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Russian government doubles down on internet restrictions, Uber and Lyft are trying to cut their wait times at US airports, Lenovo didn’t get the memo about folding screens, and Google’s new Pixel is the most exciting $400 phone for travelers we’ve seen in a long time.
Somehow it’s June already, and this is Travel Tech News!
Russia’s Internet Freedom Gets Even Worse
Russia hasn’t exactly been renowned for its free and unrestricted internet in recent years, and things have just got worse.
In a country that routinely blocks websites and bans most VPN services, President Vladimir Putin recently signed a new bill into law that will force local internet providers to route all traffic through a centralised, government-controlled network hub.
While it’s pitched as a defensive strategy to help guard against Russia being cut off from the global internet, it’s also a very convenient way for the government to monitor, and entirely stop, internet traffic whenever it wishes.
Coupled with the VPN ban, our advice to travelers in Russia is to limit their online time as much as possible once the new law goes into effect in November.
That’s especially true for anything involving personal or financial information, but in reality, it’s best to act as though all internet use is being monitored by the government. In reality, it probably is.
Uber and Lyft Trying New Approach at US Airports
Catching an Uber from the airport is generally preferable to dealing with rip-off taxi drivers, but the traffic congestion and general mayhem outside busy terminals aren’t exactly low-stress either. Both Uber and Lyft are trialing a new approach to the problem in the US, starting at Portland International (PDX).
When a rider requests a vehicle, the app generates a PIN code (four digits for Lyft, six for Uber) and displays it on the screen. Ride-sharing vehicles wait in the designated pickup area, and you simply show the PIN to the first driver in line.
The driver then enters the PIN, gets the journey details, and away you go as usual. It seems like a much better option than dozens of cars and people trying to find each other in a cramped pickup zone, and has been used at India’s Bangalore Airport and several major events in the past.
Don’t be surprised to see the PIN-based approach roll out at other US-based airports if the trials prove successful.
Lenovo Plans a Laptop With Folding Screen in 2020
The launch of phones with folding screens isn’t exactly off to a flying start, but that’s not stopping Lenovo from starting up the hype machine for its laptop with the same technology.
The new foldable device is due out sometime next year, and will be part of the company’s Thinkpad X1 line. Other than saying it’ll weigh under two pounds, be running a version of Windows, and that unfolded, it’s a 13.3″ screen (9.6″ in laptop mode,) Lenovo is staying pretty tight-lipped on the details.
That’s perhaps not a surprise for a device that could still be anything up to 18 months away from release, but one thing we do know: the prototype looks impressive, and incredibly futuristic.
Reading between the lines, it seems like you’ll have the option of using an on-screen keyboard or a detachable Bluetooth version with trackpad, along with a stylus for writing and drawing.
Done right, this could be a pretty great machine for travelers looking for a hybrid work and play device. Imagine having a big, wide screen for watching movies that folds up to the size of a small laptop when it’s time to work, and gets smaller again when you’re on the move.
Given what we’ve (not) seen from Samsung, I don’t really hold out much hope of perfection from the first version of any folding device, but you can bet I’ll be keeping a close eye on whatever actually emerges from the Lenovo lab next year.
Google’s New Pixel 3a Is The Best Value Phone for Travelers
A few years back, we were big fans of Google’s Nexus phones. Their sharp prices, solid specifications, and regular updates were hard to beat.
When the company switched the branding to Pixel, however, prices shot way up. As good as these phones have been, customers without the better part of a thousand dollars to spend have needed to look elsewhere.
Google returned to its roots last month with the Pixel 3a, a phone with the best bits of the high-end Pixel 3 at half the price. If you’ve got less than $500 to spend on a new phone for travel, this is now the one to buy. It’s as simple as that.
Available in two sizes, regular and XL, the Pixel 3a’s biggest claim to fame is its camera. With the same rear sensors and software as the class-leading Pixel 3, it takes easily the best photos of any mid-range smartphone.
Throw in a headphone jack, eSIM support, and regular updates for three years, and you’ve got one hell of a good device for the money. We talk (a lot) more about the Pixel 3a in our best mid-range phone recommendations, so if you’re in the market for a new travel phone, you’ll definitely want to check it out.