10
Jan
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While we flew back home yesterday, today officially marks the end of 2014's don't-call-it-the-Consumer-Electronics-Show (seriously, check out the "note to editors" on any official CES press release). Another year of crazy gadgets, an almost inappropriately huge number of televisions, and a whole lot of white particle board walls. I generally look forward to going to most tech conventions - MWC, IFA, GDC, and Google I/O. CES is the one I've grown to have mixed feelings about - it's frantic, almost inconceivably large, and increasingly straining to retain its relevance to the mobile industry.

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This year's Android standout was undoubtedly Samsung, who used the relative vacuum of serious tablet announcements at the show to unveil its new Tab Pro and Note Pro lines to the world. Four all-new tablets aimed decidedly at the high end of the market - something we know consumers have been clamoring for Samsung to do for a while now, as most of the company's current tablet offerings are of a decidedly middling quality. We saw the announcement, we got to use them - without restriction - and came away pretty impressed. These may finally be the tablets Samsung needs to convince mainstream consumers that there are viable high-end alternatives to the iPad and iPad mini out there. Samsung didn't announce pricing, but I'm betting that the 8.5 and 10.1 inch Tab Pros will be ever-so-slightly more competitive than Apple's offerings.

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We saw phone announcements from Huawei, Hisense, ASUS, and Sony (even though they were old, rebranded phones), and a whole slew of fitness and activity trackers promising Android compatibility, though many were little more than concepts. NVIDIA unveiled its new Tegra K1 chipset, which brings the company's market-dominating Kepler GPU architecture to mobile, and could make NVIDIA a serious contender in the mobile chip space again. ASUS was probably the second-largest source of Android announcements at the show, unveiling 3 brand-new phones, 2 new PadFone models, and the rather impressive Windows 8-Android hybrid Transformer Book Duet. Vizio's Android-powered touchscreen speakers got a fair bit of attention, and Parrot's new Android-ready AR.Drone mini looks genuinely cool. Kids' tablet-maker Fuhu unleashed a slew of announcements at the show, and Sony's new Android phone dock car stereo got some much-deserved love. There was also a sadly, incredibly, if predictably vague announcement about Android in the car. We'll see what comes of the new Open Automotive Alliance. There are probably more things you're ready to throw on this list, and you're also probably wondering why we didn't cover them. Michael Bay's awkward-but-hilarious walkoff at Samsung's press conference, for example.

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Here at Android Police, we obviously write about cool Android and Android-adjacent stuff. For us, going to CES has become rather like a treasure hunt. Amidst the sea of TVs, cameras, and audio gear, we have to search out the products our Android-craving audience will get excited about. And with just 2 people roaming the whole show, this can be a seriously daunting task. Therefore, we have to be pretty picky with which press conferences we attend, and what products we write about. (Though some posts are more a result of convenient timing than genuine interest, I admit.)

This year, Android Police's CES post count was the lowest it has ever been, at just under 40. Last year was around 60, about the same number as 2012 and 2011. Now, you could say the drop this year was something of a self-fulfilling prophecy. I also readily concede we could have posted about more products we saw at the show, but many of those products fell into the "this is basically just a concept designed to get press" or "so bad it's kind of funny" categories.

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Tegra K1

For example: ZTE's modular phone mockup (which screams 'vaporware / attention-mongering'), Razer / LG / Sony's fitness band concepts (LG's was at least semi-functional for simple demo purposes), Polaroid's Socialmatic Android camera / printer concept (the demo units were empty shells), and less so, NVIDIA's K1 reference tablet (which we were not allowed to use outside of a couple Unreal Engine demo apps).

To be blunt, I don't feel as though posting pictures of non-functional or extremely restricted demo / concept hardware as a "hands-on" is fair to our readers, and frankly seems a little disingenuous. I also struggle to see the value in it. We could write a post about the K1 reference tablet that would consist of some photos of it and maybe a video of it running the Unreal demo apps, and we could call it a "NVIDIA K1 tablet hands-on" (hey, we touched it!), or, we could more appropriately title it "Some pictures of an old Tegra Note with a K1 inside it running the same tech demos you can watch in NVIDIA's press conference that happened 2 days ago." Would you want to read / watch that? I'm guessing the answer is largely "no." This isn't to be especially hard on NVIDIA as, after all, they're demoing a chip, not an end-consumer product. But it's the same story with the fitness bands, or ZTE's pie-in-the-sky modular phone: by and large, you're regurgitating fast facts from an old press release and tossing in some photos of the thing in person on the show floor that you can't actually use in any meaningful way which would provide genuine insight.

