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On Keyboard Placement

I’ve seen a number of complaints about the iPhone X keyboard implementation. “So much wasted space.” “They should put the spacebar down at the bottom, where it always was.” “They should fill that space under the spacebar with emoji buttons.” And so on.

All of these suggestions strike me as poorly thought out. I immediately understood why Apple made the choice to leave that area mostly blank. The space bar is where it used to be. The home button used to be where that empty space is.

Given how difficult it is to change muscle memory, and given how much of a stretch it actually is to reach the bottom of the iPhone X in real-world use, putting frequently used buttons down at the bottom is a really bad idea.

I got to test this firsthand with my own app, x2y. I wasn’t expecting to get my iPhone X version finished in time for the release date, but at the last minute I had some time, and I was able to handle all the changes I felt were necessary—except one. My custom number pad still reached down to the bottom of the phone. I figured this would not be ideal, given what Apple had chosen to do with the built-in keyboard, but not having the hardware in my hands, I figured I’d ship it and see what happens.

Sure enough, as soon as I played around for a few minutes on my own iPhone X, I knew this could not stand. I was accidentally typing the wrong numbers constantly. And it was just too much of a stretch to get to that bottom row regularly.

So I fired up Xcode again and started figuring out a fix. In the end, the new design technically doesn’t look as good, but in practice it feels a thousand times better. My number pad isn’t quite as high up as Apple’s own built-in version, but it’s up above the Safe Area, at least.

So there you have it. Apple clearly did the right thing with keyboard placement on iPhone X. As I mentioned before, just because your screen goes edge-to-edge, that doesn’t mean your UI should. The extra space is most often best filled with background color.

Remote Messaging in Fin 4.3

I’ll be honest: when I added remote connectivity to Fin in version 4, I wasn’t sure how many people would actually use the feature. I just thought it would be a cool thing to have, and I wanted to learn how to work with Apple’s MultipeerConnectivity APIs.

All of my side projects have been about learning something, after all.

But to my surprise, a number of my customers do seem to like connecting two or more iOS devices together while running timers.

Recently, I received a support request for an additional feature: While connected, wouldn’t it be cool to send a quick text-based message to the other devices? That way, you could signal to someone performing on stage, for instance, that there was an important announcement, or something to that effect.

Not a bad idea.

So I went to work on getting that to happen. Since all the networking infrastructure was already done, it actually turned out to be more of a user experience problem than anything else. Where should the messaging UI live in the app, and how should it appear on screen? Those were the two hardest issues to tackle. The rest was just packaging up a string and sending it over to the other device(s).

After some experimentation and refinement, I managed to get something really simple and cool up and running. And so starting today with the latest update on the App Store, Fin can now be used to send notes to connected devices.

Type in a quick message, send it, and the connected devices on your network will display the message full screen for five seconds. Fin remembers the five most recent messages you’ve sent, so you can access them with a single tap, in case you often find yourself telling your performers the same thing. You can even send emoji in messages, if you want.

While I was at it, I improved the workflow for changing the end message that appears when the timer runs out using the same controller. Here, too, you will see the five most recent messages you’ve set. It’s a part of the user experience I’ve been less than thrilled about for a long time, so I was glad to improve it in this version.

Fin 4.3 is now available on the App Store.

FaceID vs TouchID

A lot of folks probably don’t remember, but the very first iteration of TouchID was problematic for some users. Most had no issues, and it worked great. For others, including me, it would work for a short while then stop unlocking the phone. I would have to retrain my fingers every few days just to keep it going.

There were even hack tricks, like training the same finger twice, that supposedly improved performance. I tried this as well. It made things nominally better, at best.

Then Apple released a software update, and it worked great for me from that point on. I even joked at the time that perhaps Apple had “fixed” TouchID by simply making it less secure.

Then the hardware for TouchID was upgraded a year later, and it got even faster and more reliable.

