Smart Luggage 2016 Buying Guide

Smart Luggage Buying Guide

By Jennifer Degtjarewsky

The Smart Luggage Buying Guide: Everything you need to make the best purchase in 2016.

The dawn of smart luggage is here and these bags do much more than simply stow your clothes. From biometric fingerprint scanners and built-in charging stations, to global bag tracking, integrated scales and more, these bags are loaded with the latest in portable travel technology.

Who should buy one? Business travelers, frequent travelers and those who consider themselves savvy travelers, are likely to be first in line, but a year from now, smart suitcases will be everywhere and communicating with your bag via smartphone apps will soon become the norm.

Which one should you choose? Our 2016 smart luggage buying guide serves up the best bags on the market, allowing you to compare tech packages, pricing, convenience features, size, and much more.

New Smart Luggage 2016 Buying Guide

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Away Carry-On

One of the best smart luggage deals on the market, the Away Carry-On delivers tech and convenience features to make travel easier, while keeping the operation of both quick and simple. The price is kept low by a direct-to-consumer business model that allows Away to put smart suitcases in customers hands for an average of $150 less per bag than its competitors.

The Tech: Inside, you’ll find an integrated 10,000 mAh battery for powering smartphones, tablets, or laptops. If you are strictly charging smartphones and tables, this battery will reliably allow five, full smartphone recharges on the go and one full tablet charge. It’s important to remember that every power bank will lose about 30 to 35 percent of its power supply simply through voltage conversion and by the heat generated in a power exchange.

Convenience Feature: Away has added a TSA-approved, integrated security lock, eliminating the need for time-consuming luggage padlocks.

Construction: Made with a super strong, yet lightweight Makrolon polycarbonate hardshell exterior. To help keep things dry during stormy weather, all external zippers are water-resistant. Soundless Hinomoto 360 degree spinner wheels make upright rolling effortless. Sturdy handles on both the top and side make Away smart luggage easy to lift and stow. Inside you’ll find silk lining, mesh pockets, compression divider and even a removable laundry bag.

Look for Away to introduce a larger, checked luggage size to their product line as soon as Spring 2016.

Price: $225.00
Available: February 2016
Dimensions: 22” H x 14” W x 9” D | Weight: 7.5 lbs | Capacity: 38 liters
Available in four modern colors: Black, Navy, Green, and Sand

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Bluesmart Carry-On

The Bluesmart Carry-On touts one of the most complete travel technology packages currently on the market. It is able to hold, charge, secure, weigh and track your most precious cargo. With a tech-focused design, Bluesmart gives travelers fast access to a laptop or tablet with its external storage compartment. It also keeps those precious devices secure with a digital lock that will automatically engage every time the compartment is closed.

The Tech: Inside, a 10,000 mAh battery is at the ready to charge your devices six times while traveling. You can choose to charge your device while packed inside the bag, or use the external port under the luggage handle. The ports are compatible with any device that charges via USB cable.  Proximity sensors can send a text alert if you walk off and forget your bag or if someone else tries to walk off with it. The TSA-approved, app-controlled digital lock, will automatically engage if you forget to lock your bag. Global trip tracking lets you locate luggage that has been lost or stolen. The built-in digital-scale communicates the weight of your bag to the connected Bluesmart app, so you always know if you are under or over airline weight restrictions. Lastly, the connected Bluesmart app can be configured suit to your preferences, allowing you to import travel itineraries, periodically check flight status and more.

Convenience Feature: Every Bluesmart offers free lost luggage delivery via Uber. Once your lost luggage is tracked, an Uber driver can be alerted to pick-up and deliver the bag  to your destination. This added bonus, should you choose to use it, may be faster than the airline’s delivery van, which can leave your luggage waiting around anywhere from 12 to 24 hours or more.  Just be sure you check the most recent terms of service for both Bluesmart and Uber to make sure your items are covered should any belongings go missing or become damaged en route.

Construction: Made with a three-layer, polycarbonate hardshell exterior that’s tough enough to take whatever your trip has to throw at it. The external zipper is waterproof. Four, high-quality spinner wheels make for easy upright rolling. The tech compartment can accommodate laptops up to 15 inches. and there is even additional space for a phone or tablet.

An Apple Watch application to interface with Bluesmart is currently in production. Look for that to debut soon.

Price: $399.00
Available: Now
Dimensions: 22” H x 14” W x 9” D | Weight: 9.4 lbs | Capacity: 34 liters
Available in one color palette: Slate hardshell with black and cobalt blue accents.

