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Foldable phones are here and surprisingly non-awful, using public transport is getting easier in Europe, many airlines are doing a terrible job of securing your personal data, and lithium batteries are now officially banned in checked luggage on US airlines.
Yep, it’s time for more Travel Tech News!
Foldable Phones: The Future is Now-ish.
While rumors of foldable phones have been circulating for at least a year, up until now none of them had seen the light of day. That all changed recently at Barcelona’s Mobile World Congress trade show, and the future looks… pretty weird.
First out of the gate was Samsung, with its Galaxy Fold. Costing a touch under $2000, the Fold has a 4.6″ display on one side that’s used in phone mode, and a 7.3″ screen on the other that opens up into a tablet. It’s due for release on April 26.
Not to be outdone, Huawei announced its breathtaking(ly-expensive) $2600 Mate X, with a single 8″ screen that folds in two for phone use. It seems a better design, but since the plastic display is on the outside of the device, there are real questions about its durability.
Oppo chipped in with a similar-looking prototype, albeit with a fascinating “bike-chain” style hinge. LG has taken a completely different approach with its V50 ThinQ, letting you connect a second 6″ screen as needed, and Motorola may be releasing a foldable device of its own later this year.
As interesting as these combination devices could be for travelers, at least when prices descend from the stratosphere, I wouldn’t personally be buying the first generation of any of them. With a bit of luck, though, they’ll just be the tip of the iceberg for foldable gadgets.
The extra size and weight of a phone/tablet hybrid is likely offputting for many customers used to thin smartphones, but what about combining a laptop and a tablet instead? Done right, you’ll get all the benefits of both, in one physical device that’s smaller, lighter, and better than today’s convertibles.
After years of boring stagnation in smartphone and laptop design, 2019 already looks much more interesting. Exciting times ahead!
Using Public Transport Is Getting Cheaper and Easier in European Cities
Public transport in major European cities is often the best way to get around, but it’s not always easy for travelers. Language barriers, non-integrated ticketing, and lack of consistency often make things complicated for first-time visitors.
In Berlin, an app scheduled for release in summer will integrate the city’s different modes of transport into one place. Rather than needing separate apps for the metro, ride sharing, bike rental, taxis, etc, you’ll be able to plan journeys and buy tickets across the various platforms from the Jelbi app.
Taking a different approach, journey planning app Citymapper is adding a travel subscription service for London. Using its own contactless card, users can subscribe to a discounted weekly inner-city Tube pass, with or without access to bike and ride sharing.
There’s no long-term commitment — you’re charged by the week and can cancel whenever you like. Citymapper has big plans for the service, including expansion across the Tube network, adding a wide range of other transport options, and being able to use the card in other European cities.
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Several Airlines Aren’t Securing Your Personal Data Properly. Yay.
You know those handy links that airlines email you to quickly check in for an upcoming flight? Turns out many of them risk exposing your personal information due to poor security practices. So that’s nice.
Southwest, Air France, Jetstar, Vueling, and others have all been called out by a security researcher for embedding customer information in unencrypted, reusable URLs. In some cases, the links allow modifications to seat allocations and checked bags, or changing the flight booking entirely.
The risk only exists when using public Wi-Fi and other insecure open networks, so as usual, we recommend using a VPN for anything involving personal data.
It’s Official: No More Lithium Batteries in Checked Bags
You’d be forgiven if you thought it had happened already, but it’s now official: US regulatory bodies have banned the transport of lithium-ion batteries in the cargo hold of passenger aircraft.
The FAA has been strongly recommending this approach to airlines since 2017 due to the fire risk, and many of them had implemented a ban already. As of now, it’s no longer optional for flights to, from, or within the United States.
As a result, if you’re planning to take a device containing a lithium-ion battery on your flight, it’ll need to be in your carry-on. It’ll also need to be under whatever capacity limit has been set by your airline, typically around 100 watt-hours.
As a side note, cargo-only flights can still carry lithium-ion batteries in the hold, so long as they’re not holding more than 30% capacity. Looks like we’re going to have to charge our new gadgets a little longer when we first get them!