Like every journalist attending a conference in the past decade, I take notes with my laptop on my legs. Every now and then, a presenter will put up a useful, data-heavy slide, I take a picture of it with my phone. Sometimes I look back at those images, but mostly, they fall into the void that is my phone’s gallery.
But, when I make the effort to – for want of a better word – sync my notes with my images, I always find useful extra information for an article.
I am trying to reinvent how I use tech when I travel – which is significantly less than pre-Covid. Part of my motivation is the vast improvement of tablets – specifically the iPad Pro, which I bought from Incredible for the extra year warranty and has a significantly longer battery life than anything else I’ve used.
Of no small importance to me is weight. No matter how much you try, your laptop backpack invariably ends up weighing as much as you need to scale Everest. As a result – and to my wife’s ongoing amusement – I use a kitchen digital scale to weigh everything. My MacBook Pro M1 weighs 1.2kg but requires a 60W charger (200g), which generally stays in my hotel room or cabin luggage.
Luckily the new Apple silicon chips offer much better battery life, but I honestly don’t need such a powerful (and heavy) device when I am at a conference. The biggest ones – like MWC Barcelona or CES – are held in many cavernous halls and require a lot of walking. This is why tech journos always wore black trainers at such events – where they appeared like black leather smart shoes but were actually comfortable to walk in. Now, thankfully, everyone wears tekkies all the time.
I flew down to Cape Town earlier this year for a banking function – PayShap is arguably the most important new development in banking since Internet banking – and took only my 11-inch iPad with me. I paired it with one of Apple’s own Magic keyboards and found I could type on my knees quite comfortably.
Although I am a dedicated Microsoft Word user, I have started testing Apple’s Notes app. Firstly, it’s quick and easy to open a note and start taking notes. Secondly, Apple really, really wants this app to provide the functionality that many people are looking for and has upgraded Notes into an app that uses all of the functions provided by a mobile device.
Principally, the app allows you to add a variety of media to the note, including photographs.
And that is very, very useful. Instead of trying to type the key figures, I just lifted up the iPad and took a picture of the slide (after zooming in). There it was when I was writing up the feature, in the right spot when I needed to check the figures.
It may seem like a first-world problem, and it is, but it’s one I deal with a lot – as do all those other conference attendees.
Better yet, the Notes app lets you share such notes with other iOS users – which is handy for, well, sharing ideas – but principally it’s useful because you can open it and immediately start making a note. I use many note-taking apps – Evernote is still my favourite – and a big thing is how quickly you can start actually making notes.
Samsung’s S Pen is arguably the best solution. As soon as you pop it out of the devices – it now only features in the Galaxy S23 Ultra, but was a standard in the now-discontinued Note range that created the phablet market – it’ll open the note-taking app and let you get to writing immediately.