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Travel Tech News, June 2015: The “Let’s All Move to Spain” Edition

  by Dave Dean1 Comment


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Spain is bringing speedy, unlimited and free Wi-Fi to its airports, while Google announces a raft of handy new features in the next version of Android. Apple Maps finally gets public transport directions, and it’s time to uninstall Hola, a browser extension popular with travellers.

All this in this month’s Travel Tech News, for June 2015.

Next Version of Android Adds Handy Features for Travelers

Last week Google released the “developer preview” of the next version of Android. This gave us the first chance to see what lies in store for travellers with the new operating system. There are plenty of features we like, but some of the most interesting aspects for those on the move are:

– Doze, a battery-saving technique that uses the motion sensors in your phone to determine when it is inactive. If the device hasn’t moved in a while, this new feature puts apps and standard notifications to sleep and turns off the network connection.

It won’t activate when the phone is charging, and alarms you’ve set will still work. Early estimates suggest you can get up to twice as long out of a charge with Doze activated. For those of us who forget to connect the charger the night before a long flight (ahem), this could be a godsend.

– Android Pay replaces Google Wallet, and expands it into a much more useful payments system. Similar to Apple Pay, it promises to let you tap and pay direct from your smartphone at 700,000+ stores in the US (and internationally, at some point).

– Google Chrome on Android will get much smarter about poor Internet connections. If your connection sucks, you might see colourful squares instead of image previews in a search result, for instance. Web pages will load up to four times faster and use up to 80% less data.

Given how often I’ve sat there waiting forever for things to load on horrible hostel Wi-Fi, this is one of the features I’m most looking forward to.

– There’ll be support for USB-C, the new charging and data transfer cable first seen in Apple’s latest Macbook. One fascinating aspect? A device running Android M will be able to receive power from, or send power to, any other USB-C device it’s plugged in to.

You’ll be able to charge your phone from your tablet, for instance, or get emergency juice from your friend’s device before splitting up for a few hours. That’s just cool.

Android M, as the next edition is currently known, is due for release in the third quarter of this year.

Free Unlimited Wi-Fi Coming to All Spanish Airports

Madrid airport

I spent a mediocre few hours waiting for a delayed flight from Spain’s Malaga airport recently, a wait not improved by the time-limited Wi-Fi.

Until now, visitors to 28 of the country’s airports got just half an hour of free Internet before handing over their credit card details.

Fortunately, the Spanish airport authority recently announced a significant upgrade. All 46 airports in the country should have unlimited free Wi-Fi for customers by the end of the year.

The statement (in Spanish) said a vendor should be chosen by October, with service to start two months later. The new Wi-Fi network will be four times faster than the existing one. Given the largely unusable speeds I experienced in Malaga, that’s very welcome.

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Yay! Apple Maps Will (Finally) Include Transit Directions

Apple Maps

If you’re an Apple Maps user, it’s time to rejoice. Your favourite navigation app will soon include public transport directions, at least in a few selected cities.

It’s not before time, as Google Maps has had this information globally available for years, but it’s a welcome change nonetheless.

Personally, I find myself using the public transport aspect of Google Maps all the time in unfamiliar cities. I rarely know whether to take a bus or metro to my destination, or whether such things even exist, never mind which lines to use, where to change and when they leave.

Without that information, I’d have to try to piece together a route from unfriendly local transport company websites instead. No thanks.

When iOS 9 is released in September or October, Apple Maps users will be able to enjoy the same simplicity. Well, if they’re travelling to one of the few initial cities, at least.

Let’s hope it gets a much more widespread rollout soon after.

Using Hola to Access Shows Overseas? You Might Want to Rethink That

Hola

Hola is a free web proxy that lets travellers access (for example) their favourite shows in the US while travelling elsewhere in the world. Essentially it fools a destination website like Netflix into thinking you’re still located in the US. This means the usual geographical blocks don’t apply.

Unfortunately, while Hola provides a useful service, it’s turned out to be particularly shady and insecure. It’s recently emerged that Hola customers have their connections sold as ‘exit nodes’ on a proxy system they have no control over.

In plain English, this means using Hola opens up your Internet connection for purposes that you may not condone, could be illegal and you almost certainly aren’t aware of. Until recently, the terms of service barely mentioned this fact — and not in enough detail for even savvy users to understand what was going on.

Of course, if you’re travelling and using hotel Wi-Fi, you may not particularly care what else is being done with that connection. Unfortunately, the fun doesn’t end there — it’s very easy to track Hola users across the Internet, even after a reboot.

Even worse, some versions of the Hola app and browser extension are riddled with security holes. These allow hackers to run code on the computers of people using the service. That’s bad. Very bad.

All in all, you’d just be a lot better off if you uninstalled Hola and never used it again. That’s definitely our recommendation.

Images via Google, Eole Wind, Apple and Hola

About the Author
Dave Dean

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.

Comments

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    […] home and finally being able to access netflix, hulu, and amazon instant video, i am super sad that hola is apparently super shady. anyone out there more tech-savvy than i am have […]

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