Cellphone Accessories For Our Mobile Overlords

iPhone Case from G-FormThere’s no device I love to hate as much as I hate to love my iPhone. (You read that right.) Your mileage may vary; you may not feel like both a chump and a devotee while caressing your mobile whatever. Until I attain your Zen-like state, I feel annoyed whenever I find myself buying presents for my phone, even if they are practical and make using my phone a better experience. Here’s the drill on three extras I’ve been using lately.

G-Form Extreme Grid iPhone Case
: Drop your phone one time ONLY on the bus and you’ll wish you’d shelled out for a case. It’s like Apple is intentionally propping up the case market by using that slippery exterior. I used an Otter Box on my iPhone 3, but I’ve come to prefer the weird grippy exterior of the G-Form on my iPhone 4. People keep making fun of the almost tire tread like bumpy black box I wrap my phone in, but the fact is, it stays put in my hand and has enough padding and bounce that my phone didn’t shatter into tiny expensive bits when I dropped it on the 54. There was an audible gasp from the people around me, but I just picked up my phone and went back to listening to vintage sci-fi radio theater and posting pictures to Instagram.

The case comes in black or black and yellow. I kind of wish I’d got the yellow just because it would make the phone easier to find when it’s lost in my backpack. Cost: about $40. That might seem expensive, but it’s going to cost you more than that to buy a new phone.

Mophie Juice Pack PlusMophie Juice Pack Plus: With great addiction comes the endless search for outlets and places to recharge the phone, right? You can buy yourself a lot more time with a spare battery. Mophie builds theirs into an attractive case that allows you to double the use time of your phone. I think this case/battery combo is pretty freaking great. It serves to protect your phone, and gives you all that extra use time, and it comes in a bunch of happy colors. I dropped my phone in this case, too, because apparently, that’s how I roll. The case is a little scratched up, but it still works just fine and my phone is still totally intact. It’s charged via a mini-USB cable. You leave it off until you need the extra juice, then it charges your phone while you use it. It’s great for long-haul flights, especially if, like me, you spend your airtime with audio entertainment.

The Juice Pack is pricey – it’s about $100. Here’s the truth: I like this thing and bring it everywhere.

Able Planet Clear Harmony Sound Isolation EarphonesAble Planet Clear Harmony Sound Isolation Earphones: I’ve gone through half a dozen pairs of iPhone compatible earbuds. On my last trip I lost my isolation Sennheisers. The sound was top notch, but I was on my third pair because they kept breaking (while still under warranty, thankfully). I replaced them with a really cheap pair of JVC iPhone compatible headphones, and they broke too.

I like the isolation earbuds because they don’t take up the space of headphones, but I’ve yet to find a pair that reduces external noise the way active cancelling headphones do. I like the Able Planet brand just fine; they’re far superior to the standard Apple earbuds and they stay put, but I’m not totally sold. They sound great, don’t get me wrong, and they do help with noise reduction on the plane or the bus, but that crying baby still found his way into my head while I was trying to doze on the plane. Even with the white noise app I use, ambient sound leaked in through everywhere. Able Planet makes active noise cancelling headsets too, I own a pair, and I wish I’d packed them instead. I await perfect, affordable, noise blocking earbuds.

Able Planet Earbuds run about $170. They’re fine for daily use, but if you’re really looking for noise reduction and you’re going to spend that kind of money, go with active noise cancelling instead.

Photo of the day: Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, Lake Linden

Michigan’s Upper Peninsula is a favorite place of mine. Desolate and beautiful, the U.P. is an ideal getaway destination. The coastline of Michigan’s U.P. has a certain kind of shine–they kind that makes me want to build a cabin and never leave… except during the winters.

Featured above are 3 kayaking friends using a sail rig on their kayak. Launching off from a clean sandy beach, this shot was taken in Lake Linden. Lake Linden is located about 2 hours northwest of Marquette, Michigan. Green Bay is the nearest city to Lake Linden and it’s still 5 hours south. And what do you do when you find yourself hanging out in a place as remote as this? Take to the water and bask in the sunshine.

Want us to feature one of your photos for our Photo of The Day? Just upload your shots to the Gadling Flickr Pool so we can check them out.

Photo By: Vishaka Rajaram

Getting Around Greenland

When it comes to travel, Greenland has its own rules-which are nature’s rules really. In fact, nature rules so completely that the weather report determines your itinerary, as do the tricky logistics of Greenland’s giant glacial geography.

For starters, Greenland is the least densely populated country in the world: for every human being who lives on the coastal fringe, there are 15 square miles of silent, empty ice rising up in the middle of the country. More than 80% of the land is covered by permanent ice cap, which can only be crossed by air or by skis.

Also, did I mention? There are no roads between any two towns. Getting from A to B in Greenland is very much an adventure in its own right.

What is most shocking about traveling in Greenland is how remarkably empty a place it is. Most of us have never confronted such vast, undisturbed landscapes–no matter how well-traveled we pretend to be. The feeling of being this tiny singular person up against such gargantuan nature is odd and overwhelming. Our intellects tend to panic a little–where are the highways, streetlights, the telephone wires, the ambient glowing dome of the suburbs at night? After you’ve arrived in some town, your mind ponders the landscape and begins to realize that the only way out is to hike–and then to where? On foot, most villages are a good 4 to 5 days apart–and that’s in the summer when the weather is nice.

