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Choosing the Tech For Your Next Trip – What Sort of Tech Traveller Are You?

(c) mootown via flickr.com

(c) mootown via flickr.com

Previously we looked at the tech options for the modern traveller. In this article I want to look at how to choose what is best for you.

“I’m planning a 3 week trip to Europe this summer. I was planning on taking my iPhone, a Kindle Fire to read books and watch movies, plus my laptop to manage my photos. Am I taking too much?”

Genuine question I saw on a travel forum recently, details changed to protect the clueless. So before we answer the question let’s consider the key question. The question is not, as some will debate, whether Android or iPads are cooler. What actually matters is what you are going to use the device for.

Why You May Want To Travel With a Tablet/Laptop/Smartphone?

  • Checking emails
  • Staying in contact by calls or text (phone, Skype, Facetime, Chat)
  • Online Banking
  • Reading eBooks
  • Watching movies and playing games
  • Listening to music
  • GPS Maps
  • Copies of important documentation
  • Working, if you are unlucky.
(c) USFWS via flickr.com

(c) USFWS via flickr.com

What You May End Up Using It For

  • Camera/Video
  • Apps that will take you on a walking tour, convert currency and measurements, translate a foreign language and much, much more.
  • Review sites: TripAdvisor, Yelp
  • Airline notifications, smartcode check in.
  • Uploading photos from your camera to the cloud
  • Starting a travel blog
(c) Veronica Belmont via flickr.com

(c) Veronica Belmont via flickr.com

What Tech Works Best For Which Applications

Hopefully you now have some ideas about what you definitely want to use the tech for, and what you may use it for. If you didn’t come up with any – well don’t take any! I do think some people buy tech toys just because “everyone does”. If all you actually want to do is check email once a week – find an Internet cafe! The main difference of functionality between a smartphone and a tablet is basically the size.

On The Street

If you are going to be using the device in the street, then small really is beautiful. A 7″ tablet like a Samsung Galaxy is okay to pull out for a map or similar, but you won’t be wanting to have a long call on it! A laptop is clearly out of the question!

Words or Pictures?

If, in contrast you want to do a lot of writing then a keyboard is very useful and a bigger screen. Laptops wins here, but both tablets and even a phone (at a pinch) with a bluetooth external keyboard like the Logitech Ultrathin Keyboard (which doubles as a cover) or Apple keyboard would work.

If you are watching movies by your self a tablet may be ok – but if you are sharing with a friend a larger screen really is required if you both want to watch! A 12″ Macbook Air or similar would be perfect for movies.

If you want to do any serious manipulation of photos you really need a laptop. For video you need a high-powered laptop, some ultrabooks will struggle without sufficient hard drive space or memory. However you just want to upload  some pics to Instagram – and Facebook any phone or tablet will do .

Which brings me to the Kindle Fire in the original question. If you are taking a Fire to read, think again. It’s a bright, shiny, tablet screen. Which becomes very difficult to read in sunlight. If you want to read outdoors, even in the shade on a beach, you’ll want a black and white eInk Kindle such as the Paperwhite or Kindle Touch. You wanted to watch movies? Well you’ll only be able to do that if you download them all before leaving the US – the Kindle Fires multimedia ONLY works within the US! If you want to download movies overseas, consider an Android tablet or iPad, though you will still find a more limited selection than most Americans are used to, thanks to the restrictive copyright practices of the major studios.

And The Answer Is?

The answer to the question: should he take an iPhone, Kindle Fire and laptop for 3 weeks. I’d suggest no – for three weeks, leave the laptop at home, and either manage the photos on a tablet, or wait until you get home.

I wouldn’t buy a Kindle Fire, rather I’d buy  an iPad mini and leave the phone at home. The iPad can do everything the phone can do plus is big enough to watch movies on as well and is not a bad eReader, I assume that he won’t be spending most of his time at the beach so the screen limitations are probably acceptable. Though adding a a Kindle Touch at around $70 is so cheap and light it’s almost a no-brainer for the serious bookworm.

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