Business trips can be a slogfest if you don't have the right gear. A bad connection means a missed opportunity. A dead battery on your phone means you can't find the route to your next meeting. I've been testing out a few new gadgets on recent trips to Detroit, Minneapolis, and Kansas City. Here are my top picks to keep you productive.
1. Otterbox HTC ONE Defender Series, $50
Sure, iPhone cases come in all shapes and sizes, but this protective case, made of a rigid polycarbonate with a screen guard, could save your HTC One. (I've written about this business-friendly phone a few times--it's fast with a bright, clear screen.) The case snaps into place to form-fit around the phone and has three layers of protection. I also like that the color selection, including burgundy and green, make you stand out--but not too much.
2. Verizon Jetpack 4G LTE Mobile Hotspot MiFi 5510L, $20 Per Month
I've been testing this new mobile hotspot on trips for a few weeks now. I've been able to connect four to five gadgets over Wi-Fi including my iPhone 5, iPad, and a laptop. Impressively, the LTE connection usually stays around 13Mbps on each device. Verizon offers a well-rounded small business plans--e.g., $20 per month for the Jetpack and $40 for your phone. Sprint also offers a new tri-band model called the NETGEAR Zing Mobile Hotspot that works overseas, but I have not had a chance to test it out yet.
3. Samsung ATIV Book 9 Plus
And you thought it was hard to pick a phone for business trips. There are so many laptops in so many shapes and sizes it can be disconcerting. What I like about the Samsung ATIV Book 9 Plus is that there's a version with a QHD screen. This means Windows 8 will run in 3200×1800 resolution. Business documents look super-crisp and photos look vibrant. It weighs just over three pounds, lasts for 11 hours, and has a speedy Intel processor for running hardcore business apps. (Samsung also offers a lower-priced ATIV Book 9.)
4. Tile, $18.95
You may have heard about this innovative luggage tag. (It also works for car keys, your bike, and maybe a confused coworker lost in a big city.) You connect one to your gear and can find lost items within about 150 feet using an app on your iPhone or iPad. The innovation is that you can approve other people as owners, and (in theory) create a massive virtual lost-and-found network. If you leave your tote with a colleague at the airport and fly to Denver, your buddy can still track the item for you.
5. OGIO Gambit 17 Backpack, $100
Laptop bags are a dime-a-dozen these days, but this OGIO bag has all of the right features: extra padding for a laptop, phone, and tablet; plenty of side pouches; and, a sturdy rear support that keeps this carry-on from bending. Also, the price is right. The Gambit costs $100, which is about $50 less than the previous OGIO business travel model.