I’ve been reminded of this while reading some sporadic reports from friends about FaceID. Most people, myself included this time, have no trouble with FaceID at all. (I think my phone has failed to recognize me maybe three times out of hundreds of unlocks in the past week.) But for a few folks, it seems to be a little less reliable. Particularly for those wearing glasses or with facial hair. (Oddly, both things that would apply to me, yet I appear to be unaffected.)

Thanks to the benefits of machine learning, though, we can expect that FaceID will get better quickly for those who are currently having a bit of trouble. First, with a software update or two. Then with even better hardware.

Any way you slice it, it’s clear to me that Apple was right to go all-in on FaceID. I can’t wait to have it on my iPad, my MacBook Pro—everywhere. Putting my finger down on my MacBook Pro to authenticate seems so antiquated already.

In My Pocket

So I have this new iPhone X, and I like it so far. I’m sure I’ll have much to write about it in the coming months. But first, as with any new iPhone, there is one stage of the upgrade process I always dread, and that’s getting my iTunes music library copied over to the new device.

I know I’m in the minority here, but I like having all my music on my phone. And I mean downloaded, ready to play, regardless of network connectivity. I ride the subway a lot, and thus I often find myself in a position of no internet connectivity. And I like to decide what I want to listen to in the moment, not ahead of time. It’s very frustrating for me to be in the mood for a song, go to play it on my phone, and nothing happens.

Remember with the iPod, the promise of having all your music in your pocket? That’s all I want. Seems to me that in 2017 I should be able to have what I already had in the early 2000s, right?

You would think this would be easy, copying my entire library, since all my music is on my Mac, and thus a simple USB cable would be all I'd need to copy all that music over to my new phone. If you think this is true, you clearly haven’t been reading my blog for very long. For several years now, as Apple has ignored users in my situation, the process of getting my songs onto my phone has resulted in doubled tracks, missing tracks, incorrect album artwork, songs that simply never copy, songs that appear to be on the phone but refuse to play, and on and on. It has been a nightmare for a geek like me who makes an effort to have a very orderly library and who likes to listen to entire albums. And I have been very vocal about it.

If your library isn’t that large, if every song was purchased via the iTunes Music Store, or if you just don’t care if you have to stream songs, you may not relate to any of my issues here. If you shuffle songs in your library, perhaps you aren’t even aware that several of your tunes are duplicated or missing. But if you have lots of tracks that you ripped from CDs back in the Stone Age, or you purchase songs from places other than iTunes occasionally, and you haven’t yet surrendered your entire music flow to streaming services, you may be experiencing many of the difficulties I have with iTunes over the past five or more years. If so, read on. I think I may have finally discovered a full-proof method for getting a clean copy of all my songs in relatively few steps.

The reason this is finally working for me, I think, is that a recent update to iTunes seems to have at least solved one of the biggest issues I had with file transfer. Dragging songs from the Mac’s library over to the iOS device has actually become a lot more reliable in the most recent updates to iTunes. At least for me. (Whoever it was that fixed this at Apple, thank you.) In previous versions, this was anything but reliable. Often, nothing would happen when you drag. Or, iTunes would tell you it was copying, but nothing would actually copy. Or, you’d get a “ghost” track on your iPhone—a dimmed version that would show up in iTunes when you plugged the phone in, but not in the Music app on the phone.

Other parts of the iTunes workflow, like doing an automatic sync, finding phantom songs listed, etc. are still as bonkers as ever. But at least now when I drag a file, I find that it actually does copy to the iOS device on the first try more often than not. This is a huge improvement.

So given this discovery, after a few false starts this year, I decided on a new workflow for getting my entire library copied. And to my surprise, with a few tweaks, it actually works.

Get the biggest iPhone storage capacity you can afford

First and foremost, when you are purchasing your new phone, you’ll want one with as much free space as possible to accommodate your library. Fortunately for me, Apple a few years ago upped the largest storage capacity on iPhones to 256GB, which is finally enough to hold my whole catalog with room to spare. Prior to this, I needed to pick and choose which songs I wanted to have with me, which added some extra complications and headaches.

