The year 2014 will go in the books as one that radically altered the way I work and what I use to do it. Old faithful mobile devices got kicked to the curb and replaced by unlikely alternates. The year saw far too much of my money spent on gadgetry, with the end result allowing a shrinking of the gear bag.
I try a lot of mobile gear for my coverage on ZDNet. That’s my excuse, anyway. It helps that I really like and am probably addicted to mobile devices of all sorts. I like to get by with the smallest, lightest gadgetry I can while still getting everything I need done on a daily basis.
Early this year I bought a MacBook Pro to use as both a desktop replacement and a laptop about town. The 13-inch Retina Display seemed a good fit for both duties.
As 2014 draws to a close the MacBook Pro is still sitting on the desk in my office. It is a capable desktop system, but it hasn’t left its perch in months. Smaller, more portable devices have restricted it to desktop use.
I also bought a MacBook Air with Haswell technology, figuring the performance and battery life would make it a good daily mobile device. It did, and the 11-inch size helped out on the portability front.
This was my daily work gadget for a while, until some good keyboard cases for the iPad Air hit the market. These turned the iPad into a decent laptop replacement, and kicked the "bulky" MacBook Air to the desktop.
After using dozens of keyboards with the iPad Air, including the ClamCase Pro for a few months, the one that wins the daily driver award is the Belkin QODE Ultimate Pro. The good keyboard, a must for me, coupled with the ability to detach the iPad Air from the magnetic flap that attaches it to the case, make this a solid all-day laptop replacement.
The backlit keyboard feels as good as those on many laptop keyboards, and the thin, light package can’t be beat. The QODE Ultimate Pro with the iPad Air inside fits in the smallest gear bag, and eliminates the need to carry a laptop to get things done.
I have been primarily using this combination every day for a few months, without regrets. The small footprint, light weight, and all day battery life can’t be beat. It’s been the best mobile solution I’ve ever used, and that covers a lot of ground.
This year Apple released the iPad Air 2, but I haven’t been tempted to upgrade. The older iPad Air is already thin and light enough for me, so there is no compelling reason to replace it. Maybe the iPad Air 3 will have something to make an upgrade worthwhile.
My daily gear bag, a small Fossil Estate Courier bag, fits the iPhone 6 Plus I purchased this year, in addition to the iPad Air/ Belkin keyboard case. That’s all that goes in there. It may not be for everyone, but I can do everything I need without exception.
The iPhone 6 Plus has been wonderful. The screen is big enough to do more than I could with previous iPhone models. It’s changed the way I work, as I regularly leave the iPad at home when I head out for short walks around the city. That’s a first for me, as in the past I always used to bring at least a tablet in case I ended up needing to do work stuff.
Now I just do work things, particularly editing copy, on the iPhone 6 Plus on such trips. This is a very good solution, and it’s nice to regularly bring just the phone. I don’t do that on daily work outings, but others are fair game.
The iPhone 6 Plus is encased in the i-Blason Transformer with the integrated kickstand. This lets me use the phone hands free, in either landscape or portrait. It stands the phone up when I use it with the Logitech Keys-To-Go keyboard. I don’t do that often, but the Logitech is so thin I can stow it in a tiny pocket in the bag and pull it out when I need to do unplanned heavy writing.
Currently, daily work outings find the iPad Air in the Belkin case stashed in the small Fossil bag. The iPhone 6 Plus rests in the pocket on the front of the bag until I need it. I don't have to pull the iPhone out of the bag much, due to the JayBird BlueBuds X wireless earbuds. These work so well for phone calls that the phone stays in the bag. I just hit the button on the earbuds and answer the phone.
The year 2014 will be remembered as the one where my mobile gear got smaller and more productive. In spite of buying more laptops than in years past — MacBook Pro, MacBook Air, Asus Transformer Book T100, and Acer C720 Chromebook — my laptop use has dropped off substantially.
I still own the Chromebook, the Asus T100, both MacBooks, and both a Kindle Fire HDX 7 and 8.9, but none of them are seeing much action. I dust each off and take it in the field occasionally, but it soon goes back on the shelf.
The iPad Air has relieved them all of daily duty. My gear bag and back are thankful for the change.