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The Consumer Electronics Show extravaganza is over. To hear tech journalists tell it, CES is overrated and not as important to the future of technology as it once was.
However, it’s still the world’s largest stage for new gadgets.
BI Intelligence combed the tech press and polled our own sources to put together a list of the most interesting mobile-linked products and trends that generated buzz at the show. We’ve linked to the original sources where relevant.
- Smartwatches, connected cameras, Android TVs: The Pebble watch was arguably the show’s star. The Verge elected the Pebble the best watch, and noted how it works like a smartphone without adding too many unnecessary features. The Pebble allows users to see the time, and who’s texted them, without the hassle of reaching into a pocket for handsets. Brian Klug argues Samsung’s connected Galaxy Camera dominated the CES showfloor even though it wasn’t officially a showcased product. The camera “seemed to be everywhere,” he writes, as tech journalists used it to take high quality photos, tweet them and upload to Dropbox. The camera runs Android Jelly Bean’s OS, but it remains to be seen whether it’s an isolated success or Android and iOS will successfully migrate to cameras, watches and TVs.
- Mobile retreat?: Many CES veterans noted 2012 marked a retreat from the mobile frenzy of the 2011 show. Ross Rubin notes that there were smartphone and tablet launches this year, but nothing like the hyped handsets and “wall’s worth of tablets” on display last year. It may be that most mobile initiatives are awaiting the Mobile World Congress in February to beat the drums, but it may also be a sign of a certain maturity in mobile. Perhaps future innovation won’t come from dressing up tablets and phones with new bells and whistles.
- Marketer frustration: “[Marketers] simply can’t figure out how to do anything compelling with tiny screens,” writes Dan Lyons, the editor-in-chief of ReadWrite. He attended meeting after meeting at CES at which marketers expressed their frustrations with mobile. Lyons’ advice? Marketers should stop looking at mobile devices as tiny TV screens through which to push messages, and begin using them as portals through which to initiate a dialogue with consumers and listen to their needs.
- Huawei’s monster: The Ascend Mate, “truly blurs the line between a phone and a tablet,” writes SAI’s Kevin Smith. The 6.1-inch HD screen Huawei smartphone is larger than the 5.55-inch Samsung Galaxy Note II. One detractor called the Huawei handset a “monster.” The tech press has dubbed these large-screen smartphones “phablets.” One obvious attraction is that they’re perfect for watching video.
- HD mobile video: In fact, HD is becoming standard issue as smartphone screens grow in size. The Ascend Mate and Sony’s Xperia Z water-resistant phone unveiled at CES are both HD. It makes sense to bet on video, since consumers have a tendency to watch as much video as is feasible on their devices, driving a global surge in mobile video usage and traffic. (See chart, above right.)
- Keyboard attachment: This one is for the annals of the war between the desktop PC and the tablet. Several manufacturers — Microsoft with the Surface, ASUS with the Transformer Prime, and now, Lenovo — are betting their tablets can compete against netbooks and make gains with desktop-centric business users if they’re dockable or attachable to a physical keyboard. Lenovo unveiled the IdeaTab S2 at CES. This trend raises the question: Just how attached to keyboards are we?
- The rise of software: This is an important trend for mobile developers. As gadgets proliferate, it may seem as if futuristic devices like Google Glass and smart thermostats get all the attention. However, venture capitalist Tomasz Tunguz argues that it will be the software under the hood of these gadgets that will ultimately make or break them in the market.
- More mobile platforms: SAI’s Steve Kovach writes that Nokia’s Windows-powered phone, the Lumia 900, “stole everyone’s hearts.” The phone runs the new Windows Phone operating system. Ubuntu is a Linux-based mobile operating system that would also like to position itself as a polished alternative to iOS and Android. We’ve written about how the race to become the third mobile platform is likely to end in a draw between multiple contenders. But developers and publishers should keep an eye on Windows Phone, Ubuntu, Tizen, Firefox, and the rest.
- Super Wi-Fi: It’s easy to forget that Wi-Fi connections, and not fickle cell signals, account for most of consumers’ smartphone-based data usage (63 per cent in the United States). With tablets, it’s even more lopsided in favour of Wi-Fi. It’s true that 4G LTE cell networks are ultra-fast, but their data costs are rising, and even LTE-connected mobile consumers may turn to Wi-Fi for untiered usage. If Wi-Fi gets even faster — as merchants promised at CES — then it’ll be a long time, if ever, before consumers go completely Wi-Fi free. (See chart, below.)
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