You may find that the base 64GB models are enough to hold all your songs. Depends on how much music you have. Just make sure you account for all the space also taken by apps, photos, etc. You don’t want your phone to be on the edge of full because of your music library—or for any reason, really.

Clear all music out of your phone

When you restore from a backup during the setup process, your iPhone will not only restore all your settings and apps; it will also start downloading music. Not all your music. Just whatever songs were on your previous phone that happened to be purchased in the iTunes Music Store. This will likely leave you with a weird mix of some tracks from your entire library. If you have iTunes Match or Apple Music, the restore may also attempt to grab your other tracks, but I’ve found this completely unreliable.

Basically, you have no idea what you’ll actually get from a restore, so it’s best to remove everything and start over from scratch.

Unfortunately, there doesn’t seem to be a way to tell the setup assistant to just ignore your music. You have to wait until it thinks it’s downloaded everything it was supposed to. Otherwise, it will keep trying. This usually takes the better part of a day for me, so be patient. There is a cancel all downloads button in the Music app you can try, but that may or may not work. The bottom line: don’t expect to listen to music on day one of your new iPhone. (Great new device experience there, Apple.) What I do instead is just let it try to download whatever it wants overnight and start the actual process of getting my music copied over the next day.

There are a few different ways to clear out all your music on your phone. What I like to do is plug the phone into my Mac, fire up iTunes, and delete everything from there. Click on the iPhone icon that appears at the top left a few seconds after plugging in your phone, next to the category dropdown menu.

On the left sidebar, under Settings, click on Summary. In the main window, in the Options section, be sure to check “Manually manage music and videos.”

On the left sidebar again, under On My Device, click on Music. This will show you a listing of every song currently on your iPhone. Select all the songs, then delete. Be sure there is absolutely nothing left listed after the delete.

At this point, you probably still have music on your iPhone. I did. Unplug the iPhone, open up the Music app, and verify that all the songs are gone. If you still see music listed there, be sure to delete any of the remaining songs. You have to be 100% certain that all the songs are gone, or you will very likely end up with duplicates in the end.

When all the music is truly gone from your iPhone, and you are in the Downloaded Music section, the music app should show a blank page that reads “You haven’t downloaded any music.” It’ll have a big download cloud icon. That’s how you know it’s all truly gone.

Because you still shouldn’t trust that it’s all truly gone, restart your phone. Open the Music app again, and check it again. iOS has a tendency to leave some stragglers, believe me. It’s worth as many checks as you can stomach.

Once you’re sure you have cleaned out your entire library, plug the phone back into iTunes. You are now ready to actually copy your library.

Copy your songs from iTunes onto the phone

There are lots of ways to copy your songs over, but in my experience there’s only one way that works reliably. (At least it does now. This would not have been true in earlier versions of iTunes.) For me, all the auto-syncing methods are unreliable. I tried again this year, resulting in multiple issues. What works best for me, thanks to that most recent iTunes update, is good old-fashioned drag and drop.

First, verify that the library is still indeed empty by clicking on the iPhone icon again. (I know, you think I’m nuts at this point, but I bet some of you still have a few songs showing on that list. If so, delete them again.) Once you are sure you are empty, click the back button to get back to your music library. Click on songs in the sidebar. Be sure you have all genres, artists, and albums showing in the list. Select all, and drag the songs over to your iPhone in the sidebar, under devices. A blue outline will surround the iPhone area. Drop. The songs should start copying. Depending on the size of your library, it may take a while for the copy to complete. (Maybe even hours.) Let it complete. Do not get impatient and unplug the phone. Don’t cancel. Don’t open the Music app on your phone. (It will likely crash if you do.) Let it work itself all the way through, even if you get the dreaded “Waiting for items to copy” message for several minutes. Eventually, the copy should complete, and you should now have your entire library on the phone, hopefully with no duplicates, incorrect artwork, missing songs, or corrupted songs.

