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Apple’s getting into the noise-canceling game, the BBC launches a dark web version of its news site, using local SIM cards in Indonesia will get harder next year, and DJI releases a new drone that fits in your pocket and flies for half an hour.
It’s time for the penultimate Travel Tech News of 2019!
Apple’s Beats and Airpods Go Pro, Add Noise Cancelation
One of the criticisms of Apple’s earbuds and headphones in the past has been their lack of noise isolation. The Airpods in particular blocked out virtually no ambient sound, making them barely usable in noisy environments and terrible for travel days.
The company announced new “Pro” versions of both the Airpods and the Beats Solo headphones last month, bringing active noise cancelation to these models for the first time.
Early reviews of both versions have been positive, lauding the sound quality and the effectiveness of the noise cancelation, even on the Airpods. It works better on the headphones, of course, but that’s hardly a surprise. Neither is quite “best in class,” but they’re close.
You’ll get around 4.5 hours out of a single charge of the Airpod Pros, which is a bit less than competing models like Sony's WF-1000XM3. You’ll still get over a day of playback before you also drain the charging case, though, so it’s not a huge problem for most people.
The Beats Solo Pro is an altogether more refined pair of headphones than the bass-heavy, overpriced versions of the past. They’re still not cheap (hardly surprising for an Apple product,) but this time around it’s easier to justify the cost.
Sound quality is good, as is the battery life: 22 hours with ANC turned on, up to 40 without. It needs to be, mind you, since there’s no headphone jack or cable and the charging port is Lightning, not USB-C. If you want to listen via a wire, you’ll need to buy an expensive adapter to do it.
Still, both of these new models make Apple’s personal audio gear a much better option for travelers. If you’ve got the money, especially if you’re in the Apple ecosystem already, they’re worth a look.
BBC’s New Dark Web News Site Helps Get Around Censorship
The BBC has a reputation as a trusted, independent news organisation. In most of the world that’s seen as a benefit, but a few autocratic governments have a different view.
Countries like China, Vietnam, and Iran attempt to block access to the BBC news website, meaning that without the use of a VPN, citizens and travelers aren’t able to access any of the articles hosted there.
In an attempt to get around this censorship, the BBC announced last month that it had launched a dark web version mirror of the site. Using the anonymous Tor browser and a special bbcnewsv2vjtpsuy.onion web address, you can access the international version of BBC News even when the government prefers you don’t.
Foreign language versions are also available, including the Persian, Russian, and Arabic services.
Indonesia’s About to Make Life Difficult for Connected Travelers… Again
Back in April 2018, Indonesia’s government implemented new registration rules that made using local SIM cards more difficult for travelers.
Two years later, it’s doubling down on those restrictions, and the implications for foreign visitors could be even worse. Apparently in an attempt to curb “illegal importation,” every phone not legally purchased in Indonesia will be automatically blocked on local cell networks from April 2020.
To get it working again, you’ll need to register the unique IMEI number and (here’s the kicker) pay a tax of 17.5% of the original purchase price. I can imagine that going down super-well with someone who’s already dropped $1000+ on the latest iPhone Pro.
There will apparently be an exception for tourists who are roaming with overseas providers. If you want to save money with a local SIM (and have access to a local number,) however, you’ll need to register the phone.
Right now there’s some confusion about how that registration process will work, and whether the 17.5% tax will be applied to foreign visitors. Hopefully things will become clearer in the next six months!
DJI’s New Pocketable Drone Looks Ideal for Travelers
DJI announced a new model in its Mavic range last week, and if you’re thinking about traveling with a drone, it’s worth checking out.
To start with, the appropriately-named “Mavic Mini” is tiny. Palm-sized and weighing just 249g (8.8oz), it’s so small that it doesn’t even need to be registered with the FAA in the US.
Despite its diminutive dimensions, the specs are pretty good. Shooting video at up to 2.7k/30fps, you’ll get around half an hour of flying time out of a single battery, at a range of up to 4km (2.5 miles.)
You won’t get all of the fancy collision-avoidance technology found in the larger Mavic models, but still, there’s a lot to like about a sub-$400 drone from a major manufacturer that’s easy to fly, takes decent video, and fits in your pocket.
The Mavic Mini is available for pre-order on the DJI site now, with units shipping out next week.
Images via Apple (woman with earbuds, Beats Solo Pro), BBC (BBC news website screenshot), Sushuti (Bali sunset), DJI (Mavic Mini drone)