A visit to the US is always an excuse to update our technology, as prices are the lowest in the world. On our recent trip we picked up an iPhone 6 and a Kindle Paperwhite.
Our biggest splurge was an iPhone 6 to replace our iPhone 5. Simon actually queued at the Apple store in San Francisco on launch day—yes, he’s that guy. His excuse was that we needed the new device for testing our apps, but really he just loves shiny new Apple products.
We bought an unlocked iPhone 6 128GB in space gray. In US Apple stores AT&T and T-Mobile offer unlocked versions if you pay full price for the phone.
The iPhone 6 isn’t a huge upgrade from the iPhone 5, but there are some features we really like:
- It’s lighter, the screen is bigger, and the rounded edges make it more comfortable to hold.
- The battery life is greatly improved; we can now make it through a day out without the battery dying.
- The Touch ID fingerprint sensor is much more convenient than typing in a password.
- The screen is brighter with better contrast, making it easier to see in bright sunlight.
- The camera is improved, with better image stabilisation and the ability to adjust brightness by touching the screen.
- Slow-mo video is fun—see Simon’s vine of hummingbirds.
I’m keeping the iPhone 5 for myself to replace my old iPod Touch which was barely working.
If you’re a traveller who loves to read, an ebook reader is essential; it saves a huge amount of weight and space in your luggage, and gives you access to thousands of books, not just the John Grisham novels in the hostel book collection. You can read my original Kindle review for more advantages.
My Kindle Keyboard was four years old and as I use it every day I treated myself to a new Kindle Paperwhite. Simon got rid of his Kindle as he uses his iPhone and iPad mini for reading more often (using the Kindle app). This wouldn’t work for me; I need the Kindle’s paper-like, no-glare screen as I read a lot more than him and enjoy reading in the sun.
I opted for the Kindle Paperwhite with 3G, although it’s $70 more than the WiFi only version, because I often use the 3G. I love being able to download new books on the beach or on a train, and sometimes we stay in places where the WiFi signal isn’t strong enough to work on the Kindle.
After a lot of anticipation I was disappointed with the Kindle Paperwhite at first. Although it’s smaller than my old Kindle, it didn’t feel lighter (it is slightly). The biggest problem was figuring out Amazon’s very confusing Cloud Collections system. As both our Kindles are connected to my Amazon account, I ended up with Simon’s collections as well as mine on my new Kindle. It also didn’t import all my collections and not all my books were in their correct collections.
It took me quite a while to figure out how to arrange my books. In the end I chose the home screen view “On Device – All Items – Collection” and selected the collections I wanted to appear on all views. This keeps Simon’s collections in the Cloud view which I don’t go to often. I had to re-download all the books I wanted offline, but this was quickly and easily done by tapping the book cover. Any books I didn’t buy from Amazon I had to put on my new Kindle via my laptop or email them to the Kindle (a better option as these get stored in the Cloud).
Another small issue was that I bought the Kindle with special offers which costs $20 less and shows ads for books on the screensaver and the bottom of the home screen. Most people say the ads don’t bother them, but they did annoy me. You can pay the $20 to turn them off, but I needed a US billing address to do so. I emailed Amazon and two minutes later they had turned off the special offers for me—impressive customer service! I didn’t have to pay as the special offers are only available for US customers.
A Happy Ending
Although getting set up was frustrating it was a good opportunity to reorganise the hundreds of books I had on the Kindle, and once it was sorted I could get on with enjoying my new device. There are lots of things I love about the Paperwhite:
- Improved Screen – The touch screen makes it quicker to turn pages by tapping or swiping.
- Built-in Light – Handy in rooms without good lighting or when I want to read after Simon has gone to sleep.
- Page Flip – This makes it easier to scan through the book and preview other pages without losing your place.
- Time to Read – It estimates how long it will take you to read the rest of the chapter or the whole book.
- Translate – You can tap any word or highlight a section to instantly translate it into other languages.
- Vocabulary Builder – When you look up words in the dictionary (with a tap) it automatically saves them in this file where you can test yourself with flashcards. This is especially useful when reading books in a foreign language. I have a Spanish to English dictionary so I can test myself later on the Spanish words I looked up.
- Goodreads Integration.
- Battery life – Even better than before.
There are plenty of other small improvements too and now I love reading on my Paperwhite.
Of course, less than a week after I bought the Kindle Paperwhite a new Kindle, the ideally named Kindle Voyage, was announced. I could have returned my Paperwhite, but the minor improvements in the Voyage didn’t seem worth the hassle and the extra $80.
You can also read about the other new additions to our packing list including the perfect travel trousers, vegan Tieks, running gear, and more, and our review of our new carry-on backpacks, the Tortuga and the Osprey Farpoint 40.
Are you looking for Christmas gift ideas? See our guide to the 50 Best Gifts for Travelers. They are ideal for travel lovers who want to pack light and include something for every budget.