My pared-down mobile gear kit: Early 2015

The mobile gear I use every day has recently changed, and it's the best ever.
Written by James Kendrick, Contributor
I get asked regularly what mobile gear I use every day. The kit changes regularly due to my exposure to so many good devices and accessories. A change I made recently means my daily work bag is as small as ever.
So small yet so powerful
(Image: James Kendrick/ZDNet)

What I take with me when I head out every day depends on the gear meeting three criteria:

  1. Do everything I need
  2. Do it all day
  3. Be as portable as possible

Until recently the primary work system in the bag was the iPad Air. That, coupled with one keyboard case or another served me well for quite some time. But it's been set aside in favor of the iPad Air 2.

I purchased the new iPad not because I thought it would be better than the iPad Air, but to allow me to cover it for ZDNet. It makes sense for my work to use the current model from Apple. I cover a lot of iPad accessories, and I need to do that for the current tablet.
iPad Air 2, iPhone 6 Plus, JayBird BlueBuds X
(Image: James Kendrick/ZDNet)

I bought the iPad Air 2 (gold, 64GB, Wi-Fi) along with three keyboard cases (so far). I didn't need 128GB so I saved a little money. I passed on integrated 4G LTE, too. My iPad Air, which I still have, has LTE but it didn't make sense to pay for it again on the iPad Air 2.

Passing on 4G was an easy decision due to the Instant Hotspot feature in iOS 8. If there's no public hotspot, I simply tap my iPhone in the available Wi-Fi network list on the iPad Air 2. This turns on the Personal Hotspot service on the iPhone 6 Plus, and in seconds the iPad is online using the phone's 4G. All of this happens with the iPhone still in the pocket or bag. It couldn't be easier.

The iPad Air 2 is only slightly better than the iPad Air, but even so I'm already finding it makes a noticeable difference. The new iPad is faster and also thinner. Both improvements make my work day better.

I have long used the iPad with a keyboard case for work, and I also do this with the iPad Air 2. The keyboard I'm using is currently the ZAGG Slim Book, just as I used with the older iPad. I was so impressed with the user experience of the ZAGG that I bought one for the iPad Air 2. The Slim Book for the iPad Air 2 is just as good as the one for the iPad Air. Due to the slight difference in thickness of the two iPad Air models they require a different Slim Book.

The iPad Air 2 in the Slim Book goes in the daily gear bag to handle all of my work. It's in essence a little laptop due to the thinness and light weight. I use the keyboard for writing and when I don't need the keyboard I detach the iPad for use as a tablet. Sometimes I turn the screen around and use the Slim Book as a convenient stand for working hands-free with the iPad Air 2.

Along with the iPad Air 2, the iPhone 6 Plus comes with me each day. I'm still happy with the big iPhone and wouldn't change a thing about it. The ability to quickly do light editing of my writing work using the onscreen keyboard is working very well for me. The Handoff and Continuity features of iOS 8 make the two devices work seamlessly together.

Alongside these two gadgets, the JayBird BlueBuds X wireless headset comes with me. This is hands down the best wireless headset I've used. It works nicely as a call headset for the iPhone 6 Plus, and allows me to listen to music and podcasts while I work.

That's it for the mobile kit. Just three gadgets, and the total bundle is lighter and smaller than any I've ever used. That's why my gear bags have shrunk.

I rotate between two bags that are small and have very thin profiles. The Fossil Estate Courier bag is stylish and functional. It's what I carry most days.

Other days I bring the AmazonBasics bag, a little briefcase I bought for less than $10. It's barely bigger than the iPad Air 2, and has a big pocket on the front for carrying the headset, iPhone 6 Plus, and any other small item. It's given me far more use than the low price would suggest.

So that's the entire kit I take with me every day for work. Three little gadgets (I count the iPad Air 2 in the Slim Book as one) and a little bag. This gear does everything I need to do and I don't ever wish I had other devices with me to get stuff done.

To recap, here's the gear I use every day:

  • iPad Air 2 in the ZAGG Slim Book keyboard case
  • iPhone 6 Plus
  • JayBird BlueBuds X Sport wireless earbuds

This is my own gear; it may not be sufficient for others. That's OK, everyone should use what they need and want for work. That's why choice is a grand thing.

ZDNet reviews of equipment in this article:

Editorial standards