You can optionally drag albums or artists one at a time. Pick and choose what you want to copy. This is what I used to do when drag and drop was less reliable. I’d do one artist at a time. Check to see all the tracks were actually there. Delete and start again if they weren’t. Etc.

This time, I found that there were only a few artists/tracks that I didn’t actually want on my phone, so I just copied everything in one drag; then, once the copy had completed, I clicked on the iPhone icon again and deleted the few tracks I didn’t want.

And that, hopefully, will get you your entire music library onto your shiny new phone with the least amount of hassle. So far, I haven’t found any corrupt files, duplicates, or missing tunes. Only time will tell, I suppose, as I actually listen to a lot of these tracks. But all indications so far are that this worked for me.

I hope that helps some of you get your music into your pocket. Compared to years past, this time around was far smoother, thanks to this new workflow. Last year, it was weeks before I was sure I had the bulk of my tracks loaded properly onto my phone. And even then I was never fully sure what I’d get when I chose to listen to an album I hadn’t tried yet.

In a perfect world, Apple would make this process even easier by giving me the option to leave music out of the restore entirely. Perhaps next time I’ll try deleting all my music and doing a backup on my old phone before restoring it to the new one to see if that helps. Or I’ll be quicker with the Cancel All Downloads button to see if I can get that to actually stop the automatic downloads after restore. Meanwhile, I’m happy that this time around I seem to be able to listen to whatever I want reliably in such a short time.

The Air Porter from Waterfield Designs

Long-time readers will remember way back in 2010 I reviewed the excellent Waterfield Designs Muzetto bag, which I still use quite regularly. Ever since then, Waterfield has been my first choice for carrying cases and bags. I’m a sucker for handcrafted goods made right here in the States by people earning a living wage.

So when the folks at Waterfield sent out a request to their mailing list this summer to help them design the perfect travel carry-on bag, I couldn’t resist participating. I knew whatever they made in the end would be great, regardless, but just having a small say in some of the various options felt good—and more importantly it provided insight into the company’s design process.

Who doesn’t love to have insight into a company’s design process?

Watching the evolution of this bag over the course of a couple months was enlightening and fun. And I was very impressed with the final product, as it incorporated much of the feedback I had offered.

So of course I ordered my new Air Porter shortly after it became available, and it arrived just in time for me to test on my trip to Chicago for Release Notes.

What follows are my impressions of the Air Porter (as the bag was eventually named) with the optional Air Caddy add-on after a few weeks of use.

Product: Waterfield Designs Air Porter, in brown waxed canvas

Extras: Air Caddy, in matching brown waxed canvas

Purchase Price: $379 USD

What is the Air Porter?

First, it’s important to understand the purpose of the Air Porter. As the name implies, this bag is primarily designed to be taken on trips involving airplanes. It makes for a great day-to-day bag, too. But the reason I purchased this bag is that I travel with my laptop and iPad often enough to realize the obvious shortcomings of other types of laptop bags on trips involving flights.

Carrying a laptop bag over my shoulder to the airport isn’t always ideal. With a wheeled carry-on suitcase and often an additional third item—such as one of my various musical instruments—already in my hands, having the extra bag flopping around at my sides isn’t particularly comfortable. Meanwhile, the flat top of a suitcase just begs to hold your laptop case for you, to take that extra weight away from your shoulders. Unfortunately, most messenger bags and briefcases weren’t designed to sit securely upright in this fashion. They don’t hold their shape firm (by design), and they lack an easy way to secure the bag to the wheeled suitcase’s handle. So you end up with a bag that slips and flops off your suitcase as you wheel it around.

