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Sixteen billion dollars.
That's how much Facebook just handed over to WhatsApp, the free SMS messaging app. When all is said and done, the deal is closer to $19 billion, and it's a shocking sum to pay for a company that offers its services for free to users.
Regardless, we've heard "are you on WhatsApp?" the world over, and it's especially popular in regions of where Facebook is not. For example, in India WhatsApp boasts 35 million users, which sounds incredible until you hear the total for globally active users of WhatsApp tops 430 million. This is approaching the entire global telecom SMS volume, and today's news will surely help the app reach and quickly surpass the 500 million milestone. Microsoft paid $8.5 billion for Skype's 300 million users in 2011, so WhatsApp's price does seem right.
Still, $16 billion is a heck of a lot for an app which has famously shirked advertising income, but the result is a simple-to-use, simply designed, free service that fulfills a basic modern need.
The next time you are pre-departure wining and dining at Virgin Atlantic's Upper Class Lounge in Heathrow, keep an eye out for staff sporting Google Glass. Since we know that there's nothing fashionable as yet about Google Glass other than its rarity, Virgin Atlantic is dispatching the fresh tech for its functionality.
For the next six weeks, the airline will be providing a seamless customer service experience with the help of Glass. Lounge staff will have the ability to give passengers flight information, weather at their destination, and even translate foreign languages on the go. Of course all that can come from a simple Google Search, but Glass has the cool aspect to it. Eventually, Google Glass would even be able to inform staff of a returning guest's dining preferences or favorite drinks, providing a personalized experience.
Social Media / Money / KLM / Facebook / Twitter / Travel News / Travel Tech / → All Tags
We've said it before and we'll say it again now: KLM consistently kills it on Facebook. Even beyond Facebook, the airline does stupendously across the board with social media, and it's no wonder considering they employ 130 social media "agents" to answer the approximately 35,000 interactions on Facebook and Twitter every week.
With so much online action, KLM is now set to up their game by accepting payments via Facebook and Twitter, for everything from flight bookings and seat reservations to flight changes and extra baggage.
In-Flight WiFi / WiFi / JetBlue / Fly-Fi / Travel Tech / → All Tags
It seems like only yesterday that JetBlue was flipping the switch to finally inaugurate their Fly-Fi in-flight internet, but in reality a few months have passed and, with them, more aircraft with the super fast in-flight WiFi are taking off on tarmacs.
The airline now has nine Airbus A320s hooked up with Fly-Fi, and they've released a handy-dandy updated list of Fly-Fi routes those aircraft will operate. It's a growing list, with nearly 35 daily flights able to go about their internet business as usual from 35,000'.
Access to Fly-Fi is still free at the basic level. To see if it's worth your time and how the system compares to other airline's in-flight WiFi, check out our hands-on review of the system.
Train Travel / Cell Phones / France Travel / United Kingdom Travel / Travel Tech / Trains / Eurostar / → All Tags
Now more than ever itís hard to disconnect from things, and thatís certainly the case when youíre traveling about. Thanks to a little bit of connectivity ingenuity now you can even reach out and touch someone from under the English Channel, as mobile phone services are arriving for those zipping between the United Kingdom and France.
Those heading back and forth through the Channel tunnel will soon be able to give a ring to friends and family, as it sounds like 4G service will be arriving. Itís the north tunnel thatís getting the new cellular beams and bits, and this will be the first time you can continue to talk to your grandma as you travel from the island to the continent.
Travel Websites / Maps / AvGeek / FlightMemory / FlightDiary / OpenFlights / JetLovers / Pitot / Flight Tracking / Travel Gadgets / Travel Tech / Frequent Flyer Miles / → All Tags
How many miles did you fly last year? What about different airlines? Total number of hours spent in the air? If you can't answer any of these questions, listen up because there's a slew of ways to easily track all these fun travel statistics with only a few clicks of the mouse.
Right now is the ideal time to begin logging your flights for this fresh year so that, come December, you'll have all sorts of fun stats to share at holiday parties and on social networks. "I flew 70,000 miles and visited 32 different airports in 9 countries this year" sure beats, "Yeah, I traveled a lot."
With this is mind, we put flight tracking websites to the test:
We realize that Santa is hanging out in the islands, relaxing after a busy holiday season, so weíre not exactly ready to send off a letter fir Christmas 2013 just yet. However, we do already know what we want, and itís one of these snazzy devices from the minds of the folks over at PowerUp.
