Man on phone crossing street in Osaka

Travel Tech News, June 2018: The Cheap Smartphone Edition

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Google Fi finally adds a budget handset option for its global cell service, Nokia updates its popular range of low-cost Android handsets, we get our first look at Uber’s flying cars that look nothing like cars, and Gmail gets offline email support baked right in if you’re using Chrome.

That’s all in the June 2018 edition of Travel Tech News!

Hooray! Google Fi Will Finally be Available on a Budget Handset

Motorola Moto G6 front and back

Google Fi was a wonderful option for globetrotters when it first came out, and while $10/GB data in 170+ countries and territories isn’t the amazing deal it once was, it’s still a very good service for many travelers.

The problem has been limited handset options, with Fi only supported on a very small number of mid t0 high-priced smartphones, mostly those made by Google itself.

That’s all just changed, with the announcement last week of three new supported devices. The first two, LG’s confusingly-named G7 ThinQ and V35 ThinQ, are decent-enough phones at that same mid/high end of the market.

The third option, though? Why, it’s no other than the latest version of our favourite budget handset, Motorola’s new Moto G6. If you’re US-based and regularly travel internationally, this is a compelling money-saving option on both handset and service alike.

At the moment you can pre-order the G6 for $199 through the Fi website, with global coverage costing $20/month for calls and texts, and $10/GB for data.

Speaking of Budget Handsets, Nokia’s on a Roll

Noka 5.1 landscape phone

You might have thought Nokia was dead and gone, but the brand’s been making quite a comeback in the retro and budget phone market under new owners HMD. When I was in Malaysia recently, I couldn’t walk through a phone store without falling over a pile of low-cost Nokia devices with numerical names.

Last week, the company announced updates across the range, with the Nokia 2.1, 3.1, and 5.1 due to hit the shelves over the next couple of months. Recommended prices range from $115 at the low end, to $220 for the surprisingly-attractive 5.1 model.

The specs on the 2.1 Android Go version normally wouldn’t excite us much (1GB of RAM, 8GB of storage, low-end processor), but there’s one thing that stands out: a huge 4000mAh battery that should easily last a couple of days between charges. For a basic travel smartphone, that’s pretty compelling for under $120.

We’ll undoubtedly talk more about all of the devices once they actually start shipping, but if you’re in the market for a non-awful — and potentially even pretty good — Android handset for not a lot of money, you’ll want to keep an eye out for these new Nokias. Somewhat unusually for low-cost devices like these, at least one of them (the 2.1) is due for an official US release.

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Our First Look at Uber’s Flying Cars Shows They Look Nothing Like Cars

Uber’s been making noises for a while now about the flying car service it’s developing, but the world got its first glimpse of the prototypes at the company-run Elevate event last month. The biggest, not-in-any-way-surprising takeaway? Uber’s flying cars don’t look like cars at all.

Instead, they look as much like a drone or a fixed-wing helicopter as anything else, with eight stacked rotors (4×2) allowing the electric vehicle to take off and land vertically. That’ll be crucial for the cramped cities where the company plans to operate the so-called UberAir service: Los Angeles and Dallas-Fort Worth are optimistically slated for a 2023 commercial launch. Pun intended.

The four-person vehicles will take off from either ground level or dedicated launch towers, carrying up to four people at once. Initially piloted by humans, Uber expects they’ll ultimately be flown autonomously, and cost no more than a current UberX ride for the same distance.

Use Gmail on Chrome? Offline Email’s Now Built In

Loading Gmail screen

If you’re one of the millions of people who use the combination of Google’s desktop Chrome browser and Gmail email service, a recent update added a handy new feature: offline email. It’s been available in the past via a Chrome extension and other means, but having it built into the core product makes for easier installation and better support.

To enable it, just visit the Offline Settings section of Gmail (again, remember this only works in the desktop Chrome browser), and click the checkbox to turn it on.

After that, pick how far back you want to go (7, 30, or 90 days), and whether you want to download attachments as well. You probably do, especially if you want things like boarding passes and itineraries to be available when you don’t have Internet.

Finally, choose whether you’d like your offline email cache deleted when you log out of your Google account — useful on shared machines and when going through immigration, less so otherwise — and hit the Save Changes button. Give it a few minutes to sync up, and you’re good to go. Easy.

Images via MasashiWakui (Man on phone in city), Motorola (Moto G6 phone), Nokia (Nokia 5.1 phone), video via YouTube/CBS, Google/Gmail

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.

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