Then, when you get to your airplane seat, you put your suitcase in the overhead compartment, and your laptop bag ends up sitting under the seat in front of you. And, just as with the top of the suitcase, the limitations of non-rigid bags quickly become apparent on the floor. The bag doesn’t want to stand upright, and thus you end up with little room for your feet to rest comfortably.

Finally, when you’re on the plane, nine times out of ten, you only need a few items, but they can often be hard to access. For me, I almost always just want my 10.5-inch iPad Pro and my B&O H6 headphones. If I don’t think to grab them before I’m settled in, though, I usually have to pull the entire bag up to my lap to get to those items out.

Air Porter was designed to address all of these issues.


Waterfield never fails to sweat the details on design. The Air Porter is no exception. Waterfield’s usual quality is evident everywhere when I look at this bag. The stitching is clean. The materials are of quality and free from defect. You even get a nice personal note in the box from the people who made your bag. This all adds up to a customer experience that is second to none. And no matter how many times I’ve ordered products from this company, that has never failed to be the case.

Standing vs Lying Flat

The Air Porter has a semi-rigid shape, which allows for quite a bit of capacity, while still allowing the bag to stand on its own upright. It is cut to fit perfectly under the seat in front of you on an airplane, while still leaving enough room for your feet to rest flat. I can’t tell you how big a deal this is to me. At 6 feet, 2 inches, it’s nearly impossible for me to be comfortable in a coach airline seat. I’m used to getting off planes with a fair amount of knee pain, due to contorting my feet into all sorts of odd angles for several hours. Now I don’t have to worry about that at all.

Now, if only Air Porter could stop the person in front of me from reclining…

Because the bag stands up on its own, it’s also ideal for placing on top of my wheeled-suitcase. There’s a strip of canvas across the back of the bag that makes it easy to slip the Air Porter onto a suitcase handle. My suitcase is a Rimowa Salsa Air, which I love, but it features a single-stalk handle in order to save weight and space. That makes it hard for any bag to stay securely placed when leaning on an angle compared to most 2-stalk handle designs. For the most part, though, given the rigid structure of the Air Porter, the bag remained secure and sat comfortably throughout my recent trip to Chicago. Only on a few occasions, when I had pushed the limits of what can reasonably be stuffed into this thing (more on that below) and leaned it at a rather wide angle to get it up a curb, did I end up with the bag sliding out of position off the top of my suitcase. But that’s more the fault of my single-stalk suitcase handle than the Air Porter, I think.

Despite its somewhat rigid shape, the Air Porter is still somewhat flexible, so you can vary the amount of gear you are hauling from day to day. It looks good whether you are carrying a little or a lot.


The Air Porter is designed to be carried either by hand via short handles, or with the included shoulder strap. The strap is comfortable, with a padded area for your shoulder. The length can be adjusted quickly with little effort. I find myself alternating between holding the bag on my left shoulder and crossing over my head to my right shoulder quite frequently.

The handles also come in handier than I would have expected. With comfortable leather trim, the handles make it easy to lift the Air Porter from the ground or from a table, or to carry the bag briefcase style.

Laptop Compartment

I have TSA Precheck, so I seldom have to worry about taking my laptop out of my bag anymore at the airport. For the occasional international flight, or when the TSA decides on a whim that it wants to revoke my usual Precheck privileges, however, it’s nice to know that the laptop compartment of the Air Porter can be fully zipped open to lie flat. This means the laptop will sit alone for the scanner to see without having to remove it from the bag entirely. This is an incredible convenience, especially for someone like me, who hates fumbling to put things back into my bags, thus holding up the line.

