How to Maximize Airplane WiFi Use
Sure, getting delayed is inconvenient. But if you have the right tools, you might find that some of your most productive hours happen while you’re waiting in the airport terminal. Your first move should always be to check for a Wi-Fi signal somewhere, but if that doesn’t work, we’ve organized a collection of alternative devices to help you get connected—and look good doing it.
Fujitsu LifeBook U810
At just 1.6 pounds, Fujitsu’s U810 is the lightest laptop we’ve ever had both our hands on, though it fits comfortably in only one palm. This tablet PC (just whip out the stylus and draw directly on the screen, if you prefer) is truly pocket-sized, with a tiny yet very bright 5.6-inch display and 3.5 hours of battery life. Under the hood, the specs are decidedly restrained, but the U810 is a perfect go-anywhere backup laptop. Throw a USB 3G adapter (like the Novatel Ovation, below) in your bag, and you’ll never be out of touch with the world.
OQO Model 02
On the surface, it may look like a standard video player, but slide the screen up to reveal a full keyboard below, suitable for thumb typing. The OQO Model 02 is a full Windows Vista PC, weighing just one pound and offering a five-inch LCD screen, a 120GB hard drive and—most importantly—an integrated 3G modem that works on Sprint and Verizon’s high-speed data networks. It’s fully geared up for Wi-Fi networking, too.
Aliph Jawbone Headset
Bluetooth headsets are hardly the height of fashion. In fact, they positively scream “nerd.” Designed by Yves Behar, who also designed the stylish OLPC, the Aliph Jawbone actually turns the lowly headset into a piece of high-tech wearable art. It doesn’t just look good, though—it’s also a winner in the audio department, thanks to “Noise Shield” technology that scrubs away unwanted sounds. Available in three colors.
$99 (with wireless plan), palm.com
Many travelers fear the ubiquitous Apple iPhone for fear the expensive device will get broken or stolen. Palm’s Centro is a super- affordable smart phone alternative that’s also stylish and portable. While the Centro doesn’t have Wi-Fi, it does beat the iPhone by including a high-speed 3G radio, so you’ll never go anywhere without a zippy connection to the outside world. The Centro’s 1.3-megapixel camera and microSD card slot are just the icing on the cake.
Skype White Phone
Cheap Voice over IP (VoIP) services like Skype are great when you’re at your desk, but less so on the road. Enter the Skype White phone, which puts all of the VoIP company’s standard features on a mobile handset you can use anywhere that has a cellular connection, for a low monthly fee. The first handsets cover Europe, Asia and Australia, and a U.S. model should be out by the time you read this. (If you want Skype on your current handset, look for a free download at iskoot.com. Many Nokia, BlackBerry and Treo models are supported.)
Somewhere between video player and digital organizer, Nokia’s N810 is a dazzling do-it-all pocket device that could replace both your Palm and your iPod. Integrated Wi-Fi lets you surf the Web easily, while the slide-out keyboard makes data entry far simpler and faster than the usual hunt-and-peck on a touch-screen. Integrated GPS means you’ll never get lost: Maps look fantastic on the 4.1-inch display, as do videos stored on either the 2GB of internal memory or on expansion cards. Can’t get a Wi-Fi signal? Bluetooth lets you connect the N810 to your cell phone for a quick data linkup.
Novatel Ovation MC727
$80 (with wireless plan), novatelwireless.com
Getting a high-speed data connection on your laptop used to mean installing an awkward, bulky PC card. Novatel’s Ovation MC727 is the world’s smallest EV-DO modem (good on either the Sprint or Verizon networks), a USB device that plugs in whenever you need it and rides unobtrusively in your bag when you don’t. As a bonus, a microSD card slot lets you add up to 4GB of memory to the device, letting it double as a regular storage drive. And, if Sprint is your carrier, you can also use the Ovation as a GPS receiver.
Belkin N1 Vision
All the handy gadgets above should have you connected no matter where you travel, but what if you’re just kicking back at home? Belkin’s N1 Vision is the Cadillac of Wi-Fi routers, blending simplicity of setup and use with some high-end features previously unseen on consumer networking equipment, like an integrated display that can tell you at a glance who’s connected to your wireless network and how fast your connection is running. Plus, it’s blazing fast, provides rock-solid connections and offers exceptional range.
CHRISTOPHER NULL is a freelance writer in San Francisco.