Lifestyle

How a smartphone became my travel buddy

To Taipei 101 and beyond!

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I’m the kind of traveler who turns a trip abroad into a process. I plan beforehand, execute every planned move, and adapt to situations along the way.

Normally, this approach requires me to bring a handy notebook, high-quality mirrorless camera, and printed maps in my backpack. For my trip to Taipei, Taiwan, I tried something a little different.

This time, I set out to do everything on my smartphone, going from an analog kid to grownup with an all-in-one gadget. Being the traditional type, it was a bit hard to do, but finding the perfect travel buddy certainly wasn’t.

I’ve been using the Huawei P20 Pro as my daily driver for a while now, and I’ve been having a tough time letting it go for another handset, so it was, without a doubt, the first choice to spring to my mind.

With the phone in hand (and no old-school items packed), I set out to explore Taipei using only my newfound travel buddy.

Or maybe I still need to visual my routes on a bigger layout before heading out. This was me being stubborn and giving conventional maps one last look before going full digital.

A journey through Taipei means lots of eating and drinking. While searching for routes and places to visit on Google Maps, I make it a point to find highly rated restaurants and juice bars along the way.

Doing so in Taiwan is a cinch. Mobile internet here is incredibly fast for any standards, and quick searches on both Maps and Chrome take only a few seconds.

Taipei is the kind of city that requires a lot of walking and commuting to get around. For the longer train rides, I whip out my phone to play a game of Asphalt 9: Legends or Dragon Ball Legends — two games that require a lot of power to run.

Fortunately, the P20 Pro can handle both with ease. Not only is it powerful enough to max out the in-game graphics, its battery is long-lasting enough to get through the day even though I play hours’ worth of games, and that’s with mobile data always on.

Don’t let the low number of steps above fool you; even though it was already close to sunset, my day was just starting. Taipei wakes up at night with its numerous markets filled with fantastic food and affordable clothing.

To get from one point to another, there’s lots of walking involved. It’s great to have a smartphone that can readily show you how many steps you’ve taken at a glance so you know you’re burning all the food you ate.

Just to prove it, here’s me actually walking in the city. Aside from bringing the right travel companion with you, it’s also vital to dress up properly for the weather.

My annual trips to Taipei normally happen around June, which is when Computex goes on. During this season, it can get quite humid when the sun’s out, and a little chilly at night. It’s best to be prepared for both.

I must say, Taipei is a beautiful city — easily one of my favorites in the whole world. There’s no shortage of landmarks to see, but if there’s one you must visit, it’s Taipei 101. Once the tallest building in the world, the skyscraper is still a sight to behold no matter what angle you view it from.

For this shot, I chose to shoot it from below, and the P20 Pro handled the challenging lighting with ease. Every detail was captured, and there’s the option of zooming in for another take on the iconic view.

What’s great about having a phone with artificial intelligence built in is that it can detect scenes and subjects for you. This came in handy when I went around Taipei Zoo.

Although I was obviously going to take photos of animals at every turn, I liked how my phone could adjust settings on the fly and tweak images for me automatically.

At the end of the day, it’s nice to relax and scroll through all the photos I’ve taken while sipping from a cup of Taipei’s signature milk tea — even better when it’s on phone as attractive as the P20 Pro both inside and out.

There’s so much more you can do with the P20 Pro on a trip, but no travel piece can cover every single feature. For more, you can watch our hands-on video below.


This feature was produced in collaboration between GadgetMatch and Huawei.

Accessories

This case turns your AirPods into an iPod Classic

It screams retro

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The iPod was a revolutionary gadget when it was launched. Back then the market was filled with bulky music boomboxes ranging from a Walkman to a simple MP3 player. Apple changed the course of portable media forever thanks to close integration between the iPod and iTunes.

Today, the iPhone combines all legacy music requirements along with streaming via Apple Music. Further, AirPods have been a huge success due to the closed ecosystem and near-native support.

Case manufacturer Elago wants to take things further. Their AW6 case mimics the look of the iPod, complete with the iconic click wheel —  the circular touch-sensitive navigation ring.

