THE GEAR • November 2019
The current best in technology for your next business trip revealed by Financial Times’ tech journo Jonathan Margolis – from sleep-inducing headphones to a pocket-sized isometric gym, plus a language translator smart enough to provide simultaneous translation of business discussions
Kokoon, from the young London start-up of the same name, is a snug, wearable sleeping aid that works with its associated phone app to help you get in those precious zzzs whether on the plane or in a hotel – Kokoon is designed to be wearable even when your head is on a pillow. But the £315 gadget (available in light grey or matte black) in the form of a pair of over-ear headphones also doubles as, you guessed it, a pair of over-ear headphones – and very good ones too.
Glasgow headphone maker RHA has been thinking about how we listen to sound from in-flight entertainment systems and came up with this clever wireless flight adapter (£40), which makes it possible to connect your Bluetooth headphones to the in-seat headphone socket and move about the cabin without either having to remove your cans, or miss essential dialogue from the film you’re watching.
Having a power plug in your seat is great, but it also means you have to keep your charger unit in your in-flight bag. Many business travellers crave the freedom not to plug into that power outlet. But on long-haul flights, the seven to eight hours of battery life that laptops typically run for is never quite enough. Dell’s answer, in its Latitude 7400 (from £1,599), is the best battery life in a business machine. Dell claims 26 hours in some circumstances, but you can certainly rely on 13 to 15 hours. Enough, we think, for any length of flight.
Language translation gadgets have come a long way since those grey screen devices with a miniature keyboard that were popular 10-15 years ago. PocketTalk (£240) translates any combination of 74 languages at warp speed instantly, even when both parties are discussing complex business matters. It needs Wi-Fi or a 4G connection, but is better than using a translation app on your phone because you can pass the PocketTalk across the negotiating table – a professional alternative to your everyday phone.
All business travellers crave the ultimate plug adapter, and this one, from OneAdaptr, is among the cleverest and most compact you’ll see. The OneWorld works in almost every plug socket you will find on your travels. The PD version, around £30, allows for a regular mains plug, three USB plugs and a USB-C, meaning you can use it to charge an Apple MacBook without even packing your official Apple charger. It also has an electronic cut-out, to prevent overloading.
If you are working in tough physical conditions on your business trip, the Doogee S40 phone from South Korea could be worth taking along. It will survive multiple drops – 20,000 in one test – extreme temperatures both hot and cold, and water up to 1.5 metres deep. Testers have run over the S40 with a truck and thrown it onto fires. The Android device, which typically costs just £80, also has a massive battery life – a claimed 105 hours web browsing and 33 hours talk time.
Travel-ready electric toothbrushes are a neglected product category. This one from New York start-up Quip has been incredibly popular in the US and is now delivered internationally for around $50. It’s small, sleek and compact, but its best feature as a travel gadget is a brilliant holder that can be stuck to a hotel bathroom mirror, then moved on repeatedly as you go from hotel to hotel.
The idea of getting exercise while airborne seems improbable, but that’s to forget the power of isometrics – strength exercises using your muscles against themselves or static objects such as the floor. The Activ5 (around £130) is sold as ‘A Tiny Gym In Your Pocket’ and is like a smooth stone that fits in the palm of your hand. Regularly working out with Activ5 and its companion app has been shown to deliver a 30 per cent increase in strength over six weeks.