Smartphone Technology Getting Closer To What Travelers Want

Smartphone Technoloy
Chris Owen

As smartphone technology continues to advance, travelers are being offered more connectivity choices. Making calls, sending text, voice or video messages and surfing the Internet is becoming commonplace almost anywhere on the planet. Now, pricing is coming in line too as service providers realize what it is we want when traveling.

“Our mission is for all travelers to have the freedom to use their mobile devices the same way as at home when traveling abroad, without having to worry about chokingly high mobile bills,” says Joacim Boivie, CEO and Founder, HolidayPhone, a leading solutions provider of roaming free mobile Internet, voice and text services for international travelers in a Breaking Travel News report.

Like Boingo, the worldwide connectivity company with over 700,000 Wi-Fi hot spots in over 100 countries, HolidayPhone also enables connection. Unlike Boingo, which automatically communicates then connects with local hot spots on your behalf, enabling connection using only an installed app, the HolidayPhone method is a twist on the SIM card pay-as-you-go trick that has travelers buying cards for each country they visit.Providing an easy, inexpensive way to call and access mobile Internet while abroad without roaming fees, HolidayPhone’s travel SIM cards are prepaid and sent in advance. Before departure, U.S. users forward calls to a provided U.S. landline number. On the plane, they insert the HolidayPhone SIM card in their smartphone. Landing at the destination, their phone is ready to use, at local rates.

Here is more on how HolidayPhone works:

Smartphone Room Key Just The Begining

smartphone

Smartphone technology has become an integral part of travel, bringing GEO tagging applications, instant photo uploading to share with the world, and more. Now, smartphones are set to allow hotel guests to bypass check-in and unlock their guest room door simply by touching the handle.

“We’re able to have the hotel guest download our app, put their username and password in, and then it links the reservation to their mobile devices,” said Ben Robertson, CEO of y!kes in a Hotel Management interview.

The process is simple. On the day of the reservation, connected guests will get a notification saying their room is ready. Step into the hotel’s lobby and the system checks them in. Upon arriving at their assigned hotel room, users simply touch the door handle, which recognizes them automatically and allows entrance.The mobile app works with most smartphones, but for guests with out one, the lock system can also work with a traditional key card. In the future, the Y!kes plans to add capabilities to control the temperature, room lighting and TV preferences.

“We’re making it so that the mobile device really makes things easy for that guest throughout their stay … We can service their needs according to their proximity throughout the hotel,” Robertson said.

Trick or Treat: Tech and Security

[Photo Credit: Flickr user bimurch]

Gadling Gear Review: Scottevest Fleece 7.0 Jacket

Scottevest Fleece 7.0Saying that Scottevest is a company that makes jackets is akin to saying Apple is a company that makes cellphones. Both statements are technically correct, but both also fail to tell the whole story. Scottevest puts the emphasis not only on comfort and good looks but also function. Popular amongst travelers and gadget lovers alike, their jackets incorporate numerous internal pockets that keep all of our gear organized and close at hand, whether we’re going around the block or around the world.

Today Scottevest unveils their latest creation: the Fleece 7.0. The jacket maintains the company’s legacy quite nicely while incorporating some new design choices that make it easier and more logical to use. On top of that, this might be the best looking and most comfortable Scottevest ever created. Its stylish exterior does nothing to reveal all of the technology and other important items that are well hidden underneath.

If you’re already familiar with the products from Scottevest you are probably aware of the numerous pockets that line the interior of their jackets. With the Fleece 7.0 the layout of each of those pockets has been re-examined with the expressed intention of making each of them better. For instance, previous Scottevest offerings have included a pocket specifically designed to carry an iPad, and this new jacket is no different. This time out though, that pocket has been redesigned to make it easier to gain access to the device, whether you’re wearing the jacket or not. That same iPad pocket is also now lined with soft fabrics designed to clean fingerprints from the screen as it is taken in and out.

Perhaps the biggest change to the jacket is the placement of a pocket designed specifically for smartphones. That pocket incorporates Clear Touch fabrics that allow users to interact with their phone’s touch screen without having to remove it from the jacket itself. This isn’t exactly new, as Scottevest has built similar pockets into their products for some time, but they’ve now moved that pocket from the chest down to the lower left side of the Fleece 7.0. On the surface this might not seem like much of an innovation, but the new placement does indeed make it much easier to interact with your phone. In its new location, the smartphone pocket isn’t nearly as awkward to access when making or receiving calls, or launching your favorite apps. The new Clear Touch fabrics are more responsive and natural feeling as well, which helps to improve the overall experience too.X-Ray View of the Fleece 7.0 Scottevest JacketIn addition to the smartphone and tablet pockets, Scottevest has woven a host of other pockets into the design of the Fleece 7.0. In fact, you’ll be amazed at just how many pockets this jacket has and how utilitarian they can be. For instance, there is one designed specifically for carrying a small point-and-shoot camera that includes a separate slot just for memory cards. There is also a useful eyeglasses pocket, complete with a built-in soft cloth lens cleaner, which I found to be fantastic for safely carrying sunglasses. Perhaps my favorite storage options, however, was the large hidden pocket that is perfect for keeping your passport, boarding pass and other important documents close at hand.

The jacket also includes what Scottevest calls the Personal Area Network, which conveniently incorporates a set of headphones directly into the garment. The PAN keeps cables hidden and out of the way and even features earbud storage integrated directly into the collar. Considering that many sets of earbuds now include built-in microphones, this means you can easily listen to music, interact with Siri and talk on the phone without ever taking the jacket off or pulling your smartphone out of its secure pocket.

