Here’s what I’m packing to Google’s annual nerd party in Mountain View!
Google I/O is a unique gem in the Android calendar, and not just because it’s Google’s yearly chance to show us what it’s working on, and prepare developers for the devices of and platforms of the future. Being an outdoors event, Google I/O has its own set of challenges when it comes to event coverage. You’re out in the California sun, for starters, and it’s not quite as easy to find somewhere to plug in and write up stories. And that’s before you get to the challenges of recording and editing video in that setting.
All of which means you need to pick your I/O gear pretty carefully.
This’ll be my third Google I/O attending in person, and I’ve come packing a refreshed pile of gear to help me through the keynote, developer sessions and beyond
The bag: Jasper Conran Messenger Bag
I have a few messenger bags that I alternate between. But I picked this one for I/O because it also doubles as a decent, lightweight airplane carry-on bag, and is (just about) big enough to accommodate my new laptop and a tripod, along with a camera and couple of lenses.
This one’s seen a good few trade shows over the past four-or-so years, and so it’s a little beaten up, but still does the job. One consequence of its age is that it’s no longer directly available to buy anywhere. Instead, Amazon UK has a similar, more up-to-date version.
The Phone: Samsung Galaxy S8+
In the past year I’ve bounced between a Galaxy S7, Pixel XL and LG G6, but for I/O I’ve settled on the Galaxy S8+, which is my daily driver even when I’m not several thousand miles away from home covering a tech event.
The Galaxy S8 is the best overall phone you can buy right now, thanks to great performance, the best screen on any smartphone, a phenomenal design and a dependable camera. That’s especially important when I’m going to be bouncing between I/O in Mountain View and other places around the Bay Area, keeping a log of things via Instagram photos.
It’s not a multi-day battery life campion, but I’m generally not far away from a power bank at I/O, so that’s not a huge deal for me. And while the design is a little awkward to one-hand, I appreciate the larger display when I’m dealing with a large number of apps, and occasionally running more than one at once in multiwindow mode.
The case: Samsung Clear View Stand Case
I’m not normally a case guy, but travel tends to take a lot out of phones, and I’ve come back from too many trips with dinged up phones to take any chances this time. That’s why on travel days I’ve been rocking Samsung’s own Clear View Stand Case. It’s a decent improvement upon earlier Samsung flipcases, with a soft-touch interior on the clear front panel.
It is a little thicker than most S8 Plus cases, but that extra depth allows you to prop up the phone and watch a movie or YouTube video without tiring out your hands.
The backup: LG G6
There are plenty of reasons to bring the LG G6 along on a demanding trip — extra-tall display works great in split-screen view, and it’s a lot less slippery than phones like the Galaxy S8 or HTC U11. But if I’m honest, I’m carrying the G6 as a secondary device almost entirely for the wide-angle camera.
As good as the Galaxy S8’s main camera is — and not to do a disservice to the G6’s main shooter here, which is also great — Samsung can’t recreate the instant fun of capturing an extremely wide-angle view of what’s in front of you. No panorama mode. No stitch errors. Just shoot. The G6 also benefits from similar wide-angle capabilities in its selfie camera, which is indispensable when you want to fit a few other AC team members and some Android statues in your shots.
The watch: OG Huawei Watch
It was this or a Samsung Gear S2, and going into I/O I figured Android Wear was the way to go. The good old first-gen Huawei Watch remains my Wear 2.0 device of choice, and Huawei’s late-2015 effort has gotten even better with this latest software upgrade.
Would I be wearing a smartwatch if I weren’t doing this job? Debatable. But for an event like I/O, when notifications are flying at you all day for most of an entire week, it’s essential.
Sure, Huawei’s charging puck is still annoying as hell, and the lack of auto-brightness is annoying. But that’s far outweighed by the fact that the Huawei Watch, with a metal strap, is one of the Android wearables that actually approaches a good-looking timepiece.
The laptop: Razer Blade (14-inch)
Earlier this year I made the switch from a MacBook Air to a Windows machine, mainly for video editing reasons, and my machine of choice is the 14-inch Razer Blade with NVIDIA GTX 1060. The discrete GPU and powerful Skylake processor make short of Adobe Premiere, many PC games, and of course that most demanding and resource-intensive of applications, Google Chrome. It’s big, and it’s powerful, and still relatively portable, which is what I want out of a main workstation.
