Technophile

My favourite lockdown tech

Mala Bhargava | Updated on April 10, 2020 Published on April 10, 2020

Airpod Pro

Of all the gadgets in my home, here the ones I can’t do without in this time of solitary confinement

Ever since I can remember, technology of some sort or the other has been part of my family. My father is the one to blame. Long ago, when he was in college, he would rig up his hostel room so that the light would come on when someone opened the door. This was such a magical feat then that his classmates would bring hordes of friends to come see this strange phenomenon a certain genius named Kapil Bhargava created.

All through my growing years and beyond, all manner of gadgets would find their way into our home. I specially remember when my dad installed a set of intercoms in our kind-of-small house and gave each one of us children a Morse code which he would use to announce that one of us had a phone call. Problem is, we all would forget our codes and anyway would hear him clearly from the next room saying, “Yes, I’ll just call Mala for you.” So we would obviously rush to the phone for our calls anyway. Still, it was fun while it lasted and the upshot was that we were all left with abbreviated names in the family: M1, M2, K1,K2, etc.

The Walkman came and went and we marvelled at how it sounded like an entire orchestra in front of you, complicated tuners and ham radios, bulky slide projectors, fancy folding printers, cassette recorders, portable record players, stylophones (the ancestor of the synthesiser), the first from initial personal computers which you had to use with the TV and which had nothing much of its own so you had to key in a ‘program’ if you wanted to do anything, and even email in 1985 before the internet came along to the masses.

So, in lockdown, it’s only natural that I would spend a large part of my day — or all of it, to be honest — with one gadget or the other. Being a tech writer, it comes with the territory that I should have a whole lot of products at home. In fact, if I suddenly were to pipe up and yell OK Google, about a dozen devices ping and respond. While in lockdown, all of them are captive, unable to go back to their respective companies — advantage me. Of the entire crop I have right now, I definitely have favourites that I just can’t do without. The first among these is the iPad Pro...

iPad Pro 12.9-inch

It’s been several years since I stopped using a notebook for my work. When the iPad Pro arrived in 2015, I gave my laptop away and haven’t missed it since. I type just as fast on it as I ever did on a notebook and, for my type of work, requiring no specific PC-based software, it more than does the job. Apple gave the tablet its own tweaked operating system, the iPadOS, which added many features to make it usable for productivity, not the least of which is a place to put your files, simply called Files.

The iPad Pro also supports USB-C devices, which is another convenience I take advantage of by connecting my Samsung T5 drive and getting at all my data. The iPad is as fast as the day I got it and gives me more than all-day battery life. The thing with the iPad Pro is that it’s a giant tablet, not just a work machine. Pluck it away from the keyboard, place it in tent mode and it’s an ideal space on which to watch movies, at least for those, like me, who don’t feel like watching on a TV. For some reason, I like using the iPad more because I can just pick it up and move to another room and continue watching and change my position however I like rather than being forcibly fixed in one spot and position. I also like using the tablet to read newspaper PDFs and magazine apps like Flipboard which look particularly good on this device.

Though out of reach for the moment, Apple has a new iPad Pro for 2020 which I can’t wait to get my hands on. With its new A12Z Bionic chip, Apple says it will be even faster than a Windows laptop. It will be more capable as a work device because of the new iPadOS 13.4 trackpad support, which the company says has been specially reimagined for iPad. Apple also introduced a ‘Magic Keyboard’ for the iPad Pro with a floating design, smooth angle adjustment, backlighting, and the trackpad. It will also come with an LiDAR Scanner which Apple says enables capabilities never before possible on any mobile device.

OnePlus 7T Pro and other phones

I’m spoiled for choice most of all where phones are concerned and that means I have three favourites. The OnePlus 7T Pro happens to be my default phone and though it strains my hand as I hold it, I like using it because it’s just that fast. I don’t see any lag on it though the occasional thing has got stuck while in use and needs me to reboot to fix. OnePlus is just on the verge of launching its OnePlus 8 series on April 14, and there are lots of leaks around the two models to be released. Specs will obviously be maxed out on the OnePlus 8 and 8 Pro, but even faster 30W charging is coming to these phones. Sadly there’s also the rumour that these phones will be even more expensive now, moving further and further from the initial ‘flagship killer’ image.

A photo captured with S20+

 

Even though I can go nowhere, I like taking photographs and my phone of choice for this these days is the Galaxy S20+ even more than the S20 Ultra, which is still with me for now. I’ve really enjoyed using the S20+ camera even indoors and am invariably delighted with the detail and colours.