The Air Porter features a built in padded sleeve for a laptop, so there’s no need to sheath your machine in extra padding prior to placing it into the bag. The sleeve fits either a 15-inch or 13-inch MacBook Pro comfortably.[1]

I was worried my 13-inch Pro would be swimming around in the compartment, and I was a bit disappointed at first when I saw that there wasn’t a slightly smaller-sized version of the Air Porter designed specifically for 13-inch machines. In practice, though, I can see that a slightly smaller size would not make much difference. It may even make the bag too small to fit my 10.5-inch iPad inside the Air Caddy in the front pocket. And the purpose of a bag like this is to allow for some extra gear during longer trips, so I don’t think I’d necessarily want to trade the slightly tighter laptop fit for less capacity overall. I think Waterfield made the right compromise here.

There are cutouts on either side of the padded laptop compartment, to allow you to plug in your power cable while the laptop is still inside the bag. A nice feature for those who may want to grab a few extra minutes of charge while sitting around the airport during a layover. The cutouts are low enough even for the 13-inch to access at least the rear ports on either side.

There are also two pockets on the opposite side of the laptop compartment. These are perfect for your charger, some cables or adapters, or even a backup hard drive.

The Front Flap

The large leather front flap is probably my favorite design feature of the Air Porter. It’s attached via magnets, so it stays secure while still being very easy to open when needed. There is an extra set of magnets as well, slightly higher up, to allow the flap to “expand” and still remain secure if you have more things stuffed inside than usual.

Inside that front flap is where the Air Caddy lives. This makes it very easy and convenient to simply pull the Air Porter out a few inches from under the seat in front of you on the airplane, lift the flap, grab the Air Caddy, then let the flap drop and push the Air Porter back into its position under the seat. Access to my iPad has never been easier from an airplane seat.

You can put other things inside the pocket under the front flap, of course, instead of the Air Caddy. If you don’t have an iPad, or you just want to have easy access to other things while flying, you’ll be happy to know Waterfield does sell the Air Porter without the Air Caddy. But I find my iPad is the first thing I always grab when I fly. So the Air Caddy was a no-brainer for me.

Also under the flap is a quick access zippered pocket. This comes in handy for a passport, a wallet, paper boarding passes—basically anything you want to get to quickly while on the go. It’s easier to access than any other pocket in the Air Porter.

Air Caddy

The Air Caddy almost deserves its own review. It can be purchased separately, after all. And it does make for a nice iPad case on its own, or even as some extra padding while riding inside a Muzetto, which is how I use it for casual walks around the neighborhood without my laptop.

For those who are familiar with Waterfield’s excellent Gear Pouches, think of the Air Caddy as a big Gear Pouch made specifically to hold an iPad. It has a dedicated pocket for the iPad, which will hold either a 9.7-inch or a 10.5-inch Pro, with or without a Smart Cover.[2] But it also has two more internal pockets, where I like to keep my Apple Pencil, my headphone dongle, the little adapter that lets you plug an Apple Pencil into a regular lighting cable, and so on. And it also has an additional side zipper pouch with two more pockets, for more cables, pill boxes, a snack, etc. I can also just barely stuff my B&O H6 headphones inside the main compartment of the Air Caddy.[3] Which means everything I need for the plane comes out of the Air Porter with one simple lift of the main flap.

Once out of the Air Porter, the Air Caddy slips nicely inside the seat pocket in front of you. So you can grab your Air Caddy, toss it into the front seat pocket, then wait until you are settled to grab whatever gear you need during the flight. As you get closer to landing, you can pack the Air Caddy back up, toss it back into the seat pocket, and wait until you get the all-clear to pull your Air Porter back out from under the seat to toss the Caddy back in. It’s a very clever and elegant solution.

Of course, it’s not as if the other compartments of the Air Porter are out of reach during flight. With dual zippers on both main compartments of the AirPorter, pulling out your laptop, or any other gear, is quite simple as well. But for most flights, I plan on having everything I need on the plane inside this one little pouch.

The Main Compartment

The amazing thing about the Air Porter is that even after you’ve settled your laptop and iPad in, you still have an entire middle compartment for more gear. I often use this area for general stuff, like a battery charger for my iPhone, pens, business cards, and more cables. But there’s room for a lot more. On my recent trip to Chicago, I used this space to hold a Canon 5D Mark III camera body and lens. On my frequent overnight trips to Philadelphia, I plan on stuffing in a spare set of clothes and some toiletries. There’s also a key fob you can use to hook on your keys, so you don’t lose track of them.

