Once again it's trade show season. And that means it's time for us, the Android Central editors, to show you what we pack when it's time to fly across the world and cover Android things for a full week.
It's been some time — a year and a half, in fact — since we last opened our gear bags and spilled forth the technology contained therein. And in that time a lot has changed. Smartphones are getting bigger better all the time. Power banks are getting quicker and more capacious. We've also been expanding our camera arsenal. And the movemnt away from removable storage and batteries in handsets continues. Some of us have even taken the plunge and are wearing smartwatches full-time.
So read on to find out what I'm packing off to Spain with, and be sure to revisit the other articles in this series when you're done!
The bag: Jasper Conran Messenger Bag
Originally a gift, this leather messenger bag is still standing after a good three years of trade shows and various tech events, crammed with all manner of gadgets and other supplies. There's a spacious zip compartment around the back, big enough for a laptop and a tablet, while the main body is the right size to comfortably hold a sealed liquid container for the flight over, as well as cameras and lenses.
For anything small and fiddly, there are a couple of pouches on the front, behind the main cover, and inside there's another zipped compartment for other odds and ends. Mine has seen more wear and tear than probably any other bag I've owned, and it's still standing — though with understandable signs of wear.
This exact bag is hard to come by online right now, but Amazon has a similar one for around the same price as mine.
The phone: Samsung Galaxy S6 edge+
We're right at the end of the Galaxy S6 generation, but the GS6 edge+ is still a great device, and right now it's my daily driver, because Samsung still doesn't want to sell Europeans a Note 5. For a phone with a 5.7-inch screen, it's easy to hold (which is important when constantly juggling between devices at a show.) It's got arguably the best camera of any Android phone, which is important if you're visiting a part of the world you normally don't get to see.
Beyond that, it's fast, has the best display I've seen on a smartphone, and a UI layer which — unlike previous iterations of Samsung's TouchWiz — doesn't make me want to gouge my eyes out. The only thing it doesn't have going for it is battery life, which is why I'll be packing a quick-charging battery alongside my edge+, and stowing Motorola's Moto X Play as a backup.
The backup: Moto X Play
The Moto X Play was kind of a dud at launch. But all that's changed since the phone got Android 6.0 Marshmallow a few weeks back. The Play is actually usable now, with the system-wide lag we noted in our review largely a thing of the past.
My main reason for packing the Moto X Play is its enormous 3,630mAh battery, which guarantees I won't have to charge it more than once a day even with the heaviest use. What's more, that big battery makes it a great portable hotspot for myself and anyone else on the team who needs one.
The smartwatch: Samsung Gear S2
If trade shows are tough on phones, they're even harder on smartwatches. You're away from a desk (and that proprietary charging dock) from early morning until late at night, with ten times as many notifications flying at you all day. At CES this year I was dumb enough to use an original Moto 360, which was reliably dead before dinnertime every day of that show.
So I'm back on the Gear S2 for Mobile World Congress. Being a Samsung product, it integrates seamlessly with my GS6 edge+ (although it also works great with any Android phone running KitKat or later.) And the battery life trounces anything I've gotten out of an Android Wear device, lasting at least two days per charge.
I'm not using this watch to anywhere near its full potential — it's basically still a glorified notification reader, calendar-checker and music remote. But the layout of widgets and notifications is more logical than Android Wear's, and the rotating bezel is a great way to precisely scroll.
And yes, it also helps that it looks a hell of a lot nicer than any previous Samsung wearable.
The laptop: MacBook Air (13-inch, mid-2012)
I'm sticking with my creaking three-year-old Air still, ready to jump on a refreshed MacBook Pro, which surely has to be coming at Apple's anticipated mid-March event.
In the meantime, the Air is light enough to throw in a bag without really feeling the extra weight. For most things outside of heavy video and photo work it's perfectly adequate, though battery usage is something I still have to watch on this older Ivy Bridge Core i7 model.
Beyond that, there's not much to add. Old laptop is old. Roll on something with discrete graphics and Skylake in a month's time.
The camera: Olympus OM-D E-M5 II
(The lenses: 25mm f/1.8 pancake; 14-150mm f/4-5.6 superzoom)
This compact but capable Olympus Micro Four Thirds camera is small enough to throw in a bag without weighing me down, but good enough to take the kinds of high-quality shots that AC demands, even under lousy show-floor lighting.
Also important: a real, actual viewfinder, a fully rotatable display, laptop tethering capabilities (crucial for liveblogs) and direct mic input (required for hands-on videos.) The Olympus OM-D EM-5 II does all these things without taking up an exorbitant amount of space in my bag.
As for glass, the pancake lens is essentially an "easy mode" lens for taking product shots at trade shows, especially in aperture priority mode. (See my Oppo F1 review for a few sample shots.) Meanwhile the superzoom lens is useful for liveblogs, or the one or two occasions we want to get fancy and take artsy pictures of a phone from really far away.
Batteries: Samsung and Aukey quick-charging batteries
I'm packing a couple of Qualcomm QuickCharge 2.0-capable power banks with me this year.
The first is Samsung's official 5,200mAh rapid-charging cell, originally announced alongside the Galaxy S6 edge+ and Note 5. It's small enough to fit comfortably in a jeans pocket, being around the same size as a regular Galaxy S6 edge.
For heavy-duty charging, I'm also bringing a 10,000mAh dual-port Aukey PB-T4 battery, which charges through Qualcomm QuickCharge 2.0 on one port, and at 5V/1A on the other. It also doubles as an LED torch in case you get lost in the dark.
- See Samsung 5,200mAh battery on ShopAndroid
- See Aukey 10,000mAh battery on Amazon UK
- See Aukey 10,000mAh battery on Amazon.com
A whole bunch of micro-USB cables
I'm not taking anything that needs the newer (and annoyingly rare and expensive) USB Type-C connector, so I'm just bringing a bunch of plain old micro-USB cables with me. You can find them just about anywhere, but the longer ones are often more useful when traveling.
HTC in-ear earbuds
I don't have the space for fancy headphones in my bag. (Nor the time to listen to music on trade show duty.) But for the short flight over I'll be using one of my many HTC in-ear earbuds, which I've accumulated from using a bunch of the company's phones going back to the M7.
They're probably the best cheap earphones I've used, and work great with the non-HTC, non-BoomSound phones I'll be packing to MWC. Better still, they're cheaply and easily replaced if they end up getting misplaced somewhere between events.
Angel Wonder Wing Support Smartphone Stand
Sometimes a phone just won't stand upright, no matter how hard you try. That's where the ridiculously-named Angel Wonder Wing Support Smartphone Stand comes in. It's got a suction cup to attach to whatever device needs to be propped up, and usually holds big Android phones place for long enough to take a great photo of that phone, apparently magically upright.
Skooba Design Cable Stable DLX
This case, which is actually designed to hold a bunch of cables, turns out to be a surprisingly good hold for all kinds of smartphone-related stuff — from the phones themselves, to spare batteries, smartwatch charging docks and other small things that might be lost in a larger bag.
If I'm bringing more than a couple of phones with me, the overflow normally ends up in this thing.
That's a lot of gear
Not all this stuff is the latest and greatest, but most of it has served me well at previous events, and I've come to rely on every piece of technology I'll be taking on the trip to MWC.
Over the next few days, the other AC editors will be showing off the tech they use every day and on the road, so keep watching in the near future. For a trip down memory lane, you might also want to check out previous years' "AC on the road" features to see what we were using twelve months ago.
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