The PowerUp 3.0 Smartphone Controlled Paper Airplane is exactly what it sounds like. Itís basically a toy airplane for both big kids and little kids that you can control with your mobile device. Theyíre raising money for their (awesome) idea on Kickstarter, and weíre far from the only ones that want one. Apparently theyíve raised nearly $915,000 and that is way, way more than the $50,000 that they initially set as a goal.
Sure, we love all the speed and comfort of modern travel, but it didn't that way overnight. Every Thursday, we're going to take a look back at travel the way it used to be, whether that's decades or centuries ago. This is Throwback Thursday, travel edition.
The era of fast in-flight WiFi is finally here, but remnants of its predecessors in travel communication technology still lurk about mothballed corners, like boxes of old postcards.
Here we have a postcard from the late 1910s, depicting a wireless station that was the pride of Fort Myer, Virginia. The reverse doesn't skimp on the details of the $250,000 construction:
Travel Tech / Travel Gadgets / Airline News / London Travel / British Airways / Britain Travel / Travel News / Airlines / FAA / → All Tags
Nearly two months after the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) issued a directive allowing air travelers to use personal electronic devices (PEDs) from gate-to-gate, the rest of the world is finally beginning to follow along.
British Airways yesterday became the first international airline to declare gadgets safe for use throughout entire flights, even during take-off and landings, and without the wait for the airplane to reach 10,000 feet.
This is not something the airline has just up and done on its own; BA secured clearance for the change from the UK Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) after passing safety tests. Expect more such news from European airlines in 2014, as the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) is next to relax gadget rules on flights.
In-Flight WiFi / Fly-Fi / Travel Tech / JetBlue / JFK / A320 / Travel News / Airlines / LCCs / A321 / WiFi / ViaSat / Airline News / → All Tags
[Update: To view what routes will have Fly-Fi each day, check the frequently updated list on JetBlue's blog]
December, 2007: JetBlue christens an Airbus A320 "BetaBlue" and becomes the first airline to offer in-flight WiFi, even if it is extremely limited and quickly outdated.
December, 2013: JetBlue again launches an Airbus A320 with in-flight WiFi, but this time the focus is on freedom and a tech-positive future. The system is called Fly-Fi and it promises to do everything other in-flight networks cannot, and still go beyond. It is the Survivor of in-flight WiFi networks, designed to "Outwit Outplay Outlast."
It was only this morning that Fly-Fi saw its first official flight, and we were onboard. Naturally we tried our very best to break the network or at least throttle it, but to no avail; Fly-Fi is a beast of technology, an in-flight WiFi network passengers can finally rely on, and likely even come to love.
In-Flight WiFi / JetBlue / Travel Tech / WiFi / Fly-Fi / JFK / Airline News / → All Tags
The chips are certainly falling in JetBlue's favor lately. First, their new "Mint" premium seats sell out minutes after going on sale, and now the FAA approves gate-to-gate gadget use just as the airline revs up for the debut of their own satellite-supported in-flight WiFi network, "Fly-Fi."
In fact, the switch has already been flipped and JetBlue is the midst of a trial period, allowing users to log on and surf the web for free (it will remain free) and push the system to its limits. The specific aircraft to watch for is tail number N534JB (and possibly also N804JB). From Zach Honig at Engadget, we know it's flown on the JFK-Austin route and, from Seth at The Wandering Aramean, it's also made a run or two down to Orlando.
Passports / Airports / Airport News / Lists / ORD / DFW / JFK / MIA / Airport Security / Travel Tech / Global Entry / → All Tags
Word to the wise: automated immigration kiosks are the new hotness. These machines process the passports of US & Canadian citizens in a matter of seconds (minutes, if there's a line), and we foresee it one day pushing the Global Entry program to the curb. Oh, and it's free.
How to use the kiosks:
Simply roll up to one, scan your passport page, confirm that the screen has your ID and arriving flight info correct, tap to answer "no" to the usual "are you bringing anything weird into our country?" questions, and a camera snaps your photo and prints a receipt of the transaction. Show that receipt to a man in a booth (no waiting!), he'll stamp your passport, and you're free to enter baggage claim. You'll finally yield that receipt to the customs inspection officers after baggage claim, with minimal bother and no queuing.
Who's got them:
As far as we know, there are four US airports with immigration kiosks up and running for holders of US passports. They are: