Mobile tools of the future: perfectly equipped on the go? {Review}


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Disclosure & Image Rights: Ortlieb supported us with free test products, which we checked until they were unusable as part of the test. Images from Ortlieb.

If you want to work on the go, you need the perfect equipment. Starting with the mobile device itself, with the right bag and the right charging cable. But the market for mobile work equipment is always on the move, constant adjustments are necessary.

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Simone Janson Simone JansonSimone Janson is publisher, German Top20 blogger and Consultant for HR communication.

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Travel planning starts with choosing the right bag

Opinions differ as to what the tools of the future will look like. Netbooks, celebrated as a small and light alternative just a few years ago, are now completely out of fashion. At first glance, ultrabooks, narrower and lighter than notebooks, but still equipped with high performance than tablets, seem to me to be the solution for the mobile office of the future. But foldable screens, cell phones with a folding screen, could soon revolutionize the market - at least today I prefer to use my cell phone on the go.

Accordingly, my travel planning starts with the choice of the right bag: The Twin City Bag from Ortlieb has proven to be particularly practical here, even if you are still traveling by bike. Because the bag is the 2-in-1 solution not only for cyclists: depending on which side you fold the folding lid over, you can use it as a shoulder bag or bike bag: thanks to the QL2.1 hook system, it can be attached directly to the Hang in the luggage rack. The shoulder strap is securely stowed in an extra pocket. After the ride, you turn the cover over to the other side, cover the bike hooks on the outside and hang them over your shoulder. In addition, the bag can not only be closed with a practical strap, but also with a zipper. This offers enough storage space to go shopping on the go.

Because the Twin-City Urban is big enough for an organizer in A4 format, wallet, smartphone, notebook, water bottle etc. - and small enough to go through everyday life with light luggage. The Cordura fabric with a fabric look is not only waterproof and hard-wearing, but also feels pleasantly soft. So the bag is not only extremely practical, it also looks great.

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The tools of the future are small and handy

Who asks now what about the upholstery for mobile work equipment in, for example, elaborate notebook backpacks or even trolley cases, I ask back: will we still need it in the future? The smaller and lighter tablets with their completely new operating concept consisting of a touchscreen, on-screen keyboard and apps again did not manage to change our traditional working habits: the expected revolution has failed to materialize. Which tools and matching bags will we use in the future?

Some time ago I had the opportunity to test an ultrabook and a tablet in quick succession. Both were equipped with Windows as the operating system, which makes comparability easier, but in my opinion it does not do both devices well: Because, especially on tablets, the supposedly big hit from Microsoft is in reality an unhappy hermaphrodite between the two worlds, neither fish nor meat . Sure, the start menu looks stylish and made for touchscreens; however, if you want to use “normal” programs, you cannot do without a mouse or stylus. This bad mix makes the use of devices, both tablets and ultrabooks, a pain - and my comparison actually unfair.

Humans are creatures of habits

Because the user-friendliness is what won the Ultrabook for me: with it, the operating system can be used as usual via mouse and keyboard, the device reacts as usual quickly, even complex tasks such as video editing are almost as easy as on the desktop at home -PC possible. In addition, the 12-inch screen is a comfortable size to work with. Only the weight and battery runtimes are significantly worse here. Working on the tablet, on the other hand, was just one move around for me: it is not possible to use the small buttons without a stylus. However, I have to admit that for reasons of time I did not install apps, but used the usual programs such as Open Office. Incidentally, Android's tablet works much better here.

The switching back and forth between netbook and tablet mode, as I have imagined so well in advance, hardly takes place in reality, since I usually have to type something in the ten-finger system on the external keyboard is simply easier. The tablet therefore stays in its holder almost all the time and in this way becomes a kind of netbook with a small screen and too little memory for more complex work - the classic netbook problem, to which there are further disadvantages: the fragile construction in the Stand, the cumbersome handling of the stylus instead of a mouse - and the two chargers that you now have to carry with you for tablet and keyboard. In this case there is also the lack of connectivity, for example an SD card slot is missing; the connection via USB, for example with an external hard drive, is also difficult.

