Here’s what I take with me when I travel.

Packing a travel bag for Google I/O is not dissimilar to going on vacation, at least not for someone who lives and breathe technology. There’s the laptop and the phone(s), the cables and chargers, the adapters and other accoutrements that make the experience a little more productive during work, and more enjoyable during downtime.

What’s interesting about this year is how much less stuff I am bringing; the older and more experienced I get at these shows, the fewer essentials I feel pressured to bring — to the delight of my beleaguered back.

Here’s what I’m bringing to Google I/O this year.

The bag – Tylt Energi Pro

I usually have pretty short honeymoon periods with backpacks, but I’ve found a long-term winner with the Tylt Energi Pro. It’s not the included 20,100mAh battery charger and cable routing, but the design and quality of the bag itself.

Excellent, weather-resistant materials mean that I don’t have to worry about my stuff getting drenched in a storm or dusty from porousness. Tight, well-constructed zippers ensure that they won’t break from applying too much force and, when closed, water won’t seep in.

I love the number of compartments, and the easy access to ones on the side when I’m in a rush. The main compartment opens vertically, and is designed for camera equipment and other larger pieces; I can easily fill it with cameras, lenses, cables and adapters and still have plenty of room left over.

The laptop compartment is nicely cushioned and features a number of smaller mesh areas for storing tablets, phones and other diminutive pieces of tech.

Finally, the straps are fully adjustable, and wonderfully cushioned for longer day trips that have me wearing the bag for long periods.

See at Tylt

The computer – 2015 MacBook Pro

An early 2015 MacBook Pro is still my workhorse. It’s spec’d out, with a Core i7 and 16GB of RAM, though Chrome churns through memory so I rarely feel its full speed potential.

Still, unlike Andrew I haven’t moved to the newer form factor, for, as much as I love simplicity I’m not ready to give up MagSafe for dongles.

I may have to look at another laptop soon, though: the battery life on this computer isn’t what it used to be, and I struggle to get more than four or five hours from a charge. In that case, I’d look into a Surface Book or an equivalent high-end Windows laptop. I like Mac, but I want to explore the latest in Windows — provided the notebook has a trackpad that’s equivalent in performance to this one. You still can’t beat Macs for trackpads.

See at Amazon

The phones – Galaxy S8 + Pixel XL

Two phones for this trip — keeping it simple. The Galaxy S8+ will be my daily driver, hooked into Rogers’ Roam Like Home plan to let people from back home call and text me with no problems.

I’ve had great battery on the Galaxy S8+ so far, and don’t expect that to change even while roaming, though connecting to a non-native network does typically impact battery life.

See at Amazon

In the other pocket, a Pixel XL, which I may use to load the first Android O beta when it’s announced during the keynote. I still love this phone, and often go back to it for a few days just to remember what I’m missing — the smoothness, the minimalism — when I switch to the Galaxy S8.

See at Google Store

The camera – Sony RX100 IV

This year, I decided to keep things simple and bring just my Sony RX100 IV, a fantastic point and shoot that outperforms rivals in its size range, and many larger DSLRs, too.

Google I/O isn’t typically a photo-heavy event, but I’ve taken the RX100 to product launches, too, and have rarely been disappointed with the results. If there’s one gripe I have with the damn thing, it’s the lack of a microphone jack, but I’ve solved that issue, to a large extent, with the next item on the list.

See at Amazon

The Microphones

Zoom H5 microphone + input

Have you listened to a live Android Central podcast over the past year? You’ve heard this handy microphone in action. The Zoom H5 is a field podcaster’s dream, with two XLR inputs along with a super-sensitive default cardioid mic attachment that does well in a pinch.

See at Amazon

Rodelink wireless lav microphone

The next piece of the puzzle is capturing audio wirelessly, and the Rodelink wireless lav is amazing. It hooks into the Zoom’s auxiliary input and allows for the capture of high-quality audio from practically anywhere, even outside in the wind.

