It’s been a few years since my last visit to CES, and while I remember it as a zoo, it was nothing like this. More than 3,000 companies are exhibiting – officially, there are plenty of exhibitors in spaces not affiliated with CES, so bump that number up another few hundred at least. Writing about CES trends is as much about what you leave out as what you cover.
There is simply no way to see more than a tiny sliver of exhibitors. I narrowed my focus primarily to mobile, and, again, I’m just scratching the surface. Those caveats aside, here are some top trends from CES 2012:
1. The Practical: I visited a number of vendors offering on-the-go charging solutions.
Powerbags’ backpack charging system can keep your tablet powered so you can watch movies while you’re on, say, a long international flight.
Powertrekk’s fuel cell charger, just add water, can keep you powered up when you’re away from the grid.
Outside of the show, I played a few hands of poker with a sales rep from PowerFilm Solar, who showed me a very cool portable charging solution, a USB solar charger that rolls out to expose the solar cells. It’ll be tempting to order all three of these when I get back from the show.
The takeaway here is that we’re all practically cyborgs already. We experience anxiety if we can’t get on the Internet from wherever we are, and something as simple as a dead battery can undercut us. Battery and charging technologies have been playing catch-up for a long time, but they are indeed catching up.
2. The Disruptive: The two devices I’ve coveted the most thus far are a tablet based on MIPS processors and Samsung’s Galaxy Note, a smartphone/tablet hybrid.
First, the MIPS tablet. What’s cool about it is that it’s a more powerful tablet than the Kindle Fire, but priced at less than $100. It currently runs Android Ice Cream Sandwich, and should hit the US in a few months. It’s already available in China for anywhere from $75-$99.
My first impression of the Galaxy Note is that it’s too big for a smartphone, but too small for a tablet. Samsung plans to sell it through carriers as a smartphone, but I have a hard time imagining myself lugging it around everywhere I go. The more I tinkered with it and put the on-screen drawing/note taking process (it comes with a stylus) through the paces, the more I started thinking of ways that I could change to accommodate the device.
It’s not that big, really, I caught myself rationalizing. I’ll just wear cargo pants whenever I leave the house. I doubt this will be a bestseller, but it’ll definitely find a niche and users in that niche will love it.
3. The silly, but kind of cool: I’m Watch rolled out a smartphone companion watch.
It operates via Bluetooth and connects to your smartphone, presumably stashed in your pocket or backpack or purse, and allows you to quickly check emails, texts, social media feeds, etc. Priced around $300, it makes me wonder who really wants to pay that much to avoid the inconvenience of getting your phone out. But it’s certainly an eye-catcher.
4. The cool but not ready for primetime:
I checked out tons and tons of 3D displays. To me, they all look like crap. As your eyes drift away from the central focal area to the depths of the 3D image or video, the quality degrades. The displays that don’t require glasses looked even worse than those that did. I want to like 3D TV, but it’s a few generations away. That’s it for now.
Check out my Twitter feed, @JWVance, for updates throughout the show.