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Top 10 travel technology essentials


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In days gone by travel was a necessity. You couldn't do business with someone unless you'd looked them in the eye, or had someone you trusted do it for you. And despite the best efforts of the videoconferencing industry and the environmental lobby this remains essentially true today.

For consumers too the range of technology that you take take on a trip has grown steadily and more and more people are taking along at least something to keep up with the email.

So nearly two decades of travelling experience have gone into creating this list. May your travels be light and your delays few.

Honourable Mentions: Reviews sites, E-books

10. Locking cable

9. Electronic reservations/ boarding passes

8. Mapping

7. Bluetooth

6. Universal Plug

5. Encryption tools

4. Datacards

3. GPS

2. Smartphone

Iain Thomson: Smartphones have come a huge distance in a very short time and a good mobile device can literally be a lifesaver, as the many who've been rescued after emergency texts can testify.

Smartphones have huge advantages in terms of portability and battery life over laptops and come with ever increasing data connectivity. Add in the advantages of GPS, Wi-Fi and the applications to make it worthwhile and you have a powerful mobile tool.

The basic phone functionality is still at the core of the mobile phone's usefulness but as a contacts database, mobile internet platform and portable alarm clock it can be unmatched. Some go for screen size, others for a hand keyboard and smaller viewing area and many variations in between. Pick the model that is best for your most common uses.

Shaun Nichols: Smartphones are great because they provide the functions of so many of the other devices on our list.

They can play media and access the web to stave off boredom during long trips and airport layovers. They can also provide directions via GPS and help you find your way about town through built-in mapping features, when you're out seeing sights you can take pictures with the increasingly high-resolution cameras now being built in to handsets.

And of course as Iain noted, they also provide the essential function of serving as a mobile phone.

If I was going to take a trip anywhere and could only bring one piece of technology, it would no doubt be my smartphone. Provided, of course, that I can get a decent connection wherever it is I'm going. Nothing says "yokel" like standing around with a useless handset and asking everyone around you if there's a place in town where your carrier can actually handle a call.

1. Notebook computers

Shaun Nichols: Perhaps we're a little biased here, seeing as how being able to access the internet while out of the office is a huge part of our jobs, but the reality is that notebook computing has changed the way millions of people work.

Imagine what a business trip would be like without a notebook computer. You get to the hotel, but can't check your email. You leave for the office, but can't remember the directions you got. Then you get to the office, but the drive you put the presentation on was damaged, and even when you get it, the files are incompatible with the desktops on site.

Notebooks have become so essential for business use that they now handily outsell desktops, and the primary reason for that is their ability to be used while travelling.

Iain Thomson: If there's one must-have for the business traveller then it's the notebook.

Without its invention business travel would be much more rare. Airlines would go bust, hotel chains shut down and a lot of people could have spent more time at home with their families. As it is we can now put most of the office in a shoulder bag.

This week's list needed very little debate for the first four items on the list, but notebook as first or second gave rise to a momentary pause. It was an obvious first choice, but for how much longer?

Some may say that the notebook is on its way out eventually, that smartphones will dominate. I have my doubts“ the primary input method for data is still text, and that means a full sized keyboard. And there's no-one in the world who wants a phone that size, although some might if Steve Jobs told them it was cool.

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