The Air Porter is not a duffle bag. And it’s not going to replace your suitcase for anything longer than an overnight trip. But it is good to know that you can store a lot more gear in the Air Porter than in most other laptop bags.

Water Bottle Pockets

This is a nice little detail I didn’t even consider when Waterfield was asking for feedback on the Air Porter’s design. But I’m glad someone else did. On either side of the Air Porter are pockets big enough to hold a water bottle. I generally don’t carry around water bottles all day, but on the occasions I do, these will come in handy.

More importantly, the pockets also end up being pretty good for holding a folded umbrella. My gigantic Davek Duet looks a little silly sticking up out of the side of the bag, but it’s secure in there. Regular-sized umbrellas for regular humans should fit even better.

As often as it rains here in New York. I appreciate having somewhere to store my umbrella when it’s not in use.

The pockets fold into themselves and can be buttoned up when you don’t need them. So you don’t have these giant openings on either side all the time. It’s another example of great execution by Waterfield.


Air Porter is currently available in two different base materials. A black ballistic nylon, for a more classic, professional look, and a brown waxed canvas, for those of us who are tired of all-black bags. Either one includes matching leather for the front flap, as well as on the bottom edge trim. Compared to many other Waterfield bags, the options for accent materials are a bit limited. You can’t get a black nylon body with a chocolate leather trim, for instance. But I suspect this will change over time, as more people purchase the bag, and Waterfield examines the market further.

I own many products of Waterfield’s featuring the ballistic nylon material, including a Vertigo bag, various iPad and laptop sleeves, and some gear pouches. It’s a great material. Lightweight. Classic look. Takes a real beating.

I chose the waxed canvas this time because I prefer the look of brown bags, frankly. I feel like the lighter color shows off the Air Porter’s lines a bit better, too. Having never tried any waxed canvas bags before, I wasn’t sure what to expect. So far, I’m very pleased. The canvas seems as if it will be as durable as the nylon, but with more character, as it develops lines and marks over time, much like a brown leather develops a “patina.” It has a well-worn look that’s very fashionable and hides the bag’s age, both when it’s brand new as well as when it’s several years old. I suspect this bag will age very well.

At the same time, the waxed canvas still feels professional. I would not feel strange wearing this bag over my shoulder with a suit. Yet it still looks great with my jeans and tennis shoes.

Another nice touch I want to point out is the splash-proof guarding trim around all the outer zippers. The Air Porter features a black lining over all exposed zippers, to protect the zippers from getting wet. It’s a nice clean look. The black lines offer a nice accent to the brown waxed canvas as well, I think.

The waxed canvas is also water resistant, so there’s little need to worry about getting caught in the rain. Even the leather flap is likely to take on water with no trouble. If my Muzetto bag—which has been caught in more rainstorms than I care to remember—is any indication, the Air Porter should do just fine in foul weather, while keeping its contents dry at the same time.

And last but not least on the materials front, I have to mention the excellent bright gold inner lining of the Air Porter. This material has been a feature of Waterfield bags for as long as I can remember. And it always serves its purpose: to make everything inside the bag easier to see. Nothing worse than digging around through a bag looking for stuff, and the inside is completely dark. Especially since tech gear is so often black. The gold really makes it a breeze to locate whatever it is you are trying to find.


At 2.4 lbs, the Air Porter is rather light. At least for a bag in this class. This is important when traveling, as the last thing you want to do is add unnecessary weight to your traveling gear. The Air Porter is not as light as a smaller Muzetto bag, of course, but it carries quite a bit more gear and has a rigid structure. Given those constraints, I think the Air Porter does very well in this regard.

