I had the opportunity to travel to San Francisco this year for WWDC and experience the City by the Bay for my first time. Though I wasn’t among the lucky few to attend the keynote this year, that hardly robbed me of any adventure in the journey. Because this was my first time making the trek (and I was technically covering a portion of the event for work), I deliberately planned what gear was most appropriate for trip and sort of compiled a list of recommendations based on my experience below.
My iPhone 5 (16GB, black) was the most important item to bring of course. I even ended up with two iPhone 5′s before the week was over, but more on that in a bit. For me, the iPhone has become the most important computer I own. It may not be my default computer, as I still need my Mac to post to the site for the most part, but I’m composing the bulk of this article on my iPhone. That speaks volumes for me.
My iPhone included my boarding pass for JetBlue, enough podcasts and offline reading material to entertain me for the duration of the flight, and Über for arranging black car pick-up service from the airport to the hotel.
I packed my Nikon 1 camera expecting to use it most often during the trip, but the ease of access made the iPhone 5 my primary camera it turns out. As Apple has reminded us time and again, it’s just so personal.
My bag of choice is made by Incase. It’s called the Incase Nylon Compact Backpack and fits most of my needs. It respects my gear and offers plenty of pockets and stash spots for a number of accessories. Most importantly, it’s plenty spacious and keeps it shape regardless of how packed or how empty it is.
I packed my MacBook Air (13-inch, 256GB, mid-2012), which still impresses me with how light and beautiful yet capable it is, and found it especially useful on the plane for watching movies and drafting thoughts in text files.
OS X still proves more capable than iOS, even with the iPhone being such a staple in my workflow, so I wouldn’t recommend a similar trip without packing the Mac if it’s a notebook. For example, I couldn’t have posted this report in real time without my MacBook. I could probably string it along on iOS, but iOS 7 might have been out of development by then.
I watched the keynote on the television in the hotel room using my Apple TV (3rd gen), which I packed in case Apple announced an update. The hotel offered WiFi but required a browser splash page, so I connected my AirPort Express to my MacBook Air to share the network (thanks to some help from Michael Steeber).
On the second day of WWDC, I attended The Talk Show, Live at WWDC, which made useful the Nikon 1. I’ve noted in previous posts that I’m no photographer by any means, and the iPhone is fantastic for most situations, but my vantage point was just far back enough that any photo taken with the iPhone would have been utter garbage. Having a “real camera” certainly enhanced the experience and that 30-110mm lens is essential for long shots.
Another essential in any bag is any form of battery backup for your iPhone. It’s so easy to find one these days, and you’ll most always regret it if you don’t carry one. For me, I travel with a Tekkeon MP1580 TEKCHARGE and a big pack of AA batteries. Living in South Florida means intense tropical storms and hurricanes that cause power outages, and AA batteries are easily accessible, so this solution works better for me than other battery packs with rechargeable batteries. But they all accomplish the same thing.
Aside from a good battery backup, the most important thing in my bag was the abundance of Tic Tacs. I know, it’s not an Apple gadget or fancy device, but fresh breath never goes under appreciated.
Oh, and remember when I mentioned I came home with two iPhones? That’s because the number one rule for the first two or three rounds of beta versions of iOS is that you don’t install it on your primary phone. Lots of Apple bloggers came to town with their iPads and iPad minis expecting to use it as their test device, but Apple surprised us (unless you’ve been reading Mark’s reports) and only released iOS 7 beta on the iPhone and iPod touch for now. Luckily, I had a couple of extra upgrades and could manage to pick up a spare iPhone 5, this time white because iOS 7 seems heavily designed for that device.
For the first few hours after installing iOS 7 on my test iPhone, I kept my SIM in my iPhone running iOS 6 while hot spotting the iPhone 5 with iOS 7, but soon decided, okay, the iOS 7 device is really sexy and stable enough to rely on (save for a few scheduled crashes), but kept a paperclip in my bag in case I needed to quickly move my SIM to an iPhone running stable software.
During my flight home, I spent most of my time with my iPad mini. Its weight and size is perfect for holding and reading for hours at a time. I pre-loaded Safari Reading List with tons of reaction articles to all the news of the past week. Offline reading is really a great feature on a redeye across country. It sort of felt like I was breaking the rules being offline but having hours of content on the web to read and enjoy.
In summary, I can recommend a spacious bag for lots of gear, an iPhone and MacBook (iPad optional), an AirPort Express to enhance your hotel WiFi experience, a battery backup and breathe mints, and absolutely bring comfortable shoes! If you hit all these bases (plus maybe some post-Beard Bash Advil), WWDC week in San Francisco should be as frictionless and enjoyable as possible.