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Lenovo's 4K Android all-in-one

Outside of the Android universe, CES was, according to the experts, 4K's big coming out party... except that last year was also 4K's big coming out party. This year was more like 4K's big coming out party for those of us who don't have over $5000 to spend on a television (but also have at least $1000 to do so), or twice that much to spend on a camcorder. The truth is, 4K adoption is going very, very slowly, and that's mostly because home-viewable 4K content is emerging very, very slowly. I have my suspicions that 2015's CES will mark yet another 4K debut, though under the guise of "4K for the masses" or some other such minor warping of history to ensure CES remains TV tech-centric. 4K Blu-ray also seems inevitable, and I'm sure Sony will be all over it come next year's show. Basically, don't expect the 4K marketing hypetrain to derail any time soon, there's a lot more milking of the 4Kow to be done yet.

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The Sony SmartBand

Wearables were the very visible peripheral trend at this year's show, and I'll fess up: I ignored most of them. There was so much wearable-this, activity-that, and fitness-lifestyle-tracking hutzpah that it all just became white noise to me. Garmin is making a fitness band, Razer (!?!?!) is making a fitness band, Sony is, LG is, and a dozen-plus little startups you've never heard of are, too. And they all really, really want your attention. I think this market is going to undergo a serious shakedown over the next year, and I have a feeling a lot of these products won't make it past their first or second iterations. Activity and fitness tracking may not be a fad (or it may be, I don't know), but like tablets, it seems as though everyone and their brother is trying to get a piece of the pie and, as with any ecosystem, there's only so much room to be shared in the marketplace. This concept was well-illustrated three years ago at the 2011 CES, where over 100 tablets (yep, really) were launched by literally dozens of manufacturers. Natural selection will take place in the wearable ecosystem, just as it has in smartphones and tablets, and next year many OEMs will probably be pretending those products never existed. I will say there was decidedly less to talk about in terms of smartwatch unveils at CES (aside from Pebble), which really suggests to me that as a product category their appeal has remained very niche.

Also lacking at CES this year were any major announcements from the world's two silicon heavyweights: Intel and Qualcomm. Neither announced next-generation chips, though perhaps CES just didn't land during the right time for any significant unveils from the two processor firms. My suspicion, for Qualcomm at least, is that MWC will attract a more interested, relevant audience than CES, and that we may see Qualcomm's latest and greatest in Barcelona next month.

As always, CES provided a spotlight for dozens of new cameras, hundreds of A/V and home theater products, and a huge number of appliances.

We'll be back at the show next year, of course, and I'd like to thank my colleague Cameron Summerson for enduring the 4 days of non-stop grind with me. It was a good time, if a busy and kind of crazy one.

David Ruddock
David's phone is whatever is currently sitting on his desk. He is an avid writer, and enjoys playing devil's advocate in editorials, and reviewing the latest phones and gadgets. He also doesn't usually write such boring sentences.

  • http://www.androidpolice.com/author/eric-ravenscraft/ Eric Ravenscraft

    "Mixed feelings." So, better than last year then? http://www.androidpolice.com/2013/01/09/editorial-ces-2013-is-a-joke-and-i-honestly-dont-want-to-come-back-next-year/

    (I joke but...serious question.)

    • http://www.androidpolice.com/ David Ruddock

      HEY I LINKED TO IT IN THE ARTICLE.

      Yes, but mostly because Cameron and I played basketball in a hotel room for like 3 hours on Wednesday night.

      • http://www.androidpolice.com/ Cameron Summerson

        Hell yeah we did. Intel's party rocked.

  • Ivan Martinez

    Looking forward to a review of the Asus Transformer Duet when you guys get your hands on one. I am just in love with that thing (not so much the stated battery life though), and hope it doesn't run into the patent issues the ATIV Q did.

    • Matt

      I'm curious how easy it would be to replace the Windows 8 with Windows 7, though maybe I'm just afraid of change and I shouldn't care.

      • http://www.androidpolice.com/ David Ruddock

        Windows 8 is basically Windows hard mode if you're a lifelong Windows power user. I still get confused with it sometimes.

        • http://royblumenthal.com/portfolio royblumenthal

          Windows 8.1 with START8 installed is excellent. Very worthwhile buying Start8. Makes Win 8 usable.

    • Nick Cannon

      Install Bluestacks on any PC..

      • https://twitter.com/KryptosXLayer2 KryptosXLayer2

        HA, have you ever used it? I have it as a joke on my 23" touch screen Acer monitor, powered by a beast of an i7 desktop, and it's embarrassing to say the least - it's like having a Chinese tablet running Gingerbread powered by a Galaxy Note 3!

