The annual Consumer Electronics Show (CES) is almost upon us, and this time, it appears the general theme is “evolution” not “revolution.” Like 2010’s event, there will be e-books and tablets and newer and better TVs. There will be more 3D and Web-connected devices, including TVs, Blu-ray players and set-top boxes. And yes, that list sounds a lot like last year’s and even the year before.
A recent Reuters report went so far as to say that the CES 2011 gadget fest’s “sizzle fizzles.” Oh dear! But we’re not in the same boat. For mobile enthusiasts – industry folk and consumers alike – there is stil plenty to look forward to from CES 2011, even if it lacks a big reveal, like the long-awaited Verizon iPhone.
Trend #1: Usable Android Tablets
Like last year, there will be tablets aplenty at CES, but this time around, they might be tablets you’ll actually buy. Sprint’s president of its business markets group, Paget Alves, recently told FierceWireless.com that he expects there will be “at least 12 different tablets” that will be unveiled at CES 2011. Other sources, like CNET for example, say there will be more. In fact, CNET says there will be tablets from Acer, Archos, Asus, Creative, Dell, Entourage, Fusion Garage, LG, Motorola, MSI, Notion Ink, Samsung, Toshiba and ViewSonic.
The majority of these tablets will run Google’s Android operating system, of course. Manufacturers are ready to reveal their lower or competitively priced iPad alternatives at last, and thanks to advances in the Android OS itself, many of these tablets will actually be usable, a big change from last year’s show. “Honeycomb,” Google’s code-name for its new tablet-ready version of Android expected to launch in March 2011, will offer support for larger screen sizes, and it will even offer APIs (application programming interfaces) to developers which will allow an Android application to split its views into multiple views, like side-by-side, instead of one after the other, such as on a phone.
Plus, as a bonus, there may be a reveal of a new Microsoft tablet too. Will it run Windows 7 or will Microsoft surprise us instead? Maybe even with a reveal of a tablet-friendly Windows 8?
Trend #2: First 4G Phones (and Other Devices)
2011 will be the year that 4G, specifically Verizon’s LTE technology, takes off. Although none of the carriers who have announced 4G networks are actually providing speeds that meet the standard’s requirement, as a marketing term “4G” means faster speeds and faster downloads for mobile users.
Verizon’s CEO Ivan Seidenberg is delivering a keynote address on January 6th, where it’s expected he will discuss the company’s launch of its LTE network, and will likely talk about its new LTE-enabled phones and tablets. According to The Wall St. Journal, Verizon will show off LTE smartphones from Motorola, Samsung, HTC and LG Electronics as well as one tablet computer. All the devices will be powered by Android.
Given that speculation about the Verizon iPhone has previously hinted at a CDMA-compatible device, this could make for an interesting battle between the two platforms, iOS (Apple’s mobile OS) and Android. ?If the Verizon iPhone was CDMA-only, it would mean smartphone users would have a choice: do you want an iPhone or a faster, 4G Android phone? (Verizon’s 3G technology offers 600 Kbps – 1.4 Mbps speeds, while LTE offers 5M Mbps and 12M Mbps downstream).
Of course, others suspect the Verizon iPhone will be LTE-capable, too, pointing to remarks made by Seidenberg himself as proof. That wouldn’t surprise us either – Apple isn’t known for adopting older standards, but rather likes to push the envelope when it comes to new technology. However, a CDMA-compatible iPhone would be ready to expand to other networks, too, like Sprint or MetroPCS, if Apple ever wanted to go after volume at some later date.
CES 2011 will at least give us the first piece of this puzzle – the details on the 4G Android phones. But we’ll probably have to wait until later to hear whether or not Apple’s new phone will go 4G/LTE as well.
Trend #3: 3D / Mobile TV
There isn’t much information about this yet, but LG Electronics is reportedlygoing to unveil a new line of mobile TV products, including 3D mobile TV which will let you watch 3D digital broadcasts, without special 3D eyeglasses, even when traveling in mobile vehicles up to 200 Kilometers per Hour (3D TV on the plane)? The tech will reportedly be demonstrated with a 7-inch device.
Other lesser-known brands will also offer mobile TV products, like Axel Technologies’ Fuugo app designed to stream video, including both Internet video and mobile TV, to mobile devices. Fuugo will support the major international mobile and over-the-air broadcast TV standards from North American ATSC and ATSC-M/H to European DVB-T and DVB-H to Latin American SBTVD-T/One-seg. The company says it’s compatible with iOS and Android.
Meanwhile, a company called Cydle will promote a mobile TV receiver for iPhone.
There will be surely be others, too. But we’ll wait for the hands-on reviews from gadget blogs before we call out any of these as a winning solution. It will be fun to watch, though.