If you’re the kind of traveler who enjoys wandering in their rent-a-car or hopping from one place to the next in some tightly-packed trip, please skip Greenland. For the others out there–those of who sit all week at desks with computers and crave the open outdoors, then Greenland is the pinnacle of our big hiking dream. Back at home, you might drive a few hours to reach the closest state park that’s overrun with hot-dog roasters living in RVs with blasting rap music. In Greenland, a two-minute helicopter hop puts you into true and utter wilderness where if you don’t know what you’re doing, you’ll die.And so, Greenland separates one kind of traveler from another. In my hotel lobby, a giant wall map of the country spells out the tiny fishing villages around the coast, then announces the big, white center of the country in bold letters: IKKE OPMÅLT (“Unexplored” in Danish). If that makes your mouth water a little, then Greenland’s gonna be good to you.

Just bear in mind that getting to Greenland is the easy part. There are only two major international commercial airports in Greenland: Narsarsuaq in the south and Kangerlussuaq, right above the Arctic Circle. Both were built by the US military back in the days of the Korean War, and both runways are laid out in glacial deltas of grey silt that lie at the base of tremendous fjords.

From either airport, smaller flights connect to various regions of the country–north, south, east, and west (the most populated area). But due to the rugged landscape, and the overall remoteness of so many towns and villages, a lot of these “flights” take place in helicopters, scheduled daily, like busses that stop in one town and then the next. They are also very, very expensive.

Air Greenland is the country’s flagship carrier. With a virtual monopoly, very low passenger numbers, few and scattered airports, highly seasonal travel and even higher costs, a ticket on Air Greenland can be depressingly pricey. For instance, flying from Greenland’s west coast capital Nuuk to the east coast town of Kulusuk will set you back $1,800 round trip (yes, in economy class). Air Iceland offers several (cheaper) seasonal flights from Reykjavík, but it means leaving the country every time you want to reconnect to a new place.

What that means is that Greenlanders don’t travel so much in their own country. Many Greenlanders who live in one part of the country have never visited another part. When flying to Spain is cheaper than flying to the next town over, most Greenlanders choose Spain. For that reason, family reunions sometimes happen outside the country-it’s usually easier and cheaper to gather relatives for a week of shopping in Copenhagen then for everyone to meet up in some chosen Greenlandic town.

Similarly, the reality of transportation in Greenland is a major limiting factor for visitors. Many come with the erroneous belief that they will “do” Greenland, darting around the country like a tour of England, only to realize their budget or a flight schedule confines them to one tiny corner of the country or even a single town. Accept the reality of Greenland and enjoy what you can see. Pick an area–say the South–fly there, and then invest your budget in shorter jumps between towns. This might be on the subsidized helicopter rides (about $100 a pop) to boats and ferries between “closer” towns, ranging from $50-$100.

Another word of advice–always get a window seat. On helicopters, that means being a little pushy since the seats are not assigned. You’re spending a lot of money to be in this country, and while the flights and boat rides might seem long and functional, they are always scenic. It’s how you will see the in-between places that define the country as the great arctic wilderness that it is.

Air Greenland provided transportation for the author during his travels in Greenland, for which he is very grateful. He still thinks their tickets are very, very expensive.

Sounds of Travel 5: One Night in Tokyo

Here at Gadling we’ll be highlighting some of our favorite sounds from the road and giving you a sample of each — maybe you’ll find the same inspiration that we did, but at the very least, hopefully you’ll think that they’re good songs. Got a favorite of your own? Leave it in the comments below and we’ll post it at the end of the series.

WEEK 4: Colder – One Night In Tokyo

Japan has a reputation of creating bewilderment and a sense of wonder for visitors from the Western world. For anyone who has ever gotten lost in the “fiction” of Japan created by movies like Lost in Translation or anime series like Gundam, there is a perception created of a place that looks strangely familiar yet somehow slightly askew, like your friend was hiding around the corner, waiting to jump out and scare the crap out of you. You’re left constantly on edge, ready to be surprised, shocked and amused by a constant barrage of stimuli.

It was with these thoughts in mind as I landed in Tokyo for my first trip to Japan earlier this year. My home base for the next 10 days was a high rise in the Shinjuku neighborhood – a bustling, neon-lit business district in central Tokyo. As I unpacked my things in my room, I flipped on my iPod to a song by Colder, a French electronic artist known for his moody, atmospheric compositions, fittingly selecting one of my favorite tracks called “One Night in Tokyo.”

As the track slowly kicked in, I took in my surroundings. Dusk was beginning to settle over this massive metropolis. Thousands of office towers lay before me – giant monoliths of concrete and glass glistening quietly, silhouetted against the quickly darkening sky. Each pulsated at the top with the intermittent blink of tiny red light, creating a vision of thousands of tiny insects flashing alone in the dark, performing a giant light show for an unknown audience that rushed by, oblivious. The scene was punctuated by the clackety-clack of endless subway cars as they rumbled into the gigantic Shinjuku rail station down below.

“One Night in Tokyo” was the perfect complement to my overwhelming sense of vertigo at the scene before me. The song builds slowly, adding layer upon layer of warm keyboard synths, dub echoes and handclaps, while lead singer Marc Tan sings in a detached, mysterious monotone. The sound effects fade in and out of the song chaotically, much like the intermittent trains that pierced the silence of my quiet hotel room.

As isolating as this all may sound, One Night in Tokyo was absolutely perfect for setting the right Tokyo mood. It captured what I found so intriguing about Tokyo at night – the air feels thick with excitement and potential. The dark alleyways, the searing neon, the bustle and the activity all created a sense of mystery and excitement. There was a constant sense that at any moment I would be thrust into my own movie plot, filled with strange characters and shady villans darting onto subway platforms and down sidestreets.

My next 10 days in Japan presented me with an experience I will never forget. The Japan of reality is surprisingly not like the one portrayed in my imagination – in fact it’s far weirder. But for those first few hours in Tokyo, as the day began to dim and One Night in Tokyo slowly dissipated from my speakers, my fantasy vision of Japan was alive and well.

Click here for previous Sounds of Travel