        • Nick Cannon

          Asus Transformer Duet uses Bluestacks for Android.

          • https://twitter.com/KryptosXLayer2 KryptosXLayer2

            WHAT? Who told you that? This isn't emulated, chief, it's a full running OS on both systems..... if you want to make stuff up, at least make it sound like it could even remotely be legit

          • Ivan Myring

            Apparently it runs the full OS in an optimised virtual machine developed between ASUS and Bluestacks.

  • Mike Reid

    My habit now is to come to Android police first. :)

    So, thank you for limiting the CES posts and thereby devoting more time to the more important stuff.

    There are plenty of "fluffier" places to go if we have more time for reading stories and comments about people walking off stage, or go nowhere demos or Chinese devices that almost nobody in the 1st world ever buys.

    • hot_spare

      Why so much hate for 3rd world?? Last time I checked about 75-80% of world's population live in 3rd world countries. I guess you're one of those guys with 'elitist' mentality.

      • Tony

        Calm down pussycat, he was just stating an obvious fact. No hate mongering.

        • hot_spare

          Calm down retard, I was also stating an obvious fact.

      • Chris

        How is that being elitist? This is an American website..... AKA first-world country... I do know that many non-americans view the site as well but it's a fact that this site tends to be aimed towards the first-world android lovers.

        • David Sousa

          Third worlder (or "developing worlder", you name it) speaking here. I read this site, many people I know (over the Internet) read this site as well, and yes, we don't care about no-brand devices and gear that is tailored towards other markets outside the US-Europe axis.

          I'd say people from here visit AP to actually know about "the latest tech" (also buying when traveling or just to preview what is coming next to our own local market).

          And let's not fight over it (I know I don't care about how you refer, I'm ok). If it is to be scientifically correct, just call it developing world, as there is no 2nd world anymore. There. Done. Everybody is happy! :)

        • hot_spare

          Then technically you should say this site is aimed at US-based android-lovers.

          US in *not* first world, US is just a sub-set of the first world.

          And that is being elitist.

          • Chris

            No, i commented at the end that this site is aimed at "FIRST WORLD ANDROID LOVERS". I can tell that you're an attention seeker though, technically, what i said is correct. I hope you can find ways outside of the internet to get your self-esteem up, I'd suggest the gym.

          • hot_spare

            I can tell you that you had bad schooling. I don't blame you, not your fault.
            I'd suggest better education.

      • bzwingzero

        Remember: they want us to read the articles. So they write articles about devices we will buy. Most of their readers are not in those countries that buy those low-end devices en-masse.

      • AndrewLB

        How is it hate for stating the truth? And it's a stone cold fact that most of those cheap Chinese devices don't sell here in the US, partly because they're cheaply made, and because they're made using stolen technology.

        • hot_spare

          It's also a fact that you're a complete idiot. You stated a fact, I also did the exact same.

    • lollercauster

      Just because Chinese devices aren't used much in the "1st World", doesn't mean they don't deserve coverage. There are some great devices coming from China and I'm sure your mind will change when Xiaomi finally releases an international device.

      • teolinux

        iPhones come from China... just to name one... :P

  • David Margolin

    You forgot to mention the tmo news!!! John Legere is now my favorite person ever. With Artem obviously being a close second :)

    • http://www.androidpolice.com/ Artem Russakovskii

      I wouldn't say it's necessarily CES news really. Just timed with CES.

  • Captain Canada

    No mention of Sony's Xperia Z1 Compact? It's very very compelling.

    • http://www.androidpolice.com/ David Ruddock

      The Z1 Compact is literally the Z1f, a phone that was announced over 4 months ago. See: http://www.theverge.com/2013/10/9/4822676/sony-xperia-z1f-cameraphone-announced-in-japan

      If Sony wants attention, they should learn to be timely with their international phone releases. By the time the Z1 Compact is on sale in most markets, HTC's successor to the One will be nearly ready (largely assumed there will be an MWC reveal), and Samsung's Galaxy S4 successor will likely be announced in March. I also wouldn't be surprised to see LG step up their release cycle to get more in line with HTC and Samsung. Once those devices are announced, the Z1 Compact will be old news. It has happened to Sony every single year for the past 3 years, and it's going to happen again this year.

      The Z1S is even worse, being a rehash of a phone over 5 months old. Sony is simply not fast enough.

      • supremekizzle

        Agreed. Sony just seems behind. Sure, the specs are fine, but now I want to see what Sammy and HTC bring to the take instead of buying Sony. You think they would have learned by now...

