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I am travelling to Seattle direct from Dublin during the summer. I plan to purchase good quality headphones and would like to use technology on the long flight. I have a two-year-old Samsung phone, Android tablet and MP3 player. I would like to be able to use apps, downloaded podcasts, audiobooks and music. I am open to purchasing an iPod if that would make it easier. I'm also wondering what the best options are in relation to charging devices. Any ideas much appreciated.
A I don't think that you need to buy an iPod or a new phone. Instead, I would advise just two physical purchases: overhead headphones (with noise-cancelling technology, which is important in this case) and a 'power bank' recharging gadget.
The reason it's important that your headphones have noise-cancelling technology built in is because they do a significantly better job at cutting out the inevitable roaring noise from the plane.
If you've never tried noise-cancelling headphones before, they're quite amazing. They use tiny microphones to check what the frequencies of the sounds around you and then (for want of a better term) reverse those frequencies back on themselves so that they cancel each other out. The result is a much quieter experience for you to focus on the music or audio signal that then comes out of the headphone speaker. Mind you, you only really get the advantage in overhead models: my experience with in-ear headphones that claim to have noise-cancelling technology built in is that they come nowhere close to blocking out external noise. (See my reviews on Independent.ie of Sony's WF1000x in-ear noise-cancelling headphones as an example of this - they're not worth getting.)
Noise-cancelling headphones start at around €60 in any of the big electronics stores: Philips has a budget pair for €55 at PC World. If you can afford to spend a little more, I'd recommend either Sony or Bose. The noise-cancelling headphones I use myself are Sony's overhead MDR-1000X (€300-€400 depending on where you get them), which I have found to be the best of the bunch for overall quality and comfort.
The other physical item you need to get is a 'power bank' back-up charging device. In plain English, this is a small, boxy gadget that is about the same size as your smartphone and which acts as an extra battery. Just plug your normal charging cable from your phone into this gizmo and your phone will start recharging. For a budget option, I'd recommend the Trust Primo Powerbank 10000 (currently €24, on sale from Harvey Norman), which can charge two devices (such as a phone and a tablet) at the same time and has enough capacity (10,000mAh) to recharge your phone two to three times over or your tablet at least once over from scratch. Alternatively, if there's more than one of you depending on a recharge, go for the Energizer Ultimate Power Bank (€69 from Argos), which has a battery reserve (of 20,000mAh) that's twice as big as the budget option. That means you'll be able to charge at least two full-sized tablets from scratch or at least four phones.
As for what you'll listen to, there are literally umpteen decent options open to you when it comes to channels for podcasts, music and audiobooks.
For podcasts, download the free Pocketcasts app for your Android (Samsung) phone. You'll get access to just about any podcast there - either to stream online or to download to your device - and it's easy to search. (If you're really stuck, I have a weekly tech podcast called The Big Tech Show.)
As for music, Spotify is probably the best streaming service, although you'll need to pay for a premium €10-per-month subscription if you want to download the songs to your device.
For audiobooks, Audible is really the best option out there, with two free books when you sign up.
You can also download these apps for your tablet if you have more storage space available there - an hour of audio is around 30MB, or 0.03GB, in size.
RECOMMENDATION: Sony MDR-1000X headphones (€300-€400), Trust Primo Powerbank 10000 (l€24 on sale from Harvey Norman), Spotify (€10 per month) or Audible
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