Interesting new smartphones as far as the eye can see in Spain, a fancy new cable that fits both Lightning and micro-USB ports, high-speed Internet in all US national parks (for better or worse), and automated online check-in for people too lazy to do it themselves.
All in the March edition of Travel Tech News. Let’s go!
New Phones As Far As the Eye Can See in Barcelona
Towards the end of last month, the world’s tech journalists and manufacturers descended on Barcelona to drink sangria, eat tapas and occasionally check out what was happening at Mobile World Congress. The event served as the launching ground for a range of interesting new smartphones, some of which are particularly useful for travellers.
The Samsung Galaxy S7 and S7 Edge continue the company’s tradition of making super-fast and expensive premium phones, and bring back two much-loved features: water resistance, and a micro-SD slot for extra storage. The camera, again, looks likely to be among the best you’ll find on any smartphone.
The LG G5 is pretty fascinating. As well as high-end processor and memory specs, it’s one of the very few modular phones you’ll find. Called “friends”, modules at launch include a replaceable battery, hi-fi sound, and dedicated camera grip, zoom and shutter buttons. The company, and third-party manufacturers, will undoubtedly add new modules if the phone takes off.
Unlike many smartphone makers, Sony has decided to focus on the features it thinks customers really want — better battery life and camera quality — rather than trying to shoehorn a million things into the same device.
Its new Xperia X and X Performance devices have a 23MP camera with a hybrid autofocus system for better shots of moving targets, and two day battery life. They’re thin, have a 5″ HD display (yay for a new phone model that isn’t enormous!), and a micro-SD slot for more storage space. The Performance model also has a waterproof case — and I’m always a fan of that.
There’s no release date currently for the Sony models, but the S7 has just started shipping, and the G5 will be out next month. Exciting times!
First Dual Lightning/Micro-USB Cable Hits Kickstarter
For travellers who just can’t deal with the idea of carrying an extra couple of ounces of weight on their next trip, this Kickstarter campaign will be right up your alley.
Avoid the unbearable anguish of having to keep two different cables in your bag — instead, charge anything with a micro-USB or Lightning port from the same LMcable. Insert it one way to charge your Apple devices, and the other to power most other mobile device.
Putting the sarcasm aside for a minute, there is value in something like this. Rather than carrying spare cables for both your iPhone and camera, for instance, just keep one of these in your suitcase.
If you’re out exploring a new city with friends, you can ride to the rescue when their gadgets go flat, regardless of whatever you use yourself. As someone with an Android phone whose girlfriend uses Apple devices and never remembers to charge them, that’s a very real scenario.
As far as charging cables go, it’s quite stylish, with leather exterior and matching strap to keep it neatly wrapped. You’ll pledge around $15 for one at the moment, and given it’s already raised 30 times its campaign goal with three weeks to go, it’s pretty safe to say this will be happening.
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All US National Parks to Have High-Speed Internet by 2018
Despite having billions of dollars of deferred maintenance programs, the US National Park service (NPS) has decided it’s important to keep its visitors connected. After all, what good is that elusive sighting of a white wolf if you can’t Instagram it as soon as possible, right? Right?
As a result, NPS has committed to providing high-speed Internet in every national park throughout the United States by 2018. Fortunately, service will be limited to areas that are already developed, rather than digging up meadows and nailing routers to trees in the back-country.
The stated goal is to provide park-specific information to visitors, but there’s a secondary benefit: engaging with millennials. Part of the NPS mission includes providing “enjoyment, education and inspiration [for] this and future generations,”and let’s face it, technology is a big part of how millennials and younger generations enjoy and learn about pretty much anything.
That said, given the choice between hiking well-maintained trails in Yosemite and updating my Facebook status… well, I know which I’d prefer.
Automatically Checking in For Your Flight Is Now a Thing
While checking in for flights ahead of time is something I rarely bother with, there are plenty of people who do. If you’ve travelling with just carry-on luggage, with a mobile boarding pass or access to a printer, being able to select a seat and skip the check-in lines at the airport are a definite bonus.
On the rare occasions I’ve done so in the past, clicking an email link and entering a few details never seemed particularly onerous — certainly not compared to the fifteen hours in an economy seat that followed it, at least. Lufthansa apparently disagrees, however, and have developed the AirlineCheckins site to automate the process.
The idea is that you create an account on the system, save your details and seat preferences, then either forward existing booking confirmations or use an email address provided by the system when buying future tickets.
The site detects when check-in opens for your flight on 100+ medium to large airlines, and does it all for you, typically within the first minute. The boarding pass is forwarded on to you by email and/or SMS, and away you go.
Is this something the world can’t live without? Probably not. Still, it’s a free service, at least for now, and might save you a few minutes and get you a better seat on your next flight. There are far worse travel products out there.