      • Roger Siegenthaler

        But does it actually matter that those successors are coming out? Sony's going for the people that won't buy those phones anyway but still want to have high specs and can afford the price-tag flagship phones have. So what if the S5 comes out, my thinking will still be, I want a phone with awesome specs and a size that's not huge... automatically pointing me to the z1 compact.

        But in general yeah, sony's not great at timing :/ Maybe next time they'll release their flagship and the compact version at the same time.

    • http://www.androidpolice.com/ Artem Russakovskii

      David has never been particularly excited by Sony's phones, and for a good reason - they're always late in the US and most models don't even make it here.

      The Compact is interesting, but it'll depend on timing once again. Sony is frequently 3-6 months too late releasing stuff here, but they did say they're realigning their attention to target US better this year. We'll just have to see about that.

      Another reason the Xperia Z Compact got less attention is it's not really new - it's the same thing as the Z1f, which has already been announced.

      Personally, I prefer larger phones, so the Z Compact is no for me, but I commend Sony on not comprising specs. And that Tablet Z last year was one of my favorite tablets.

      Sony's getting its groove back.

      • Captain Canada

        I guess this response if for you and David, I've followed Sony's phones for the last three years. I also know about the Z1f but I think that all the press that it received from tech sites at CES shows that it's something people have wanted, obviously being a flagship device the size of the iPhone. I think that if they can release this in North America when Sammy, LG and HTC release their new flagships and it has good battery life, the camera software doesn't suck like in some past Sonys then it can be marketed well against the new 5.2 inch screens that get released. Though, I don't think any of that will matter if they don't release it with KitKat or if the other OEMs decide to release their own mini flagships alongside their big screens.

        This thing is waterproof too, I've known tons of girls who have dropped their phones into toilets. As far back as I can remember my FB newsfeed has had girls posting that they'll be without a phone for a few days. We've had the Z1 in Canada but I haven't seen it in the wild. I know I would be interested in this, my first Android was an Xperia Arc which had a lot of flaws but I loved the size of the screen. I think this would be easy to market to be honest (especially to girls), in a commercial that says I could have an Android a little bigger than an Iphone with a 20 mp camera, KitKat, day long battery life and waterproof.

        I'm sold.

        These are all if, or and buts especially considering Sony's track record but it's good to see them actually making phones that finally catch my attention. I think Kazuo Hirai's Sony is showing it can innovate or at least lead the pack in many profitable consumer electronic categories and CES proves that. The PS1 might have been my first console but other than that I've never owned many of their products, I just feel like I shouldn't be counting them out anymore.

  • supremekizzle

    Use to be a major phandroid, but I'm really digging you guys more now. This was a genuine post. Not a mongering for Google hits.

  • Andy

    samsung's ho-hum tablet get more than a paragraph's worth of drooling and the rest of the android oems get mere one-liner. and while the rest of tech websites and authorities who have attended the CES declared the Z1 compact add one of the best in CESC2013, the author didn 't even bother to elaborate. ivsee what Samsung did there. how much marketing moolah has been paid to this pseudo -android authority? lol!

    • Gerry

      Sotrue. CNET, Engadget, and other tech websites proclaimed the Z1 compact as the best in mobile in CES 2013. And honestly, I havent really read anything about Samsung's tablets.

    • Guest

      They stay front and center cause Samsung releases too many products.

  • shitsung

    "old, rebranded phones" and what do you call samsung's tablets? lol! super biased towards samsung this website is

    • Leonardo Farage Freitas

      Agree. These new tabs are the same as the Note 10.1 2014. IMO they just have bigger/smaller screens and the update that should have come to the Note 10.1 2014 =/

  • Jeff

    The Asus TD300 look awesome to me !

    http://jeffsandroidtop5.blogspot.ca/

  • renz

    to be honest i want to see more from qualcomm. will we see faster SoC than snapdragon 805 this year? or did they wait for TSMC 20nm before announcing a new one?

    • Ivan Myring

      MWC?

      • renz

        we'll see

      • Stone Cold

        Mobile World Congress

  • K

    Why is it always samsung front and centre? Either it is apple or it is samung. Its like a duopoly. I am getting sick of this. Maybe i should stop visiting this site.

    • Stone Cold

      Samsung releases more products than Apple does and Apple doesn't do the CES.

  • CasperTFG

    And all this tech, none will be sold by Verizon Wireless. Douchebags.

  • Matthew Fry

    My favorite announcement was LG confirming the Flex on T-Mobile. While I claim to be level headed about this, I don't know that I can resist that phone.

  • Matthew Fry

    That's seriously bizarre about the CES but not Consumer Electronic Show thing. I get that CES is more recognizable than Consumer Electronics Show but what writer in their right mind doesn't shorten it immediately after defining the initialism?

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