Also important for the Air Porter is how well it distributes weight. I was a bit concerned switching to a horizontal bag after many years of using vertical messenger-type bags, where the weight is distributed over a shorter horizontal plane. But the placement of the D-rings on the shoulder strap allows the Air Porter to lie pretty flat against your body, whether over the shoulder or on the shoulder. And with the laptop in back and the iPad in front being carried inside the Air Caddy, the horizontal weight is fairly balanced as well. The bag doesn’t feel like it wants to tip over, either on my wheeled-suitcase or on the floor. This is not an easy thing to get right.


This recent trip I made to my conference in Chicago was a good stress test for the Air Porter. But it is probably not representative of how I will normally travel with it.

For my flight, I had the following gear stuffed into my Air Porter all at once:

  • 13-inch MacBook Pro
  • 11-inch MacBook Air
  • 10.5-inch iPad Pro
  • Canon 5D Mark III camera with 50mm lens
  • Mophie Juice Pack battery charger for iPhone
  • a backup hard drive and cable
  • two laptop power adapters and cables
  • a spare battery for the camera
  • B&O H6 headphones
  • Apple Pencil
  • several additional cables and adapters

Yes, I really did need to bring two laptops on this trip. Fortunately, with the 13-inch Pro in its sleeve, the MacBook Air still had plenty of room to slide into the back compartment, freeing up the center compartment for the camera and its accessories.

I think at one point, I even stuffed my hand coffee grinder into the Air Porter. But that was only briefly, from the conference venue back to my hotel.

With all of this gear in tow, the Air Porter still looked great. It held its shape despite being filled to the brim. It was heavy to carry on my shoulder, so I wouldn’t recommend this much gear for daily use. But since I was hauling it around on top of my Rimowa suitcase for most of the time, it was actually surprisingly workable.

The point is, compared to the Muzetto, which was designed to limit the gear you travel around with on purpose day-to-day, the Air Porter can handle much larger capacities. And that’s important for those many trips where being a minimalist isn’t an option. This is a far more versatile bag than anything I’ve owned thus far.


So how do I plan on using my Air Porter? After all, I still have my excellent Muzetto bag for light day-to-day use, and my Vertigo for those days where I need to carry a bit more.

Well, for flights, it’s no contest. I will choose the Air Porter every time. The convenience of the Air Caddy, plus the ability to stand the bag up under the seat in front of me make it the obvious choice.

For overnight bus trips to Philly, which I do about once a month, I’d also go with the Air Porter. Especially since it can double as an overnight bag—at least during the warmer months.

If I’m just headed out to the cafe, and I only need my iPad, I’ll likely pop it into my Air Caddy and drop that into the Muzetto. Or if I only need my 13-inch Pro and nothing else for a few hours, I may slip that into the Muzetto and leave the Air Porter behind.

It’s early to tell, but I think the Air Porter is going to be my goto bag more often than not. Just having the flexibility to add more gear when needed is enough to tip the scales in its favor.


With the Air Porter, I think Waterfield has done it again. They design great stuff and build it with care. I wish more companies followed that simple philosophy.

If you’re in the market for a travel carry-on that’s designed with a ton of thought and attention to detail, that’s made in America by people who are paid decent wages, and that will last for many years to come (I’m about to enter year 8 for my Muzetto) the Air Porter is certainly worth a look. Sure, it’s not an inexpensive bag, but considering how long it will last and how often I will be trusting it to protect my tech gear, I think it’s well worth the price and then some.

  1. Though you may want to note: we’re talking about the latest 15-inch Pros from the past few years, not the earlier, thicker models. ↩︎

  2. For 12.9-inch Pro users, the laptop compartment is probably a better spot in this bag, I think. ↩︎

  3. The H6s are not small headphones. But, folded flat, they do fit. They are a bit tight in there, but the zipper closes, and the Air Caddy still fits comfortably in the front flap with them inside. ↩︎