Roaming fees within the EU continue their downhill slide, mounting every possible photographic accessory on your iPhone, eliminating first-world problems with a magnetic battery, and offline translation finally arrives on iOS… from an unexpected source.
All in this, the May 2016 edition of Travel Tech News!
Roaming Fees in Europe Keep Circling the Drain
Like anything involving 28 countries, countless bureaucrats and many large companies, it’s taken a long time for the idea of removing roaming fees within the EU to become a reality. We’re not quite there yet — complete abolition won’t happen for another year or so — but a big step got taken last weekend.
Roaming fees have been slashed to no more than €0.05/minute for outgoing voice calls, €0.02 for SMS, and €0.05/MB for data. In good news for travellers, there’s no distinction made between prepaid and postpaid customers. You should be able to buy a SIM card in any EU country, and roam to any other, at the above rates.
Of course, those are the maximum surcharges that can be added for roaming, not the maximum cost of making a call or using data. Most cell companies will just deduct the calls, texts and data from whatever package you bought, then add the surcharge, but make sure that’s the case before relying on your newfound roaming ability.
If you’re travelling within the EU for a while, you’ll also want to find out how to top-up from a different country, and anything else that works differently outside the country you bought the SIM card in.
Finally, it’s still worth checking whether the cell company you’re using offers their own roaming package. Many have started selling them for one or two euros a day, which could work out cheaper if you use your phone a lot. Still, regardless of the minor details, low (and eventually, no) cost roaming across close to 30 countries can only be a good thing. As always, we’re fans.
Helium, the iPhone Case for Serious Photographers
Have you ever thought to yourself “You know, I love the camera on my iPhone, but wish I could attach 17 other accessories so I could take even better photos?”
The answer is undoubtedly no, but that hasn’t stopped a Kickstarter campaign with exactly that feature from raising half its funding goal in just a few days.
The Helium Core (or Core+) case will be designed solely for the iPhone 6/6S and 6 Plus/6s Plus, with standard 1/4″ mounting sockets on all four sides. There will also be an integrated lens mount for your zoom, wide-angle and other needs. You’ll still retain access to all the phone’s usual ports and buttons.
Check out the campaign page for examples of how the case could be used. The company suggests it’ll be helpful for film-makers, journalists, photographers and travellers, attaching anything from tripods to dollies, car mounts to drones, and god knows what else.
If you’re serious about your travel photos and video, you can claim one of these from $108 at the moment.
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This Magnetic Battery Eliminates The Most First-World Problem Ever
So you’ve been out exploring all day, using your phone to read guidebooks, find your way, and upload over-processed photos to Instagram. You’ve still got a few hours before getting back to your hotel, but you’re already down to 5% battery.
You remembered to pack a portable charger — well done! — but you now have a cable and heavy battery hanging off the end of your phone every time you want to use it. Unbearable, right?
Well no, not really. If that’s the biggest problem on your vacation, take a moment to be thankful. Still, it is a bit annoying having to juggle phone, cable and battery whenever you need to glance down for directions, and fitting the whole ensemble in your pocket isn’t exactly easy.
Sure, you could buy one of those fancy Mophie cases with a built-in battery, but they aren’t cheap. For a more affordable option, a company has released a slimline magnetic battery that attaches to the back of your phone, and connects with a tiny cable.
It only has a 4000mAh capacity, but that’s enough to fully charge any smartphone once or twice, and get you through the rest of your travel day safe and sound.
Does anyone really need a MagicMount Powerbank? No, no they dont… but if you’re in the market for a new portable battery anyway, I guess even a first-world problem is still a problem. You’ll pay around $50 for the micro-USB version, and ten bucks more for the one with a Lightning cable.
Offline Translation Comes to iOS, Thanks to… Microsoft?!
I’ve lost track of how often I’ve been thankful for Google Translate on my travels. Menus, signs, bus timetables, asking for something in a language I don’t speak, the list goes on. The app is available on both iOS and Android, but only the latter has an offline mode.
You just download the language pack you need ahead of time, and then translate words and phrases without an Internet connection. Useful, especially when travelling somewhere you don’t have affordable (or any) access to mobile data.
Google’s showed no real interest in making that same feature available on iPhones and iPads, but help has come from an unexpected source. From the company every Apple owner loves to hate, Microsoft’s Translator app now has an offline mode for both Apple and Android. If you travel with an iOS device, you really should install it. Trust me, you’ll use it more often than you think.
There’s a full list of available language packs here. They’re quite large, so remember to download them on a decent Wi-fi connection if you can.