Also set up and available to me for use anytime is the Galaxy Note 10 from a series which has been an old favourite of mine. I use that when I want to hold a large but narrow phone and when I want to write on a phone because I need flexibility with where I’m sitting or moving around. I happen to rather like using the trace method of inputting text specially with the phone’s S-Pen.

Dyson V8 Absolute Vacuum Cleaner

When I spent ₹40,000 on a Dyson vacuum cleaner one-and-a-half years ago, several people informed me I was mad. After all, I had domestic help to clean up my little apartment. And why not something cheaper? But this happens to be one decision I’ve never regretted. Thanks to this machine my house is so squeaky clean I wash my slippers so as not to leave a mark on the pristine floor.

Dyson vacuum cleaner

 

First of all, it’s dead easy to use. It sits plugged in and ready. Its bag of many attachments is at hand, but the one I use the most is the tool that picks up dirt and makes the floor look all polished. It can take me a mere five minutes to clean a room. But more, if I want to switch tools and deep clean, getting at the corners, sides, skirtings, etc. The optional long handle lets me reach up and clean up inaccessible places. That’s for when I’m really enthusiastic.

The machine works on its battery and only lasts 40 minutes until it’s recharged, but I’ve never run out of charge because I never really use it so long at one go. It’s easy to hold, easy to attach to its various tools, and very easy to empty out. The nice thing about using this vacuum cleaner is that I don’t get dirty or feel dirty as I inevitable would have using the good old jhadoo. That makes me feel sorry for myself whereas the Dyson makes me feel sort of la di da. When I reviewed this machine, I had said it actually lets cleanliness build up. If you’ve vacuumed once, you don’t absolutely have to for another two days — unless you enjoy it. The regular broom now makes the floor dirtier than it was. In these days when my domestic help can’t turn up, the V8 has been a godsend.

There are several subsequent models of the vacuum cleaner including ones that tackle pet hair.

All Alexa speakers

I happen to have a home thoroughly populated with smart speakers and tend to use Amazon’s Echo speakers in practically the whole range. I have them placed all over the house and use them in multiroom mode to listen to music everywhere, a real mood lifter in these times.

Even more than that perhaps I use the smart speakers to listen to my Kindle books when I want to give my eyes a rest (which is a lot of the time) or when I want to do something else at the same time like clean or get a meal organised. Amazon owns Kindle and the huge store of e-books and it owns the speakers and it’s easy to put them together. All one has to do is to say, ‘Alexa, read my book,’ and she will pick up the one you’re currently reading. You can control a few things from the Alexa app here and move from speaker to speaker depending on where one wants to listen. In this way, I manage to finish one book every two days. This obviously makes it a little difficult to get bored in lockdown. When nearing boredom, I use the Alexa app to change the colour or brightness of the light at my front door, hoping to startle unsuspecting neighbours as they pass by.

Amazon has a huge collection of smart speakers now. Three versions of the Echo Show which have a screen as well as a speaker, the Echo Studio with its big sound — my favourite of the lot — and even a tiny wall plug like gadget for extending functionality across the house.

AirPods Pro

It’s exceptionally silent all around these days. But the few sounds are completely eliminated when I’m in my choice of earphones: the AirPods Pro. Music is all the more deep and listening to news or podcasts more focused. I could as well listen without them but I don’t feel like shattering the silence and even ration out the use of my superlative Klipsch ‘Sixes’ speakers that right now feel as if they could shatter glass in the next house.

There is much rumour and speculation over Apple launching a new over-the-ears set of headphones soon and they may be called AirPods X, though there’s no guarantee of that. These were expected to be launched in 2019 but quite evidently, that wasn’t the case. Another rumour has it that it’s an AirPods Pro type earphones that will be called AirPods X and there will also be the full headphones.

Galaxy Tab S3

Although I have the iPad to use in tablet format, it is a bit large, so I often reach out for my old Samsung tablet to lean back with. I either use it to read a book — instead of a Kindle — or to play a mindless game — I won’t say which. At this time this device is a nice-to-have rather than a must-have but considering I use it for some portion of the time every day, it has its place in my routine.

Samsung is in version S6 of its Android tablet, the only one to really give the iPad some competition in a world that has too many large phones to deal with on one side and hybrid 2-in-1 laptops on the other. People are already talking of Tab S7 which they think will be offered in two sizes, one large and one regular. Its specs will be boosted to the next level and this time there may be more colour options. This is a powerful and fast tablet that I’ve found ages very well. I overload it with so many apps that yes, it does lag a little, but a good factory reset seems to put it right again My only complaint has been the meagre storage space on many models include mine which is just 32GB.

Published on April 10, 2020

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