It’s not cheap, but the Rodelink is a great deal if you’re looking to capture vocals without having to worry about long cords or standing close enough a boom mic.

See at Amazon


There are a couple of essential chargers and adapters I always include in a travel bag: my three-port AC adapter extension from Belkin, which swivels at its base to make sure it works in any plug; and my Aukey 5-port USB-A hub, which is perfect for charging all the things. One of the ports on the Anker is Quick Charge 2.0-compatible, which is helpful, but generally I just fill them up with whatever cables and accessories need topping at the end of the day. Easy, peasy.

See at Amazon

Battery pack – Tylt 20,100mAh pack

This is the Tylt 20,100 mAh pack that I mentioned earlier. It’s awesome: it has two USB-A inputs, including one that supports Quick Charge 3.0, along with a USB-C port that doubles as both juice in and out — it can give charge as well as receive it. I’ve only had the battery pack since March, but I am incredibly impressed with the quality of the cell.

See at Amazon

Headphones – Blue Satellite

Of course, my headphone load is my latest rave review: the Blue Satellite wireless headphones. They’re comfortable to wear for long periods, and have both active noise cancelling and a separate amp, in case your source isn’t particularly powerful. The dual 44mm drivers also sound great, with accurate mids and deep, rich bass.

See at Blue Microphones

Other items (not seen)

I brought my Nintendo Switch because why the hell not? The idea of playing some Mario Kart with some buds in the middle of Shoreline Amphitheatre sounds great. Sure, it’s probably not going to happen, but we have to have some fun at these events, don’t we?

I also lugged along my Kenu Stance USB-C tripod, which is an awesome little gadget for watching movies or framing video on the go.

Other than that, there are cables, granola bars (Nature Valley what up) and some adapters, as well as some roaming SIM cards from Roam Mobility in case I run out of data.

What about you?

What do you bring on your trips? Let us know in the comments below!

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 | Posted by | Categories: Android |

Instagram lands another blow in the battle for social media dominance.

A new update is rolling out for Instagram today which adds a bunch of new features — including a few more borrowed from Snapchat. The big new feature is face filters, which works just like Snapchat’s version does, but will also work with other Instagram features like Boomerang. You’re able to use either the rear or selfie cam, then send your recording or pics to friends via Instagram Direct or add it to your story.

The addition of face filters comes as little surprise. Love them or hate them, it seems like every social media app is adding these face filters these days — and they’re even popping up in the photo apps of the latest phones.

Other new features added in the update include the ability to record videos and then play them in reverse (again, similar to Snapchat), as well as the ability to add hashtag stickers, or simply type a hashtag using regular text. Anyone watching your story will be able to tap the hashtags and explore other tagged posts. There’s also a new eraser tool as well as a color fill tool, so you’re able to snap a photo, cover it with a color and then use the eraser tool to creatively reveal parts of your photos.

Have you checked out these new features? Between Snapchat and Instagram, which platform do you prefer — or neither? Let us know in the comments!

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 | Posted by | Categories: Android |

We’re not sure yet if the HTC U11 is a better smartphone that the Samsung Galaxy S8, but its $649 price point certain is. If you were thinking about buying the unlocked HTC U11 directly from HTC, you can now … Read More

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 | Posted by | Categories: HTC |

Add a touch of class to your phone with a leather case!

The debate on whether or not to slap a case on the Galaxy S8 or S8+ rages on. On one hand, the phone is downright classy and beautiful all on its own, but on the other, it’s made of glass and is, therefore, prone to taking damage.

A nice compromise is a leather case, which looks much nicer than other cases made of plastic and rubber. Leather cases are offered by a number of manufacturers and often include some type of wallet functionality as well. We’ve collected a range of options for you to consider, so let’s dive in!

Spigen Wallet S

Spigen’s Wallet S case is a great option for those looking for a folio-style wallet case. Made of synthetic leather with an embedded TPU casing, this case blends protection with functionality by including three card slots, a pocket for cash, and the ability to fold it over into a kickstand for hands-free media viewing.

