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Laptops with much better battery life could be just months away, automatic check-in is becoming a thing, you can now share your location in real-time with WhatsApp, and there’s a special version of Facebook Messenger that you’re probably going to want to download.
Yep, that’s all in this month’s edition of Travel Tech News!
Are Laptops With Two-Day Battery Life Nearly Here?
What’s the biggest problem travelers have with their gadgets? Most of the time, it’s battery life — and if you work from the road, you’ll know laptops are definitely no exception. That, though, might be about to change.
At a recent event in Hong Kong, Microsoft and Qualcomm (the company that makes most of the chips inside smartphones) dropped some pretty big hints about what they see the future of laptops looking like. With quotes like “I don’t take my charger with me. I may charge it every couple of days or so. It’s that kind of battery life” being thrown around, maybe, just maybe, it’s time to start getting excited about mobile computing again.
The new laptops will be using Snapdragon 835 chipsets, the same as those inside premium smartphones today. That shows just how powerful these mobile chips have become — if they can handle full-blown Windows apps, while also running an emulator to make Windows work in the first place, and still not be out of juice after a couple of days, that’s honestly pretty amazing.
Of course, talk onstage is not the same thing as performance in the real world, and there are still many questions about (a) whether actually battery life will be anywhere near as good as promised, and (b) what limitations any of these new machines will have. Still, we shouldn’t have to wait long to find out — several major manufacturers are expected to announce Snapdragon-based laptops before the end of the year. Stay tuned!
Manual Check-In Too Much Work? You May Not Need To
I’ll be honest, when it comes to the annoying aspects of flying, online check-in isn’t at the top of my list. Lack of leg room, sure. People with carry-on bags bigger than they are, yup. Paying ten bucks for a miserable sandwich, definitely that. Clicking a couple of buttons to check in? Not so much.
Some airlines, though, have decided this is the problem that needs fixing. So, if you’re flying with US carrier Delta, and have its app installed on your phone or tablet, you’ll now get automatically checked in and given a boarding pass within 24 hours of your flight.
It’s not the only one, though — some European airlines have been doing automatic check-in for a while. I flew with Portuguese carrier TAP last month, and received an unexpected email the day before, telling me I’d been checked in along with a link to download my boarding pass. Lufthansa also does this, and there are undoubtedly others.
In my experience, automated seat allocation often results in spending several hours in a middle seat beside the toilets, so you’ll likely end up needing to log in and switch seats anyway. I guess anything that makes flying slightly less painful is welcome, though, so we’ll still call this slight progress.
Now, about that sandwich…
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Use WhatsApp? Now You Can Share Your Location in Real-Time
If you’re a regular WhatsApp user, you’ll likely already be familiar with the concept of “dropping a pin” to highlight a particular location to your contact(s). Maybe it’s where you’re standing, maybe it’s where you’d like to meet half an hour from now, whatever. It’s super-useful when traveling, especially if you’re all in an unfamiliar city, and I’ve used the feature regularly.
Since Facebook owns WhatsApp, it’s no surprise that it’s now ramping up the pin-dropping feature to be more like the Messenger app. In any individual or group chat, under the existing “Location” setting, there’s now a new “Share live location” option.
You can choose to share where you are for between 15 minutes and eight hours, and whoever you’re sharing with will see a map with your WhatsApp avatar showing on it as you move around.
It feels a little creepy, but hey, if you’re using Facebook’s various apps, the company probably already tracks your location anyway — and it’s definitely helpful when your travel buddies are running late and you’re trying to work out just how lost they are right now.
Good News: There’s a Less-Annoying Version of Facebook Messenger
Speaking of Facebook Messenger, the app’s been getting increasingly annoying to use over the last couple of years. Animated GIFs, filters for your selfies, Facebook Stories, and god knows what else — it’s all there, turning a simple chat app into some kind of bad portal for things most users don’t care about.
Realising that old phones and slow data connections can’t deal with all the extra bloat, the company has quietly released a “Lite” version of the Android app. It’s aimed mainly at users in developing countries, but comes with some big benefits for travelers.
To start with, it uses noticeably less data. If you’re roaming, that’ll save you money (or, if you’re on a free-but-throttled plan like T-Mobile’s One, speed everything up). Also, less bloat means less battery drain — and in a world where it’s hard to get a full day out of a smartphone battery when we’re traveling, every little bit helps. It also uses less storage space, which is always very welcome.
The main features people actually use, though, are still there. Text chat, voice calling, even stickers, all still work just fine. Since the app is aimed at helping users with slower, cheaper phones, the lack of an iOS version isn’t entirely surprising. For now, Android users can download the slimmed-down app here — it’ll happily live alongside the usual version.