I opted for the 1080p model on the advice of Mobile Nations video editor Mark Guim, as the 4K version apparently has less vibrant hues and inferior viewing angles. And I chose the 512GB storage option because… well, video files are big.
On the negative side, this thing’s much heavier than your average Air or Ultrabook, and despite its tank-like frame, battery life is pretty weak — with demanding use in Premiere, I’m lucky to get four hours. (Which is why I’ll be also lugging its gigantic charging brick around with me everywhere I go.)
The camera: Olympus OM-D E-M5 II
(The lenses: 25mm f/1.8 pancake; 14-150mm f/4-5.6 superzoom)
I’m tempted by the prospect of recording 4K video, and likely to make the jump to a camera body that’s better for shooting video in general soon… But in the meantime this compact Olympus Micro Four Thirds is a reliable go-to camera for most things I do here at Android Central. (Read: Putting still and moving pictures on the Internet.)
It’s small enough to disassemble and store in a messenger bag, while packing important features like a rotatable display, decent battery life (with a spare packed, of course), laptop tetherability and mic input.
The superzoom lens is pretty versatile for keynote photography, where you’re a good distance back from whoever’s on stage at Shoreline Amphitheater, but not great in low light. Over the past year I’ve found the 25mm pancake lens is my best option for hands-on photo video, and perfectly suited to shooting in less than perfect lighting conditions.
Most of my stuff is shot on one of these two lenses. (For example, our recent Best Android Phone video.)
Batteries: Samsung and Aukey quick-charging batteries
The plastic shell of my 5,200mAh Samsung quick charge batteries has sustained plenty of battle damage, but it’s still alive and kicking — and a great size for throwing in a pocket on a longer day, where the S8+’s built-in cell might not otherwise make it. It supports Qualcomm Quick Charge 2.0, which is compatible with Samsung’s Adaptive Fast Charging, and the G6’s Quick Charge 3 capabilities.
Should I need to pack in more power, my 10,000mAh dual-port Aukey battery pack is up to the task, with one fast charging port — again, Qualcomm Quick Charge 2.0 — which can also put out 2.4A at 5V. And there’s a second port for juicing up lesser devices at 1A/5V. It’s a little bulky, but it’s survived countless trips in all manner of bags, and is always ready to bring my phone of choice back to life at the end of a busy day.
The main inconvenience factor is that you need to pack a few microUSB cables to charge them, as neither is Type-C.
- See Samsung 5,200mAh battery on ShopAndroid
- See Aukey 10,000mAh battery on Amazon UK
- See Aukey 10,000mAh battery on Amazon.com
Earbuds: Samsung Galaxy S8 bundled AKG earbuds + Samsung Level Active
I’ll use fancy, expensive headphones at home, but I don’t always want to take them on the road with me. This time around I’ve opted for Samsung’s own AKG-tuned earbuds, as bundled with the Galaxy S8. They’re good — not quite $99 good, as is claimed — but I was impressed by how well they withstood the barrage of airplane noise on the journey over, and they’re comfortable enough to be worn for long period too. The audio quality you get — while a little bass heavy — is better than any bundled buds I’ve used.
When I feel the need to go wireless, I use Samsung’s Level Active earbuds. The battery life isn’t quite up there with a decent set of neckbuds, but the Level Actives are infinitely more portable, and way more comfortable than the larger Level In earphones.
The spare phone holder: Komodo Nexus 6P neoprene case
These cases are my solution to transporting spare phones around without them getting destroyed in a messenger bag. Simple, cheap, with velcro fastener up top, and designed for the Motorola Nexus 6, so you know pretty much anything will fit.
I’m packing a spare Pixel phone with me for I/O — for obvious reasons, as we approach the new Android O beta release — and the Komodo case keeps it from becoming any more scratched and dented than it already is.
That’s a lot of gear…
My list, as your own personal tech loadout likely may be, is a mix of different generations of stuff — some right up to date, some a few years older, some rather long in the tooth. It’s not all the very latest gear, but it’s a dependable loadout that I’ll be relying on over the coming days — and in other shows in the very near future.
Over the next few days, the other AC editors will be showing off the tech they’ll be using to cover I/O, so keep watching in the near future. Be sure to check ’em out if you like to ogle at technology.