This case is available for both the Galaxy S8 (linked below) and the S8+ in both black and coffee brown. You can buy with confidence knowing that Spigen is one of the most trusted names in phone cases.

See at Amazon (for Galaxy S8)

FYY Genuine Leather wallet case

All too often case manufacturers misuse the word “leather”, when in fact their case is actually made of polyurethane material that’s made to look and feel like leather. More often than not, we’re okay with this, but if you’re looking for a case made of genuine leather, FYY has you covered with its case for the Galaxy S8.

Available in five different color, FYY’s wallet cases are handcrafted out of real leather for a premium look and feel that you just won’t get from many other cases. You’ll find three card slots and a cash pocket on the inside across from the phone itself. It also offers RFID protection to prevent someone from reading your debit or credit card information with an RFID reader.

If you’re looking for a case made from real leather, look no further than FYY.

See at Amazon

FlyHawk Slim Leather Back wallet case

Not a fan of the folio-style wallet cases but still yearning for that classy leather look? Check out this slim, leather-backed case from FlyHawk. It offers protection around the edges of your phone while keeping the buttons and ports wide open along the sides and bottom of the phone. It’s one of the slimmest cases on this list, giving your phone a classy leather finish without adding too much unnecessary bulk.

Available for both the Galaxy S8 and S8+, you can get one in your choice of six different color options.

See at Amazon

Ringke Flex S Leather-style phone case

If you fall into the “hell yes, give me a case to protect this expensive phone” camp and also want a stylish leather case for your Galaxy S8 or S8+, you’ll definitely want to consider this stylish case from Ringke.

This one-piece case is made with a mix of flexible TPU and PU leather to create a slim and stylish case for your phone. It’s lightweight and streamlined to fit snugly on your phone, while still providing precise laser cutouts for all your phone’s buttons, ports, and camera. You get that great leather in-hand feel without skimping on protection for your GS8. Check it out!

See at Amazon

X-Level Vintage PU Leather case

X-Level has managed to combine a slim and minimalist case with the leather look and feel you desire — the ultimate case for many of you we’re sure.

Made of PU leather and featuring a weathered and vintage look, this case will look great on your Galaxy S8 or S8+. It’s form-fitted and flexible for easy installation, with cutouts around the buttons and ports at the bottom and offering a touch of added protection for the camera on the back.

It’s available in three colors — black, brown, and gold — for both phones; just be sure you’ve selected the right option for yourself before heading to check out.

See at Amazon

What’s your favorite style of leather case?

Got any opinions on the cases we’ve highlighted above? Did we fail to include your favorite one? Let us know in the comments below!

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 | Posted by | Categories: Android |

The HTC U11 is the newest flagship device from HTC. It comes with a pretty amazing spec sheet and feature set, allowing it to hold its head up high as HTC tried to go head-to-head with the Samsung Galaxy S8 … Read More

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 | Posted by | Categories: HTC |

The Nokia 3310 will go up for sale in India from later this week.

The Nokia 3310 is one of the most anticipated devices in India in 2017, and we now know when the phone will go on sale. HMD Global has announced that the Nokia 3310 will be heading to retail stores across the country starting May 18, with a retail price of ₹3,310.

The Nokia 3310 will be available in four color options: Warm Red and Yellow will feature a gloss finish, whereas the Dark Blue and Grey color variants will see a matte finish. The phone has dual SIM card slots, a 2.4-inch QVGA (240 x 320) display, microUSB slot, 3.5mm jack, Bluetooth 3.0, and a 2MP camera with LED flash. You also get a microSD slot that can accommodate SD cards up to 32GB in size. The dimensions come in at 115.6 x 51.0 x 12.8mm, and the phone weighs 79.6g including the 1200mAh battery. And yes, you can play Snake.

The phone runs on Nokia’s Series 30+ platform, and Nokia is claiming a standby time of 22.5 days, talk time of 22.1 hours, and music playback of 51 hours. Who’s interested in picking one up?

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 | Posted by | Categories: Android |