CES PREVIEW: Devices And Stories That Will Actually Make A Consumer Impact This Year

The 2014 edition of the Consumer Electronics Show is set to officially kick off today in Las Vegas, and as always it will lay down the main themes for the year ahead in consumer tech.

We combed the press and analyst sources for the trends, announcements, and devices that observers expect will generate the most buzz.

A number of announcements have already been made ahead of the official kickoff.

One of the themes running through the show will be devices that improve and enhance tech-centric consumer lifestyles, beyond the confines of a smartphone or tablet — ultra high-definition and smart TVs, Internet-powered home appliances, connected cars, and wearables. Bendable, foldable, and waterproof hardware will also be showcased, but will have limited consumer impact in 2014.

ULTRA HIGH-DEFINITION TVs
Next-generation TV is set to make a splash at CES 2014. A multitude of TV manufacturers like Samsung, Sony, and LG will take to CES to get their massive ultra high-definition and 4,000 pixel resolution (4K) TVs into the spotlight. At last year’s CES, 4K and Ultra HD monitors were already buzzed about, but this year the conversation will revolve around getting these visually stunning machines into the hands of the average consumer.

Samsung 110 inch ultra hd 4k tvSamsung4K TVs

Pricing will be the main topic surrounding 4K TVs, as many will hope that the cost on these TVs will drop. But many are also concerned about the availability of 4K-compatible content. At LG’s CES keynote on Monday, Netflix CEO Reed Hastings made a cameo appearance to announce that the second season of the Netflix original show House Of Cards was filmed and mastered in 4K, and that it will be able to stream in 4K resolution.

SMART TVs
Smart TVs will be featured, as vendors and even satellite TV providers are set to unveil partnerships with software makers to create new TV operating systems. Here are some prominent announcements that have already been made:

The Verge already has an ongoing rundown of the TVs being showcased at this year’s CES.

THE CONNECTED HOME
The Internet Of Things will be at the forefront of this year’s CES with a significant push for connected home appliances and equipment.

Lg smart refrigeratorLGSmart refrigerators

Many smaller IoT startups like Nest and SmartThings have already been in the business of making connected thermostats, smoke detectors, door locks, and alarm systems. They may unveil more new smart things at CES, but also expect larger companies to showcase their efforts. LG will debut an oven, washer, vacuum, and refrigerator that can be controlled via texts to the LINE messaging app. Owners can send their refrigerator messages like, “I’m going on vacation for four days,” and the refrigerator will answer back and switch to a power-saving mode during those four days. Samsung will launch a software development kit so developers can create apps for their Samsung Smart TVs that also control Samsung appliances throughout their homes.

THE CONNECTED CAR
Autonomous or self-driving cars will likely be on display, but they probably won’t make an impact in the real world during 2014. This year’s CES will be more about apps for connected cars.

Google made headlines Monday morning by announcing the creation of what it’s calling the Open Automotive Alliance, which will help customise Google’s Android platform for new cars. Google has already brought GM, Honda, Audi, and Hyundai on board to kickstart the program. Chevrolet also announced at the CES show Monday that they will connect their cars with AT&T’s 4G LTE network, and each vehicle will come with its own HTML5 app ecosystem, AppShop. Finally, Ford announced that they will update over 3.4 million existing Ford vehicles to run connected car apps. We believe connected car platforms will explode in popularity in 2014.

WEARABLES
Now that smartphones and tablets are in millions of consumer hands, electronics manufacturers are looking to conquer the wrist. While Google Glass is supposed to make its mainstream debut in 2014, this year’s CES will likely be overrun with a multitude of companies looking to capitalise on the success of Pebble, Nike FuelBand, and Fitbit in 2013.

Pebble Steel 3qtr trio zoomPebblePebble’s new watches

Wrist-worn wearables will be at the forefront, at CES and in 2014. Pioneering smart watch company Pebble announceda new lookfor their watches. The new watches are part of a trend: wearables are beginning to look more and more like the low-tech devices that preceded them, and that’s likely a good thing since style was one barrier that held back consumers from wider consumer adoption. Pebble also announced timelines for the launch of their app store and new partnerships with ESPN and Mercedes Benz.

CES will also bring some new and unique applications for wearables. Here’s a preview of a treadmill that connects with Google Glass, from Technogym.

SMARTPHONES AND TABLETS
Although they may be a bit overshadowed by newer technologies, tablet and smartphone manufacturers will unveil new hardware that will challenge major players, like Apple and Samsung.

  • On Monday, ASUS announced its new Padfone X for AT&T in the U.S. Padfone X will be a dual smartphone-tablet device.
  • Chinese low-cost handset maker ZTE announced its new flagship, premium device, the Grand S II. Pricing and availability are not yet known.
  • LG will unveil its G Flex phone, a handset with a bendable, flexible body and screen for the U.S. market.

CES will also be a big stage for U.S. carriers to announce new changes to their wireless plans. AT&T has gotten ahead of the pack with the announcement of its “sponsored data” plan. It’s a new model that will allow app publishers to pay for a user’s data fees when their apps, media, or other content are in use over a data network. T-Mobile has a highly anticipated keynote scheduled for later in the week, with many believing it will unveil a new phase of its “Uncarrier” plan.

POTENTIAL SURPRISES
No CES ends without a few surprise devices or trends. Last year, for example, the Oculus Rift virtual reality gaming headset took the conference by storm.

We think drones may be the talk of CES 2014 after all is said and done. CES will be a stage for new possible consumer applications for drones, such as travel photography and video. Here is a list of the drone makers set to be at CES, and here is a preview video of a consumer drone being demoed at CES on Monday.

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