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The world’s smallest travel adapter is on its way, your phone camera just got even more useful, a portable monitor that’s truly portable, and awful Android phones are about to improve.
Yup, it’s Travel Tech News time again!
The ‘World’s Smallest Universal Travel Adapter’ Just Blew Through Its Funding Goal
As I’ve mentioned before, finding a travel adapter that doesn’t suck is surprisingly difficult. So many of them don’t fit properly, fall out of wall sockets, or take up more room in your bag than the gear you’re trying to power.
That last problem, at least, looks like it might be a thing of the past. The aptly-named MICRO has blown through its Kickstarter funding goal for ‘the world’s smallest travel adapter.’ If the product shots are anything to go by, it’s an accurate claim.
This thing is seriously tiny — 40 grams, and 6cm x 3.1cm x 1.8cm when folded up — but it’s still compatible with the typical ‘150+ countries’ of other universal adapters. It’ll deal with all input voltages and, unusually in a product this size, includes a 6amp fuse that the user can replace after a power surge.
There’s no USB socket, unfortunately, but that’s the only downside of what otherwise looks like a rare innovation in a typically-boring part of the travel tech industry. The campaign runs for another few weeks, and you can back the MICRO for $29 + shipping until it finishes.
Turn Your Phone Camera Into a Search Box
Google has played around with camera-driven search for a while now. At the company’s annual I/O conference last month, it announced that ‘Google Lens’ has had an overhaul, and will start being built into many of the company’s other products.
What does this mean? Well, it’ll differ by product, but the presentation gave a few examples that sound good:
- You’ll be able to point your phone at the little settings sticker on the bottom of most Wi-fi routers, and it’ll automatically join the network. No more typing random 16 character passwords in half a dozen times before eventually getting it right.
- Aim at a restaurant, and you’ll see opening hours, reviews, and other useful info. Point at a concert or movie poster, and you can add details to your calendar, or buy tickets.
- Translate menus, signs and other printed material just by aiming your phone at it.
- Fire up Lens within Google Photos, and you’ll get detailed information about what’s in each picture.
It remains to be seen how well any of this works in practice, of course, but it’s an interesting use of technology. Expect it to start showing up in Google’s apps later this year.
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Never Have Enough Screen Space on the Road? Check Out This Monitor
If you work from the road and need more screen space than your little laptop can provide, ASUS has come out with a new portable monitor that’s surprisingly, well, portable.
At 15.6″, the Zenscreen MB16AC (a catchy name if ever there was one) is a useful size for a second display, big enough to do serious work on, while staying small enough to fit in a backpack or suitcase. It’s remarkably lightweight, at just 780g, and is a mere 8mm thick.
The 1920×1080 pixel resolution is perfectly fine for getting work done, and it’s compatible not only with newer USB-C ports, but older USB-A ports as well.
The included Smart Case protects the monitor in transit, and acts as a stand when needed. Sticking the included Zenscreen pen (or any other pen you’ve got) into the hole on the side also props the monitor up, and it’ll automatically rotate to let you use it in portrait or landscape mode.
Not everyone needs a second monitor when they travel, of course, but those that do will welcome this announcement. It’s listed at $249 on Amazon.
Google’s Making It Easier to Use Crappy Phones When Traveling
If you’re a budget traveler, dropping the better part of a grand on a fancy new iPhone or Samsung Galaxy often doesn’t make much sense. The problem with spending less, though, is that while there are a few decent inexpensive phones out there, there’s also an awful lot of barely-usable garbage once you pay less than about two hundred bucks.
Google’s decided to do what it can to help the situation, with the announcement of Android Go. While it won’t give you a better camera or sharper screen, this new feature in the next version of Android will bring better performance to low-end devices.
If your phone has 1GB of memory or less, this new ‘lite’ mode will be automatically enabled. That’ll mean things like Data Saver being automatically turned on, to reduce bandwidth consumption and improve battery life, and optimized versions of Google apps like YouTube, Chrome, and others.
Those apps will use less memory, data, and storage space, and may include extra features as well — YouTube Go, for example, will let you download videos to view or show others later, saving their data allowance. Developers also have a new set of guidelines to follow for low-spec devices, which will hopefully bring more non-Google apps optimized for these kind of devices in coming years.
The measure is aimed at customers with cheap phones in developing countries — but if you’re a budget traveler with a bad phone, you’ll get to benefit too.