Extreme mobility: Tools and tips for smartphone-only travel

You can enjoy the liberation of traveling without a laptop -- if you have the right equipment and plan ahead.

1 2 3 4 5 6 Page 6
Page 6 of 6

Staying entertained

The MHL cable I used for making a presentation also came in handy later on. I connected it to the HDTV in my hotel room, then used the big screen to nose around on the Web and watch a streaming movie in full HD via the Netflix Android app.

I also used my phone to listen to Internet radio using the free rad.io app and played a few games, such as IdeeNote's Fly Over Maps. You'll find similar apps if you use an iPhone, BlackBerry or Windows-based device -- entertainment is one area for which there's no lack of apps on any platform, and many of them are free.

Logitech Mini Boombox speaker
The Logitech Mini Boombox is a small and light Bluetooth speaker for your smartphone. Click to view larger image.

While the Nitro HD and other smartphones have built-in speakers that are loud enough to use as speakerphones or to listen to music with, the sound quality is somewhere between awful and horrendous. I've taken to packing Logitech's $100 Mini Boombox, a small speaker set that improves the audio quality of any Bluetooth-enabled phone.

At 2.2 x 4.5 x 2.5 in. and weighing 7.6 oz., the Mini Boombox dwarfs the Nitro HD phone, but it easily fits into a bag when it's time to go. It has a pair of 1-in. speakers inside and Bluetooth that supports the Advanced Audio Distribution Profile (A2DP) standard.

The Mini Boombox can stay connected with the phone via a Bluetooth link from as far as 35 feet away, so you can listen to music while charging the phone at an outlet across the room. It also has a 3.5mm mini jack audio input as a backup.

Other than an on/off switch in the back, the Mini Boombox has no traditional physical controls, but there's a lighted control panel on top that has pressure-sensitive areas for adjusting the volume, setting up the Bluetooth connection, changing the track and pausing the music. The Mini Boombox doesn't come with a remote control, but you can raise or lower the volume from the phone.

It took about a minute to pair and connect the speaker set with my phone, and after that it delivered rich sound with solid bass. More to the point, the Mini Boombox got a lot louder than the phone could, filling the hotel room with sound.

The Mini Boombox has a built-in battery that powered it for 7 hours and 20 minutes in my tests, but it lacks a battery gauge. For those who talk on the phone a lot, it's also a speakerphone that doesn't make you sound like you're talking in a cave.

Keeping an eye on things back home

When I travel, I bring a bit of my home with me via a home-based webcam. I have a D-Link DCS-932L camera set up to monitor Slowy, my 10-year-old Golden Greek tortoise.

D-Link DCS-932L webcam

A D-Link webcam and Android app let me keep an eye on my tortoise back home.

Click to view larger image.

The $150 webcam lets me watch and listen to what Slowy is up to (not very much, generally) and make sure he has fresh water and lettuce. It could just as easily act as a surveillance camera to monitor my home.

Because the camera streams video directly to the Wi-Fi router, it doesn't need to be connected to a computer. Setting it up was straightforward: I unpacked it, plugged it in, connected it to the router with an Ethernet cable and pressed the Wi-Fi Protected Setup buttons on both the camera and the router to get them to connect. Once the wireless connection was made, I disconnected the Ethernet cable, moved the camera to its final location and let it connect to the router over Wi-Fi. It took about 15 minutes total.

On the receiving end, I use D-Link's free MyDLink Lite app (available for both Android and iOS) to watch the video stream on the NitroHD phone; there's also an app called MyDLink+ that costs 99 cents and lets you watch up to four streams at once if you have several cameras set up.

Once the app has found the camera, it takes about 7 seconds for the stream to start. Although the camera is capable of streaming VGA video, the app can show only HVGA resolution. Still, the view is good and I am able to zoom in to see Slowy eating, sleeping and sitting in his water dish.

While there's a low-light mode for nighttime viewing, it shows video in black and white, making Slowy look like he's in an old movie.

Bottom line

Traveling with just a smartphone isn't for everybody, but with the right tools and preparation, those who don't need to use complex applications such as project management software can make it work.

Having traveled in the world of extreme mobility, I love the feeling of liberation that comes with leaving the notebook behind. I don't think I could ever go back.

Related: "On-the-go Power: Mobile Chargers Keep Your Devices Alive"

Brian Nadel is a frequent contributor to Computerworld and the former editor in chief of Mobile Computing & Communications magazine.

Copyright © 2012 IDG Communications, Inc.

1 2 3 4 5 6 Page 6
Page 6 of 6
7 inconvenient truths about the hybrid work trend
Shop Tech Products at Amazon