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Exciting new laptop and phone announcements coming out of European trade show, you’ll soon be able to text your frustrations at your airline, and Google’s giving you more options for flights and accommodation searches yet again.
It’s Travel Tech News Time again. Boom.
Hold On! New Laptops Are Coming
There’s a big electronics trade show on in Berlin at the moment, which means the tech press is flooded with new product announcements. Intel recently released a new chipset, so at a minimum, we’re seeing updated versions of favourite models like Dell’s XPS 13, promising faster speeds and longer battery life at the same price.
Several manufacturers are going the extra step, though, announcing more major refreshes, or entirely new machines. One of the most interesting so far is the Acer Switch 7 Black Edition, which looks like a strong competitor to Microsoft’s Surface tablet hybrid.
Like the Surface, it’s expensive — but it’s even better looking, with higher specifications. Somehow, despite including a dedicated graphics card and more powerful CPU, it’ll run silently — there’s no fan inside, despite the inevitable extra heat.
For a more affordable hybrid tablet option, take a look at the Lenovo Miix 520. It’s a much-updated version of the previous 510 model, and should be significantly quicker as well. Prices will start at $999 including a keyboard and pen, which sounds reasonable if it lives up to its specifications. Keep an eye on the reviews once it comes out next month!
Not to be left out, Asus has updated its Flip range of convertible laptops. The gorgeous Flip S is under 11mm (0.43 inches) thick, with pricing starting around $1100. A larger 14″ convertible model was also announced, with dedicated graphics, and plenty of RAM and CPU power. Thin bezels make it only slightly larger than a standard 13″ laptop, so for some travelers, it’ll be worth the size/performance trade-off.
And Don’t Forget the Phones
Samsung announced the Galaxy Note 8 last week, the replacement for last year’s ill-fated Note 7. If you’re into huge phones, it’s a nice-enough device, but personally I’d be spending my money on LG’s new V30 instead. Aiming fairly and squarely at the Galaxy S8, LG’s somehow turned a phone with a 6″ screen into an attractive device that normal humans can hold.
LG’s dropped the gimmicks of the previous model (did anyone really want that second screen?), and replaced them with features that people will actually use. It’s water and dust-resistant, with wireless charging, and a gorgeous OLED screen. The fingerprint sensor is in a sensible place (unlike on the S8), and based on the specs, the phone should maintain its reputation for having a quality camera and top-notch photo creation.
Motorola also announced the Moto X4, a solid mid-range phone with dual cameras and good weatherproofing, while with the Experia XZ1, Sony continues its strategy of regularly releasing expensive phones with unusual features like 3D scanning and super-slow-mo video. They’re all due out later this month or next, and Google’s highly-anticipated Pixel 2 is also likely to show up in October.
Basically, if you’re in need of a new phone (like I am) at the moment, sitting tight for a few weeks looks like the best option!
Why Sit on Hold to Tell Your Airline It Sucks? Now You Can Text Instead
Apparently we didn’t have enough ways to complain at airlines when things went wrong, so a couple of US carriers are adding another option into the mix.
One-way text messages to notify of gate changes or cancellations have been common for years, but until now, customers haven’t been able to reply with questions (or outrage). That’s all changing, with Hawaiian Airlines already up and running with two-way SMS, and JetBlue planning to roll it out in the coming months.
It’s a nice idea, for both fliers and airlines. Many flight queries don’t need to happen in real time, and people hate sitting on hold for ages just to answer a quick question — especially when they’re paying roaming charges. From the airline’s perspective, a single customer service agent can reply to several text messages in the amount of time it takes to have a single phone call.
Hawaiian started offering the service back in April, and says most of the texts it gets are questions about airline policy rather than itineraries or other, more-complex issues. JetBlue is planning a more comprehensive approach, linking customers across phone, text, email and other channels to avoid frustrating repetition.
If it’s a success, expect to see other airlines start to follow suit.
Google Gives More Options for Flights and Accommodation
In its endless desire to dominate travel bookings (and everything else), Google’s making more tweaks to its flight and accommodation search tools.
Showing up first on mobile, the company’s flight search tool now offers what it’s calling “Flight Insights” to help track down the best tickets. It’ll show prices across several days or weeks, as well as alternative airports, to see if you can snag a cheaper fare. It’s nothing unique — other companies have been doing something similar for quite a while — but that doesn’t make it less useful.
Google’s accommodation searches have also been getting some attention, with a limited set of results for terms like “hotel in Paris” including vacation rentals as well. When these results have shown up, it’s been possible to filter to show only vacation rental options, and filter by price and other aspects usually reserved for hotels and guesthouses.
It’s only early days yet, with a very limited inventory, and Google may choose not to roll the test out more widely. My bet, though? Expect to start seeing Airbnb and other ‘sharing economy’ accommodation options appearing in the not-too-distant future.