Southwest Brings Free In-Flight TV To Your iPad

These days, most of the news coming from airlines seems to herald the start of a new fee or surcharge, so it’s both a novelty and a relief to hear about a new service that will cost absolutely nothing. Southwest Airlines announced today that it will offer free television streaming for passengers traveling with their iPads and iPhones.

The service – known as TV Flies Free – is being offered in partnership with pay TV provider DISH, and will give travelers access to live television and around 75 on-demand shows.The TV programming is transmitted to your gadgets via the plane’s in-flight Wi-Fi, but the good news is you don’t have to cough up anything for the connection (which costs $8 per day) to be able to access the TV.

Streaming will work on a range of personal devices like tablets, laptops and smart phones. There’s no need to download any apps or jump through any hoops to watch shows – programming will run on your device’s regular browser.

Since the entertainment runs over Wi-Fi and requires the use of personal electronics, you won’t be able to watch shows during takeoff and landing, but hey, it’s hard to complain about free TV. You can access the service on any of Southwest’s 400 Wi-Fi enabled planes.

New Backcountry Tablet Set for Late Summer Launch

This summer, backcountry enthusiasts might be stowing a new piece of electronic gear into their packs.

After a successful crowdfunding campaign, developers are planning to launch Earl, a 7-inch “backcountry survival tablet” this August. The rugged, Android-based tablet was designed for outdoor adventure, with an ultra-precise GPS chipset, weather sensors, two-way radio and laminated solar panels to recharge on the go. (A fully charged Earl tablet will run for approximately 20 hours in the wild before needing juice.)

The Wi-Fi enabled tablet can survive a 3-foot swim in a running creek, so long as you rescue it within 30 minutes, and at altitudes up to 40,000 feet. But don’t plan on using it on your next polar expedition; Earl is rated to work in temperatures down to 32 degrees Fahrenheit.

Sqigle founder and tablet mastermind Jon Perry named the device after his eight-year-old Italian greyhound, a frequent companion on his adventures. The design team went through more than 100 case designs before finding a design that would stand up to the type of abuse typically dished out on the trail.

The 7-inch 10.8-ounce e-Ink tablet will likely retail for $325 when it’s released later this summer, although early backers can purchase it for 30 percent off until June 9.

United Rolls Out Wi-Fi On Overseas Flights

It used to be that one of the few places you couldn’t get a Wi-Fi signal was at 30,000 feet, but soon there will be no excuse for being out of touch (or not getting work done) as airlines implement a dramatic expansion of onboard Wi-Fi services.

More than half of the planes flown by U.S. carriers currently offer Wi-Fi onboard, but United and other airlines are planning to up the ante by offering satellite-based Internet service en route. This not only means faster speeds, but the ability to get online during overseas flights – something not previously possible using ground-based technology.However, installing the satellite technology onto existing aircraft is no mean feat, with airlines forced to ground a plane for 15 days to get the system up and running. Engineers also have to run a series of tests to make sure passengers can get the signal strength they’re paying for. Since the shape and composition of a plane can cause Wi-Fi signals to bounce all over the place, experts have had their hands full making sure you can get can online no matter where on the plane you’re sitting.

And then there’s the cost. Installing Wi-Fi on a single aircraft sets the airline back more than $200,000 – and that’s not counting the revenue lost from taking the aircraft out of service for so long. Of course, airlines will more than make the money back in the long run thanks to the charges for using the Wi-Fi, which will range from around $4 to $23 depending on the flight.

Twenty of United’s planes are already equipped with the new Wi-Fi technology, with plans to bring that number up to 300 by the end of the year.

Check out the video below to learn more about United’s Wi-Fi expansion plans.

[Photo credit: Flickr user Robert Raines]

Delta’s New ‘Fly Delta’ App Lets You See The World Under Your Airplane

Ever dream of flying in a glass bottom jet? That technology may not yet be available, but Delta Air Lines‘ new iPad app might just be the best simulation.

The Fly Delta app for iPad was released yesterday as part of Delta’s new $140 million commitment to technology, which includes upgrades to its website, mobile apps and airport kiosks. The app includes new tools to ease the travel experience, from booking your flight to advance check-in to figuring out what’s next on your itinerary.

But the app’s most exciting feature is the “Glass Bottom Jet,” which allows passengers connected to Delta’s in-flight Wi-Fi service to view visuals of the ground below the aircraft, enhanced with maps, social networks and Internet content. Read about the history of Mount Rushmore as you fly through South Dakota, check out photos of the Grand Canyon over Nevada or reach out to friends as you pass their homes. For geography geeks, it’s a pretty nifty way to pass time in flight.

An improved Fly Delta app for iPhone was also released yesterday, which includes iPhone 5 support and integration with Apple’s Passbook feature. An improved Android app is scheduled to be released later this year.

[Photo Credit: Delta]