The stylus - a model with a future?

However, the stylus was a revelation for me. Font recognition works amazingly well, even with my handwriting and even with prescribers. This shows the strength of the tablet system: you can actually enter notes directly and convert them into printed text. In addition, this type of entry is also possible in confined spaces, for example on an airplane.

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It would be even more practical, however, to enter the text directly in the text file instead of in a separate input window. For me, it also takes getting used to writing texts by hand - I type much faster. Improvements in the text are also rather difficult to implement with the stylus. However, more and more I find myself reading texts and eMails now reading with a tablet - but without a solution if I have to answer quickly.

Plus point for tablets and cell phones: the charger

However, tablets offer a plus point: small and handy chargers that are also much easier to get back than the bulky chargers of notebooks and ultrabooks. Because it can happen to all of us that you leave the charger for your laptop, cell phone etc. at home or in a hotel on an important business trip. Whether there is help on site very much depends on the manufacturer's service.

I experienced this nightmare on a research trip to Estonia. I had carefully packed my tools: laptop, cell phone and the camera and accessories because I wanted to make several videos, including with the General Manager of Skype. At the airport, still in Germany, I remembered that I had the external microphone, the flash and my tripod with me for the camera - but not the charger. I flipped over my options for a moment: I still had about an hour to go before my scheduled departure, I lived about 15 minutes away - and it was too risky for me. Now I was lucky: I was on my way to Talinn, another European capital, not the Sahara desert. There should also be a suitable charger there.

Forgot charger: A problem with poor solution prospects

Incidentally, such problems can almost always occur on the go - for example because you leave your charger somewhere. With the amount of cables you carry around with you these days, it's no wonder. It is precisely in such situations that it comes back to us that each manufacturer has its own specifications for its devices: The devices are rarely compatible with each other, finding a replacement device is like gambling. Because how can you quickly find a shop on site in a foreign city that has a corresponding charger in stock? And what exactly do you do in such cases?

Of course, you could also go to the nearest electronics shop on site and, if you're lucky, just ask for the charger. However, this is usually difficult because the chargers are not sold individually, but only together with the camera, cell phone or laptop. What helps here are specialized, small shops. But how do you find them? The first point of contact is the manufacturer's website. In my case, my camera manufacturer Olympus offers an international dealer search. However, this is not easy to find - I have to click on the "Cameras" product group on the start page and then find the retailer under "Customer service". This is not necessarily logical, it would have been better to link the retailer search directly to the footer of the website, but at least I find a handful of retailers near the center in Talinn and I'm lucky that one of them has a charger for me.

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It could have been much more difficult with a different manufacturer and at a different location: With computer manufacturer Dell, for example, you won't find a dealer overview: Because Dell relies on direct sales, there are hardly any shops on site that can provide the appropriate replacement devices. However, the overall situation with the loss of chargers is unsatisfactory. Until the manufacturers have made improvements here, the only solution is actually help to help themselves: for example, when buying a device, buy a replacement charger at the same time - or to look specifically for devices that are more compatible with other devices. And meanwhile: Always take good care of the charger!

My conclusion: the simpler and lighter the better

A tablet has so far been a practical device to quickly get a few eMails or reading texts - things I can do with my cell phone. So far, it has hardly been a full-fledged ultrabook replacement. The direct entry of notes via stylus has a future, but the handling would have to be improved. In general it hangs development tablet technology, especially on practical, easy-to-use apps, and is therefore primarily a software problem. But maybe we are just too slaves of our habit - because so far I would have preferred an ultrabook at any time.

Nevertheless, in the end, the small and light devices are ahead of me: I use my cell phone for most tasks on the go, for example for communication. Chargers can be easily replaced here and it also fits comfortably in your jacket or bike bag. Only on longer train journeys do I take my laptop with me at all and would like that to become superfluous soon: when foldable screens become the norm and you can operate the mobile phone with a Bluetooth keyboard - something I already do today like to do. I look forward to the mobile work of the future


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