Other nice touches include integrated penholders, a key clasp and an elastic water bottle loop hidden away in one of the cavernous hand pockets. These small, but thoughtful, details help to separate Scottevest jackets from the competition and have made them a popular choice for travelers who like to stay organized and travel light. In fact, as the company continues to refine its product line, you’d almost swear that they have declared war on carry-on luggage. It is quite conceivable that owners of the Fleece 7.0 could go on a trip without the need for any kind of carry-on at all, which says a lot about just how well this jacket performs.

All of these well thought out pockets and other features are the hallmark of a Scottevest product of course, but they aren’t the only reason to be impressed by the new Fleece 7.0. The jacket is made from soft, warm and durable fabrics, which puts it on par with similar offerings from such well-known companies as Columbia or North Face. I found the jacket to be incredibly comfortable to wear both casually around town and on more active excursions and while I haven’t tested it as part of a dedicated layering system yet, I get the sense that it will perform well in that capacity too.

Like most of the other Scottevest jackets, the Fleece 7.0 converts to a vest, adding yet another level of versatility to the garment. This is a great option for those days that start out cool but warm up as the hours pass, allowing the wearer to stay comfortable as conditions evolve. But unlike the Transformer Jacket that we reviewed a few months back, the Fleece 7.0 uses traditional zippers to add or remove the sleeves. The Transformer cleverly replaces those zippers with strong magnets instead, which makes the process easier and quicker. On more than one occasion while wearing this new jacket, I wished that Scottevest had elected to incorporate the magnets as well, as they just simplify the process nicely.

If you’re in the market for a new jacket, either for travel or for the changing weather conditions that fall is sure to bring, then it is easy for me to recommend the Scottevest Fleece 7.0. Even if you’re not a gadget nut, you’ll still love the numerous pockets and organizational options, but most importantly you’ll love how comfortable it is to wear. In true Scottevest fashion, this jacket offers unprecedented access to your smartphone and other tech toys too, making it a fantastic option for trips around the block or to the far side of the globe. The Fleece 7.0 is available today for $160.


‘Road Warriors’ Stay Connected While Traveling

business travel - laptopsToday’s business traveler carries between three and four mobile devices with them while on the road, states data from a new survey from Four Points by Sheraton. This Starwood Hotels and resorts brand surveyed 6,000 global business travelers to find what devices they are most likely to use while traveling – and what hotels can best do to help these tech-savvy travelers.

Business travelers are “connecting” to friends and colleagues while on the road more than ever, with 55% saying that they travel with three to four devices. Brazilian travelers are the heaviest packers, with 27% saying they travel with more than five devices at one time. We’re not even sure how one gets to that many tech items, unless you’re traveling with multiple telephones. Germans were the least device-dependent, with 33% reporting they travel with only one or two items.

Smartphones #1
Not surprisingly, smartphones (74%) are the number-one device used by travelers, although tablets (65%), music players (43%) and laptops (32%) are also popular. Chinese respondents were the only group to bump laptops out of the top four, in favor of cameras (30%).

Business travelers are also glued to those smartphones. After landing, the majority (54%) turn on their smartphone while the plane is still taxiing on the tarmac, while 12% admit to never turning it off in the first place. The remaining respondents wait until they’re in the terminal or settle into their taxi/car (17% each).

Given our tech-obsessed society, some of these stats may seem mainstream, but checking their smartphone is also the first thing respondents do when they wake up in their hotel (36%). Only 19% turn on the TV first and 18% take a shower. Checking Facebook (12%) ranks fourth, while checking Twitter and calling home share a distant fifth (7%).Business Travelers Prefer Tablets
Tablets are quickly gaining market share among business travelers, with 68% of respondents saying they use their tablet more often than their laptop, and accordingly a similar number (69%), if told they could take only one of the two on the road, would choose to travel with their tablet.

This is in line with the business goals of travelers – many use mobile devices to keep up with email (90%), although many use devices for Internet browsing and social media (75%). Keeping up with the office is important too, but less so – only 73% of respondents cited this as important. Either these travelers still prefer books or they aren’t reading for pleasure – only 43% use mobile devices to read.

Business Centers Still Rule
In addition to all their hand-held technology, the majority of respondents report that they have visited a hotel business center (66%). They mostly do so to print business items (93%). They are also inclined to use the business center to print personal items (87%), check social networking (87%) and check email (86%).

What do you think? How many devices do you travel with, and which do you use most frequently?

[Flickr via magerleagues]

Police Urge Hikers To Learn Orienteering Instead Of Relying On Smartphones

orienteeringPolice in northern Scotland have issued a call for hikers to learn orienteering rather than relying on their smartphones for navigation, the BBC reports.

Grampian Police have had to lead four separate groups to safety in the past week. The latest rescue included the use of mountain rescue teams and a Royal Navy helicopter to retrieve 14 hikers. The hikers were in the Cairngorms, a rugged mountain range with some of the UK’s tallest peaks.

Police said that the growing use of smartphone apps for navigation can lead to trouble. People are relying too much on technology without actually understanding the world around them. Police then have to rescue them at taxpayer expense.

Hiking with an app sounds to me like the antithesis of hiking. Basic orienteering with a map and compass is not difficult to learn. I’ve been teaching my 6-year-old and his brain hasn’t melted. Not only do a map and compass not have to rely on getting a signal, but they help you understand the land better and give you a feel for your natural surroundings.

So please folks, if you’re going out into nature, actually interact with it!