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Barracuda Luggage
Easy to store, this collapsible smart suitcase folds down to just 4 inches tall when not in use, yet still maintains the structural integrity and protection of a competing hard-side bag. Hang it in a closet with the accompanying dust case, slip it under a bed or even stow it in a dresser drawer. With this bag, you won’t sacrifice precious storage space when not on the go. The Barracuda is easily assembled in less than a minute, and the breakdown procedure is equally quick.

The Tech: The Barracuda has a removable, 10,000 mAh power bar, connected to two USB ports for convenient device charging. Barracuda says to look for an average of six charges on the move with this power pack. Like other smart bags, they also offer location tracking via a simple, no-fuss connected smartphone app.

Convenience Features: From all the other smart suitcases on the market, two convenience features make the Barracuda standout from the fray. First, a built-in, adjustable tray pops-up ready to hold a full-size laptop, giving you a comfortable workstation as you travel. Second, a circular, ergonomic handle swivels to your preferred position, so you can pull your bag without hyper-extending your wrist, as tends to happen with traditional, bar-type luggage handles.

Construction: Don’t let the collapsible feature fool you into thinking the Barracuda is softly constructed. It’s made from ballistic nylon, Makrolon polycarbonate and aircraft grade aluminum. Made with business commuters in mind, laptops and other tech devices are safely protected inside.

Price: $480.00 (retail) **Pre-order by February 2016 for a $200.00 discount.
Available: February 2016
Dimensions: 21.5” H x 14” W x 9” D | Weight: 8.5 lbs | Capacity: 44 liters
Available in five colors: Blue, Red, Grey, Gold, or Black

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Hedgren Connect Firm Framework Backpack

The Belgian-made Hedgren Connect Firm Framework may not be a carry-on smart suitcase, but it definitely is the ultimate smart backpack for the technophile with checked luggage. Integrated USB cable pass-throughs accompany pockets for tablet, smartphone and more, trailing to the special battery compartment poised to power your world as you travel. A special EVA-molded, hardside pocket shields a GoPro camera, headphones or other tech gear from damage when not in use. There is room for a 15-inch laptop in the main compartment, and that is just the tip of the iceberg with this versatile, smart backpack.

The Tech: When it comes to the Hedgren Connect Backpack, battery capacity is up to you. If purchasing outside the U.S., a Hedgren-branded 12,000 mAh battery pack is included with purchase, but Hedgren tells GungHo Travels Media that they decided to import their product line to the U.S. without the battery. This way, consumers are free to choose the best battery that fits their individual needs. Whether you select an Anker PowerCore 15,600 mAh for weekend travel, or a RAVPower 26,800 mAh Xtreme for bopping around a faraway city, or something else entirely, the choice is yours to make. It also has the additional benefit of keeping the U.S. price $92.00 lower than the established European price and frees U.S. buyers to comparison shop batteries from the wide range currently available.

Convenience Feature: The discreet, safe travel compartment is equipped with RFID blocking protection to shield travelers from electronic phishing.

Construction:
Made with durable nylon. The main compartment has a padded, 15-inch laptop sleeve and is secured with a Snap Safelock zipper providing additional theft protection. The lined interior features two frontwall slip pockets, perfect for a tablet or other low-profile tech gear. A clip-on pocket functions as a rapid access compartment for a smartphone. The battery pouch is integrated within the bag facilitating ease of use with USB charging cable pass-throughs and device slip pockets. Headphones can be clipped to the special shoulder straps when not in use. The front organization panel has a zippered compartment for odds and ends and Velcro tie-downs for power chords, cables and more. Load it up and this smart backpack still has generous space for personal belongings. Hedgren even helps you get started by including a retractable USB cord with every backpack.

In the U.S., eBags.com is the exclusive retailer of all Hedgren Connect products. If a backpack is not your style, there are a wide range of smart messenger bags, crossbody bags and more within the Hedgren Connect line to choose from.

Price: $99.99 (*Sold exclusively by eBags in the U.S.)
Available: Now (*Battery sold separately in the U.S.)
Dimensions: 18” H x 11” W x 5” D | Weight: 2 lbs | Capacity: 21 liters
Available in one color: Black

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Space Case 1 Carry-On

At the intersection of technology and convenience, Miami-based, Planet Traveler USA aims at changing the way you move about the globe with the launch of the new Space Case 1 carry-on. Their goal is excess stress removal by empowering the smart luggage to do most of the travel monitoring for you. No longer will you have to worry about the battery life of your mobile devices, the 21,000 mAh battery holds up to seven full charges. No more panicky, eagle-eyeing your luggage every second, the Space Case 1 will emit an loud alarm (and so will your smartphone) if someone tries to walk off with your bag at the airport. No more frantically flipping between apps on your phone to check flight status, get your gate number or locate the address of your hotel, all this and more have been integrated into the Space Case 1 app that functions as a virtual concierge.

