing with the latest tech toy or working out how to keep his phone charged for just a few more minutes, he can probably be found sitting in a broken-down bus in some obscure corner of the planet.


  1. My house just burned down because a lithium battery (lipstick size) blew up and burned the house down. I barely made it out alive because it was so fast moving.

    A lithium battery blowing up in the luggage compartment would turn the airliner into a flaming ball. The plane wouldn’t be able to land that fast. Everyone would die.

    Lithium battery fires are no joke. The heat was so intense I got a thermal burn through my clothing and my hair melted. I’m still coughing up soot 3 weeks later.

    Once a battery burns down your house, while you are inside? You’ll think banning the battery on flights is a wise idea. Riding a rocket of flames isn’t anyone’s idea of a good time.

    1. Author

      Totally agree. It’s why I was vocal about the decision a few months ago about banning devices bigger than a phone from going in the cabin on certain flights to the US, and forcing them to go into the hold. It was just swapping one type of risk (terrorism) for another (fire in the hold).

  2. The only problem with Three is you need to have a UK credit card. I bought a sim at Rome airport to use for my 12 month trip in Europe. Found out I couldn’t top it up. They didn’t mention that when I bought the sim grrrr

    1. Author

      Sadly that’s not unique to Three when topping up online – I had the same issue with EE and other UK carriers. You need to top up in person with enough credit to renew your call/text/data package each month for the duration of your trip, which can definitely be an issue on longer trips.

      That said, they do say that the bulk of your use needs to be in the country of purchase, so I doubt you’d have been able to roam for a year with it.

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