For the first time in my career last week, I went to work naked.
I had the requisite snazzy shirt and tie, but I showed up at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, Spain, without my laptop computer and without my camera. I had decided to go all mobile.
I’m one of those reporters who usually overdoes it with technology. I have more cameras than I can keep track of and practically live with my MacBook. Plus, I have two other computers at home.
I was covering the Mobile World Congress for the Reynolds Journalism Institute and several other media organizations. It’s the premier exhibition of mobile phone technology and attracts more than 60,000 participants, along with over 500 journalists.
The (very light) toolbox
On Monday, I, like most of my reportorial kin, showed up lugging my laptop plus my Lumix ultra-zoom digital camera. At least I had left my multi-lens Canon DSLR at home after deciding it was just too heavy and bulky to carry around all day.
Tuesday, I thought, this is a mobile conference, right? So why not cover it with mobile hardware?
I lightened the burden on my shoulder considerably by putting only my iPad 2 and a Logitech keyboard into my conference satchel. For photography, my iPhone 4S was waiting in my pocket.
The verdict at the end of the day? Very impressive, though not perfect.
The Logitech keyboard was a godsend. It’s a little aluminum unit that snaps onto the iPad like the lid of a laptop, then pops out to provide a very usable keyboard. One feature on the keyboard alone makes it worth shucking out the $90 — it has arrow keys that let you move the iPad cursor around. Anyone who’s tried to write more than a few lines on an iPad knows how frustrating it is to go back a few spaces to correct a mistyped word.
The keyboard added just an inch of height to my iPad and kept the total weight under 2 pounds. My bag had plenty of room left over to stash pens, toys and other convention gimmes.
The iPad and the Office HD app let me quickly type and file stories, as long as I had access to WiFi. Most of the reporters in the cavernous Mobile World Congress newsroom connected by the provided Ethernet, which fortunately left me the bandwidth I needed to beam my messages home.
I may try a different word processing app, as it was not always easy to copy and paste Office HD files into a blog. I could email them as Word documents, though. A quick test with Goodreader seemed to work well.
The iPhone was a serviceable camera, though many of the images it took were slightly “soft.“ It helped to hold the phone against a wall or nearby post while shooting in low light, but only marginally. It was, however, a delight to wander around the exhibition and quickly whip the phone out of my pocket when I stumbled upon a good scene. I could also use my 3G connection to send photos back to the States right from the floor, and I even took a few video clips.
Where the mobile combo fell apart was integrating the photos with the copy. I found an app that would let me move images from phone to iPad after Apple’s Photo Stream option died on me. But when I tried to upload my shots to a site with one of those “Browse your computer” boxes, I was out of luck. The iPad has no hard drive nor central filing system, so there is nothing to browse to but the iPhoto albums. The RJI blog doesn’t have a special plug-in to retrieve from iPhoto, so I had to email my photos to the tech wizard at RJI to be added later.
That lack of a hard drive also caused me to stumble a couple of times when I wanted to look up a document I knew was stored on my computer. I would have been OK if I had thought to put the document in Evernote or Dropbox, but I don’t always think things through.
Not that my lack of forethought is always bad. Had I mulled it over more than the few minutes until I caught the train to Mobile World Congress, I doubt that I would have had the courage to walk out in my technological birthday suit.
But don’t expect me to show up without my shirt.
Clyde Bentley is an associate professor in print and digital news at the Missouri School of Journalism and was a 2010 fellow to the Donald W. Reynolds Journalism Institute. He worked for 25 years in the newspaper industry before earning his Ph.D. at the University of Oregon in 2000. Bentley also studied at the Poynter Institute, the University of Texas and the American Press Institute before joining the Missouri School of Journalism in 2001. His research focuses on citizen journalism, emerging technologies in journalism and the habits, preferences and comfort levels of digital media consumers.