The Tech:
The Virtual Concierge app monitors and controls all tech functions of the Space Case 1 carry-on. The Global Tracker provides up-to-the-minute tracking and let’s you know where your luggage is at all times via the app, which also maintains a log of your bag’s various locations as you travel throughout the world. The removable, 21,000 mAh battery pack is able to charge two devices at the same time, either through the two external USB ports on the outside of the suitcase or charge one device using the internal USB port when packed, leaving an external port available and ready should you need a charge on the fly. Fingerprint recognition through either the onboard biometric scanner or within the companion app is used for opening and closing the suitcase for enhanced, personal security. A hands-free Bluetooth speakerphone allows you to take calls or even listen to music through the high-quality speaker system, which is great for working remotely in your hotel room. The Digital lift-less scale system checks your bag’s weight without the suitcase being lifted into the air. The proximity sensor let’s you know when your smart luggage arrives in or leaves your area, while the Anti-Theft feature lets you arm your suitcase with an alarm that will sound if taken from your side. You can also program it to simultaneously send a text alert.


Convenience Feature:
Planet Traveler USA puts their money where there mouth is by offering a global, 10-year repair warranty, free with every Space Case 1 they sell. With this in mind, a screwdriver is all that’s needed to swap out a damaged part. Service is fast too. Should something break, just take a photo of the damaged part using the Space Case 1 virtual concierge app. It will automatically be routed to the home office and a replacement part will be shipped to you within 24 hours, no matter where you are.

Construction: Made from Polycarbonate, a lightweight material that is both flexible and sturdy. Inside, a built-in laptop compartment with zippered pockets for power chords and more flips open for easy access. There is even a spot for a tablet. An integrated digital lock is opened and closed with the fingerprint scanner located near the top handle, or by using the Bluetooth-connected app. Four spinner wheels hold scale sensors that assess luggage weight without your lifting the bag. A traditional, telescopic luggage handle extends for maneuverability. The interior is fully-lined.

Planet Traveler is also developing a 29-inch, check-in version of the Space Case 1. This smart suitcase with removable battery and internal garment bag can be pre-ordered now for $379.00. Look for the price to jump up to $700.00 starting in March 2016.

Carry-on Price: $329.00 pre-order (*Price increases to $600.00 starting in March 2016)
Available: February 2016
Dimensions: 21.5” H x 13.5” W x 7.5” D | Weight: 8 lbs | Capacity: 35.6 liters
Available in eight colors: Polished Black, Polished Silver, Polished Pink, Stealth Black, Prado Butterfly Fusion, Prado In Love, Raw Carbon Fiber Texture, Brushed Aluminum Texture

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Trunkster
Large suitcase flaps and stuck zippers won’t be in your way with Trunkster smart luggage. Instead of a zipper to secure your belongings, Trunkster relies on a roll-top door, the first-ever integrated in a smart suitcase, allowing for quick entry in even the tightest spaces. With 43 liters of available capacity, it is also one of the largest smart bags that is carry-on compliant.

The Tech: Inside, a 10,400 mAh removable battery is on hand to power a smartphone six times in transit before a recharge is necessary. Two, integrated USB ports give multi-device charging ability, and the folks at Trunkster even throw in a free USB charging cable so that you can leave your daily cable at home, or use it as a spare. A proprietary, removable, global tracking module is included for a $60.00 fee, and should you not choose to opt for tracking, each Trunkster also comes with three bag traces, absolutely free. Additional traces can be purchased for a nominal fee (5 traces: $7, 10 traces: $10, unlimited traces: $30) Lastly, a built-in scale, helps keep your bag within airline regulations. Like most other smart bags, Trunkster has a companion app for use with the tracking feature, aside from being iOS and Android compliant, Trunkster takes it a step further and allows tracking through a web browser.

Convenience Feature: Other smart bags rely on device pairing to display weight readings through an integrated smartphone app. Trunkster does it differently. Their weight display is conveniently located right on the top handle. Worried about the display getting banged and bumped in transit? Don’t be. It is constructed with heavy-duty sensor protection for long-term durability and is also water-resistant.

Construction: A water-resistant, impact-resistant and drop-resistant polypropylene exterior means that Trunkster is light on weight, yet stands up against the typical jostling of air travel. A TSA-approved, combination lock is included for additional convenience. Four silent, rubberized spinner wheels make rolling easy. A full-width, telescopic handle gives enhanced control and substantial balance while in motion. There are also alternate side and top handles for easy maneuvering. Inside, the low-profile liner stays out of the way of the roll-top door and there is also a compression divider for enhanced organization.

Trunkster is adding a 28 inch, checked luggage version to their line later in 2016. Look for that to have an 86 liter capacity and cost $80 more than the carry-on with enabled GSM.

