TechieTalk: Devices for the Frequent Traveller

By Roy Mathur, on 2013-01-21, for the Independent Daily, Mauritius (in which an edited version appeared)

Travel is supposed to broaden the mind, but if you have the privilege of travelling enough, it will both narrow the wallet and even pall. You see, not every place you visit will be the Taj Mahal, the Eiffel Tower, the pyramids at Giza or even busy world travel hubs like London's Heathrow airport, replete with telephone charging stations. Oh no, between these bustling metropolitan destinations, you will often find yourself resting in places like Dead Horse Bute, USA; Jolie Escargot Mort, France; or Little Whinging, England. Places where WiFi is a cruel myth and the locals may eat you. It is times like these that make you reach for the headphones and drift away to some soothing tunes, grab your smartphone and call the emergency services or whip out your camera in case the forensic team needs photographic evidence of your demise later. But as you reach for your 21st century gizmo, you realise the one biggest failing of our shiny technological age- no power.

And thus I present, in the most roundabout way possible, the thesis of this week's lecture: power-saving tips and AA/AAA battery powered devices (no power socket required).

Portable Media Players

I still have a Sandisk m240 Mp3 player. It is extremely old, used and thrice repaired; compared to most modern portable media players it is an ugly, primitive object. It is the Neanderthal flint hand-axe of PMPs. Its redeeming feature is that it runs on AAA batteries. While not as ubiquitous as AAs, you should still be able to find them at the back of most village shops, right next to the dusty skull of the last accidental tourist. Try finding something similar on Amazon.

Mobile Phones

Smartphones that do not suck power like a haemophiliac vampire sucks blood are rarer than the dodo. Therefore, you have only a few options. You can dig around for an old, none-smartphone or buy a really cheap new one. This should be pretty easy even if you live somewhere really tiny like the inappropriately named Grand Cabaret, in the north of our sunny isle (one house, one shop and a police station). In the last two years, I have broken three of these shoddy, but inexpensive devices, but they do all manage to retain a standby charge for weeks. I hesitate to recommend cheap phones, as most of them are of appalling quality, but you might like to consider the universally available Nokia 100 or the dual-SIM Nokia 101. If, however, you can't live without smartphones with enough computing power to formulate the mathematical equations finally revealing the colour of god's underwear, but are instead mostly used to download pictures of The Blessèd Bieber, here are some power-saving tips for the iPhone that should be replicable on Android:

Go to Settings and turn off Bluetooth, then open Notifications and turn them all off. In Settings/General/Cellular, turn off 3G.

Remember, even though Airport Mode is wonderful (just ask the NSA), once you turn it off you are the broadcasting equivalent and a nine billion watt light bulb visible from Tau Ceti.


Most of the cheaper point-and-shoot-camera use AA batteries. For better performance, some of the older model Panasonic Lumix DMC and newer Nikon Coolpix cameras also use AA batteries.

I always hope, probably mistakenly, that my readers are amazed at my technological prowess. The sad truth is that I'm as dumb as everyone else. For example, I discovered the aforementioned charging stations at Heathrow a couple of months ago when I was returning to Mauritius. In the departure lounge, I noticed a pink device plugged into a fancy multi-socketed thing in the middle of a seating area. Curious, I approached and picked up the pink object. It was a phone. Thinking it must be a sale item on display; I shook it and waved it around like a caveman discovering soap for the first time. Eventually an annoyed woman confronted me, demanding to know what I was doing with her phone. I slunk away apologising profusely. I did NOT tell her that I was a tech columnist.


NSA iOS Guide