The case is made entirely from high-grade silicone. It’s flexible and impact-resistant, and thick enough to ensure that all accidental drops have some level of protection. For AirPods 2 owners, there’s a special cut-out to show the charging indicator.

The case has been deemed an Amazon Choice product and have received some pretty high praise online. Not only does it look funky, but they also deliver a retro-feel to the now-defunct iPod Classic.

Last month, Elago also launched an ‌AirPods‌ case that was looks like the original Macintosh, followed by an Apple Watch inspired case.

Elago’s AW6 Case (iPod Classic) for ‌AirPods‌ is available on the company’s website and on Amazon for US$ 11.99. It also comes in black with a red click wheel.

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Apps

Airbnb partners with the Olympics in 9-year deal

Just in time for Tokyo 2020

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Airbnb and the International Olympic Committee (IOC) has signed a new deal to support five Olympics and Paralympics for the next nine years, making the platform a Worldwide Olympic Partner. Apart from the 2020 Games in Tokyo, the partnership covers Beijing 2022, Paris 2024, Milan 2026, and Los Angeles 2028.

According to the IOC, the joint effort will be “in line with the UN Sustainable Development Goals to provide travel options that are economically empowering, socially inclusive, and environmentally sustainable.”

The partnership hopes to minimize construction of new infrastructure for host cities to accommodate not just athletes, staff, and workers, but the surge of tourists as well. This also means generating extra income for new and existing hosts in the local communities during the Games.

IOC President Thomas Bach said that the partnership underpins their strategy to ensure that staging the Olympic Games leaves a legacy for the host community.

Airbnb is also launching a new category of Experiences to be hosted by Olympians themselves. These activities can help provide financial support for athletes while they train, as well as career opportunities even after competing.

Airbnb as a more sustainable option

Airbnb has previously supported Rio 2016 and PyeongChang 2018 as a domestic sponsor. A recent World Economic Forum study found that in Rio, the additional capacity provided through Airbnb was equivalent to 257 hotels. This saved the city unnecessary construction and carbon emissions, while also providing approximately US$ 30 million in direct revenue for hosts. It also generated an estimated total economic activity of US$ 100 million in three weeks.

Similarly, during the Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games PyeongChang last year, Airbnb hosts earned approximately US$ 2.3 million collectively by providing accommodation to 15,000 visitors who would have required 46 hotels.

Most recently, Airbnb hosts across Japan welcomed more than 650,000 travellers during the Rugby World Cup, and earned more than US$ 70 million collectively.

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Her GadgetMatch

Peloton: A cult I want to join

Can a Peloton bike replace going to a spin studio?

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I’ve heard and read about Peloton mostly from the hype in tech news and commercials on TV. When people talk about it, I hear them refer to it as the cult of Peloton. As someone who recently fell in love with spin class, my curiosity is peaked. If you’re a Peloton customer, you don’t just like it — you love it! It’s not a piece of exercise equipment; it’s a lifestyle.

On a recent trip to New York, I noticed my hotel was close to a Peloton studio. My hotel also had a Peloton bike in the gym. As I roll towards 40, I’ve accepted that my body needs me to pay attention to it. So I fed my Peloton curiosity and went to the studio to take a class. I also took a virtual one in my hotel — more on that later.

Peloton studio experience

If you’ve ever been to a high end spin studio you’ll be familiar with the set up at Peloton. For those who haven’t done a modern spin class, you basically get shoes, locker rooms that have many products, and someone to help you set up your bike. The experience screams premium and makes dropping US$ 35 seem justified.

Like most workout studios, the room is very cold when you walk in. Today’s spin classes are done in the dark with very loud music — almost like going to parties. At the Peloton studio, the bikes are set up around a stage on three sides. As we waited to get started, Jenn, the instructor, was already interacting with everyone online. I’ve heard and read of Peloton before, but I didn’t realize that the class I was attending was being live streamed to hundreds, maybe thousands of people.

“RoadCruiser, it’s your 400th ride! Congratulations and thanks for being part of the Peloton nation,” screamed Jenn. “RidnMama happy 100th ride, Pelotooooon!”