Price: $415.00 (with GSM tracking technology), $355.00 (without GSM tracking)
Available: February 2016
Dimensions: 22” H x 14” W x 9” D | Weight: 7.9 lbs | Capacity: 43 liters
Available in one color: Black

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Fugu Luggage

Fugu Luggage is the genius creation of Anyvention, based in Israel. In less than a minute, the built-in electric pump transforms this bag from a 9-inch tall carry-on to a 27-inch, full-sized suitcase, ready to be checked-in at the airport. The first suitcase of its kind, Fugu Luggage fills a unique gap that is common to travelers who are unsure what size suitcase to take on their trip. The simple answer? Take a Fugu.

The Tech: With the touch of a button, Fugu’s two, shock-absorbent side walls inflate using a built-in electric pump tripling the size of the suitcase. The removable, 10,000 mAh battery used to inflate the electric pump is also connected to two, external USB ports for powering smartphones, tablets and more. It has enough power to charge your devices up to six times in transit. A GSM Locator and Bluetooth Tracker are also on offer for those who want to know where their bag is at all times.

Convenience Features:
Inside, removable shelves allow the expanded Fugu to work as a rolling, upright armoire. Open the sidewall and your items are stacked and easy to access. The suitcase is also a traveling workstation with a flat top that acts as an ideal surface for a laptop. In a hotel room, it can even be used as a portable table.

Construction:
Made from polyvinyl chloride (PVC), known as drop-stitch material, which is also what inflatable lifeboats are made from. This means that the exterior is lightweight and extremely durable. It’s also waterproof, shock absorbent and maintains structural integrity when dropped, banged and bumped keeping personal items secure in its PVC cocoon. Rubberized, all-terrain wheels make maneuvering easy and one of two telescopic handles extends depending on which position the bag is in, either carry-on or expanded check-in. 

There are more expandable designs on the way. Anyvention have recently begun looking into the creation of smaller Fugu Luggage models to satisfy those who want a carry-on that expands to a medium-sized check-in bag.

Price: $245.00 (bare)
Price: $526.00 (loaded with smart suitcase tech package and accessories)
Available: May 2016
Carry-on Dimensions: 20” H x 16” W x 8” D | Weight: 10 lbs | Capacity: 40 Liters
Expanded Dimensions: 20” H x 16” W x 26” D | Weight:
10 lbs | Capacity: 120 Liters

Available in seven colors: Stone Grey, Plum Bordeaux, Deep Ocean Blue, Deep Red Rose, Charcoal Black, Citrus Green, and Bright Grape Purple. **Additional colors may become available based on consumer demand.

Coming Soon: More Smart Luggage Choices

Waiting in the wings is the G-RO carry-on by Travel-Light LTD.  Successfully funded by KickStarter, this carry-on boasts all-terrain wheels, allowing this bag to go anywhere with ease. It has the smart luggage ability for tracking, charging and proximity detection, with the added benefit of a large volume packing area with ideal weigh distribution for optimal maneuverability. Look for this bag to be out in October 2016, priced at $599.00. Early birds can pre-order one of the first 100 made for $378.00 now.

Still in development, The Pluggage by Delsey Paris promises to be a deluxe smart suitcase on par with the tech features offered by the Space Case 1 and Bluesmart, but with a design flair that is distinctly Delsey Paris. Still in prototype form, pricing is yet to be announced.

Andiamo iQ smart luggage recently missed its funding goal on Indiegogo, but this is one bag to keep on your radar. Loaded with tech, this smart suitcase acts as a global Wi-Fi hotspot, has a mobile power pack, a built-in scale, anti-theft alert system and more. Andiamo is an established travel brand that is committed to bringing the iQ to market. Keep your eye on the Internet for future developments.

Samsonite and Samsung are also hard at work on a smart luggage collaboration. No word yet on the product name, date of availability or price. Join Samsonite’s email list and you’ll likely be one of the first in the know.

Can’t Afford Smart Luggage? Build Your Own!
With products such as LugLoc, Smart Unit and Trakdot, you can add global tracking to any suitcase for under $100.00. Just slip the transponder inside your suitcase and you’ll be able to track your bag with a connected app just like any other smart luggage owner.

Need an extra layer of security? Register your bags with Okoban, the global lost and found. It’s safe and best of all, it’s free.

Want to add the ability to charge your device on the go without the smart luggage price? Simply buy an spare smart luggage power bank and slip it into the carry-on of your choice. A spare Space Case 1 battery can be had for $34.00 and it will charge your smartphone up to seven times before an outlet is needed.

Share Your Opinion:
When it comes to smart luggage, will you be an early adapter?

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