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Traveling with devices

December 15, 2012

I just got back from another visit to Samsung’s Digital City in Korea. I’ve noticed that as I acquire more and more devices (a side-effect of both enjoying gadgets and being specifically interested in how people use collections of devices) it becomes a more difficult decision which devices to bring with me when traveling.

Travel overseas is a particularly unusual case, since I don’t have an international data plan for either of my devices. That means whatever personal cellphone I have on me becomes much less useful once my travel starts, mainly being restricted to use on the hotel’s WiFi. Samsung supplies us with loaner phones that work in Korea so in theory I wouldn’t actually need to bring my personal phone, but in practice I’ve been leery to forgo bringing either my iPhone or my Galaxy S3. Although less useful without a cell connection, both store enough cached data that they’re still useful.

International travel is an interesting use case for two other reasons. First, the flights are extremely long. The flight from San Francisco to Incheon is around 13 hours, while the return flight is roughly 10 hours (gotta love tail winds). That means that most tablet batteries won’t be able to last the entire flight.

Second, content isn’t always available overseas. That means no Amazon Instant Video, for example. And I was surprised to note that the set of my installed apps I could see in Google Play was roughly 25% smaller overseas. The former has the most impact, however, since it means that my Kindle Fire is much less useful overseas (I’m an Amazon Prime member, so I get access to a lot of Instant Video content free.

This time I decided to bring the following devices with me:

  1. My work laptop. Necessary to get work done while traveling.
  2. My iPad. I went back and forth on whether to bring the iPad or the Kindle Fire. The Kindle Fire is smaller and I prefer reading off of it, but the iPad has a better battery and is a better device for accessing my personal email, news feeds, etc. I tend to prefer the iPad for watching downloaded movies too, but since international flights tend to have a number of videos available that I haven’t seen I find I don’t watch movies off my iPad while flight internationally as I do while flying within the US. If I could have accessed Instant Video I might have gone the other way, but I can’t access it in Korea.
  3. My Kindle Paperwhite. I’m not a big fan of reading on the iPad (too big, too heavy, wrong weight distribution for one-handed reading), and since I decided to bring the iPad rather than the Kindle Fire I wanted something better suited to reading. I did briefly consider bringing the Kindle Fire and the iPad, but the Kindle Paperwhite battery blows the Kindle Fire’s battery away, so I wouldn’t need to worry about even bringing a charger for it (let alone worry about it running out of juice on the flight). And the Paperwhite’s battery did indeed come through. I read a lot on both flights, while waiting for the flights, and in the evening at the hotel, and the Paperwhite’s battery is still almost full.
  4. My Galaxy S3. I wanted to see what it was like bringing it instead of my iPhone, which I usually bring. A couple of times I did miss having more of my music collection with me (my S3 has a much smaller subset of my music), but I also appreciated having the larger screen a number of times.

I ended up using all of the devices I brought with me for different tasks at different times, but I must admit that I felt a little silly hauling them around. I’m tempted to try bringing just three devices on my next trip: my work laptop, the Paperwhite, and my S3. I need the work laptop, the Paperwhite suits the reading task admirably, and the S3 has a large enough screen that I might be able handle all of my personal computing tasks with it. Just as a long as I don’t to send any long email messages. That’ll leave me dependent on the airline for movie entertainment, but that worked fine on this past trip. Now if there was just a better RSS reader for Android; access to Reeder is a primary reason to bring an iOS device.

From → Hardware, Mobile, Travel

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