A mobile-office bag for 2022

For many years I used an office-on-wheels bag from Briggs & Riley for all my business travel. I schlepped it wherever I went, through airports, on planes, to coffee shops, and hotel lobbies. It was a huge bag with compartments and dividers to hold my computer, chargers, cables, SLR camera and lenses, extra batteries, headphones, music player, hot spot device, pens and papers, books and magazines. I was typical of many business travelers. We’d camp out somewhere to do our work and have everything we needed within close reach. It was the business traveler’s security blanket.

But times have changed. Papers, magazines and books are now mostly digitized, computers and adapters are a third the weight they once were, and our phone replaces a myriad of separate devices, including camera, scanner, music player and WiFi hot spot. One of the benefits of technology is that today’s portable office can now fit into a single bag slung over the shoulder.

With that in mind, WaterField Designs has created their Tech Folio Brief, today’s version of the portable office. It’s available in two different sizes built around the popular new 14-inch and 16-inch MacBook Pros (or most other brands of 13-inch to 16-inch notebooks). Beside a computer or two, it can carry most everything else you need: an iPad, phone, headphones, chargers, phone, Kindle, pens, cards, etc.

What’s unique about these bags, is a special zippered tech folio section with more than dozen see-thru zippered compartments and open pockets to hold all of the electronics and other stuff. The section opens wide, presenting two large panels of compartments that allow you to find what you’re looking instantly, or determine what you left behind. I’m using the compartments to hold cables, chargers, earbuds, business cards, and small tools.

There are many extra touches. The notebook and iPad compartments are line with a soft protective material. The zippers are waterproof, the carrying strap is extra comfortable, and the bag slips over the handle of a wheeled suitcase.

When WaterField debuted this bag shortly before Christmas, they allowed me to visit their factory in San Francisco. It was an impressively large area, spread out in an industrial building in the heart of the city close to the waterfront. Dozens of employees were at work, skillfully cutting, sewing, and constructing a wide variety of products in a clean, modern facility. It was humming with activity.

Notably, WaterField has never offshored their production, which has allowed them to respond almost instantaneously to creating new products tailored to new Apple product announcements. When Apple announced their pricey AirPods Max over-the-ear headphones, it lacked a protective carry case. Within a day or two, WaterField announced a beautifully designed AirPods Max Shield Case that received nearly as much press attention as the headphones. Most reviewers described it as the case Apple should have designed.

The Tech Folio Brief is available is a variety of materials – all at the same price – including ballistic nylon, waxed canvas and leather. My preference is the canvas/leather combination. The briefs cost $359 for the 14-inch and $379 for the 16-inch, excellent pricing considering the creative design, quality, and materials. The product has been on back order ever since it was announced late last year. Orders are now being taken for early February delivery.

Follow up on Amazon

A reader wrote wondering how I could select Amazon as Best in Tech in last week’s column, considering some of their reputed employee abuses. What I said was, “From a customer perspective, Amazon has been one of the best companies with its limitless product availability delivered within a day or two.” From an employee perspective, that’s quite different. Amazon has been accused of subjecting their employees to very strict work requirements and anti-union lobbying. Many companies are two-faced. One face for their employees and another for their workers and suppliers. Perhaps a future column.

Here are two recent examples of why Amazon is so well liked by its customers – it’s because so many other retail stores don’t even try to service us anymore.

I went to CVS to purchase some eyedrops and they were $45. That seemed quite high, so I checked the price on Amazon, and the very same product was $25. (The normal retail appeared to be about $30.) But that was not the only reason. It was hard to find, there was no help, and the store was a terrible mess.

The next day I searched for some paint supplies and found them on both Amazon and Home Depot. They were in stock at my local store, so I ordered them for pickup within an hour. I got an email back a few minutes later saying they cancelled the order because they couldn’t process it with PayPal, after confirming the order. So I reordered, charging it to my credit card. An hour later they said they were out of the product and would be issuing a refund to my credit card in about 5-7 days!

by Phil Baker