Hearing the word Peloton happened consistently throughout the ride. Like being in actual cults, being in a Peloton class felt a bit like being indoctrinated. The same way cults repeat ideologies and phrases, Jenn would randomly scream Peloton for all of 30 minutes. When I started counting midway, I heard her say it 11 more times.

What caught me off guard was the fact that Jenn essentially ignored the class and was in constant eye contact with the cameras around the room. One camera would slowly go from the left side of the room to the right, and her gaze would follow it. It was distracting and felt like I was watching something I wasn’t supposed to.

Having done no actual research on Peloton before going, I left the class confused. Being the journalist that I am, I asked the sales girl at the front desk a ton of questions. I found out that there are only two Peloton studios in the whole world: one in New York, and the other in London.

Suddenly I felt very lucky to have taken a class in one of the two studios. Then almost immediately I realized that I was doing things completely wrong. Most Peloton customers will never step foot into a physical Peloton studio, and they probably will never want to. Peloton’s main focus is giving virtual classes, and that’s what they’re good at.

Peloton only set up studios to livestream the instructor for the virtual classes. The London studio starts putting classes online in the morning and the New York studio has classes until late at night, covering all of Europe and US timezones. Unlike other spin studios, real world classes at Peloton are only a byproduct of content creation for their virtual community.

Virtual Peloton class experience

The next day I went to my hotel’s gym to take my first virtual class. When I logged on, there were no live classes about to start, so I took one of the many pre-recorded ones. The bike lets you choose by class type, instructor, genre of music, and style of ride — I chose a 90s hiphop class.

When the class started, I found Jess, the instructor, looking at me straight in the eye from the 21.5” HD display of the bike. Suddenly the thing I found the creepiest from the live class was the thing I loved most of the virtual class. The connection I felt with Jess was far stronger than the one in the studio — even stronger than I’ve ever felt at a traditional spin class at SoulCycle or ride.bln.

Being more engaged resulted in a much better work out compared to the one I did in the studio. Admittedly, I’ve only taken a single virtual class, but I’m already convinced they can bring the same high end spin class I take in studios into my own home.

The traditional spin class experience

In Berlin, I take spin classes at ride.bln. They have beautiful locker rooms and attentive staff. The environment is pretty much identical to Peloton’s NYC studio, except smaller. That’s pretty much where the similarities end.

My favorite instructor at ride.bln is Malin. Her style of dancing around the studio, correcting people’s postures, and reading the room so that we’re getting the best workout we can are the little things that make going to a real world spin class great — things you won’t ever get from a virtual class. Seeing my instructor pushing through with her eyes closed honors my struggle. Her energy makes me want to give her spin class everything I’ve got.

Photo from ride.bln

I am genuinely curious what her take would be if she tried to adapt her style to Peloton. Closing her eyes through a tough segment something she would be able to do as a Peloton instructor. Her style would have to completely change and having gone to her classes, I fear they would become soulless. Can she bring the same engagement to a class while staring into a camera? I’m afraid not.

Is this your GadgetMatch?

If you were to get a Peloton bike and join the cult, you can probably replicate the dark room with the same loud music at home, but I’m not sure it would really be the same as going to a good spin studio. What Peloton is is not exactly a replacement, but an alternative for people like me who don’t have a 9-to-5 routine.

What the cult of Peloton has done is remove several barriers of having to go to spin class. Spin classes may only last 30-60 minutes, but you also have to factor in the time to go to the studio, get ready, and everything that comes after. Peloton also made it easy for its customers to start and do spin classes more consistently. You can be a newbie and not get intimidated by the people around you and just spin at your own pace. You can even do the same classes when you’re traveling, no matter which timezone you’re in.

The best part of being part of the Peloton cult is not the high end equipment nor the classes; it’s the strong virtual connections it’s been able to create to motivate you to achieve your own fitness goals — whether you’re on your bike at home or some other place in the world.

Cult or not, both Peloton and traditional spin classes are great if you’re already into fitness. If not, hearing people talk about it all the time can be annoying and does you no good. All of these classes are just tools to achieve our goals, and no amount of tech is good enough a motivation as the one that comes from within.

SEE ALSO: Confessions of a non-runner


Editor’s note: This is a slightly modified excerpt of an article written by the same author published on MobileGeeks.com.

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