New restrictions on PCs; New opportunities for smartphones

Posted: 05.08.17

In late March, the U.S. and U.K imposed a ban on bringing electronic devices larger than a smartphone in to the cabin on flights from certain countries in the Middle East and North Africa, as well as Turkey. And in late April, the Trump administration said it is considering barring passengers flying to the U.S. from U.K. airports from taking laptops into the cabins. Speculation is that France, Belgium, and other European countries with terrorist problems could also be banned. 

The consequences of this have been massive confusion and delays at the departing airports (experienced personally), and massive delays at the arriving airport waiting for luggage and/or the confiscated laptops. Around 5,000 people per day will be on flights that meet the criteria. 

The other major consequence is the loss of productivity on such long flights, which are looked at by many as one’s office away from the office, only with no interruptions. 

An additional loss will be experienced by those who use their laptops for entertainment on the long international flights to watch movies, play games, and most importantly update facebook. 

This inconvenience was brought about because the U.S. government claims it has intelligence showing that the Islamic State is developing a bomb that can be hidden in portable electronics. Whether or not Daesh actually has, or is, developing such a bomb, the idea of replacing the battery with some C-4 plastic explosive that could be triggered by a timer in the laptop is not novel. And, dogs trained to detect RDX, the binder used in C-4, have been on the job since the turn of the century. Also, how is it safer if it’s in the cargo hold? So, the unsubstantiated paranoia by the Trump administration is not well founded, or justified. Not that any of that matters, because it is now in effect, and the sad thing about government edicts is, once installed they almost never get rescinded, as evidenced by making you remove your shoes at U.S. airports (ironically, the underwear bomber didn’t have the same impact on our screening). 

Aside from the idiosyncrasies and inconsistencies of U.S. government agencies, laptops will not be in allowed in the cabins of airplanes from ten airports in the Middle East, including Istanbul’s massive and popular Atatürk airport. 

A new opportunity 
No device larger than 16cm x 9.3cm will be allowed in the cabin. The smallest Kindle ebook reader is 14.3cm x 12.2cm, so it too falls in the banned category. No ereading on those long flights.

Opportuinity #1 – a resurgence in the sales of paper, and hardback books, and magazines. However, one can get a Kindle app on their phone, so it will still be possible to eread, just on a smaller screen. 

You can also get a folding keyboard docking station for most phones. Most of the bluetooth keyboards use small AA or AAA battery in them, so they should be allowed on board. That’s not to say some dim-witted security screener at an airport won’t say no. 

Opportunity #2—the sales of smartphone keyboard docking stations (and the replacement of the confiscated ones) will increase. 

DVD players are of course too large, and so are tablets. Therefore, if you want to play games or watch movies, you’re going to need more external storage. 

Opportunity #3—Large capacity SSD and USB and memory devices sales will increase. 

The next opportunity is trickier. A new class of devices are being offered that look like a notebook, but use an external smartphone for the power. 

These devices can be had for less than $200. The question is, would they be allowed? The device does have a battery in it, and its outside the allowable dimensions, but it’s an inert, passive device. Here is where logic, and knowledge comes into direct confrontation with mindless low income government screeners who don’t paid to think, but only to say “no.” 

When the TSA lines got long, and impeded the congress members in the airports, slowing down their access to the lobbyists and big company funders, they persuaded TSA to introduce the TSA Pre-concept. Unfortunately, except for the golf junkets, and other questionable fact-finding trips congressional members do not make enough of them to be inconvenienced by this laptop ban, so we can’t look for any relief there. 
But it’s early days in our paranoidiacal new lives, and necessity is the mother of all invention. Go invent something and get rich due to the ignorant governments. 

Final note. To be specific, the rules also prohibit keyboards, external hard drives and power cable transformers from travelling in the cabin. Spare batteries for these devices, or portable power sources, are banned entirely from cabin baggage and hold luggage. Cameras are allowed.