It’s the beginning of the year which, in the world of tech, means two things: it’s time to shake off the festive season’s food-induced coma; and it’s time for CES.
The Consumer Electronics Show is the world’s premier technology expo, filling several cavernous halls at the Las Vegas Convention Center with all that’s new in the worlds of home cinema, photography, computing, hi-fi, smartphones, cars and more.
Stuff is, naturally, in attendance, and will be bringing you details of every major product (and doubtless some minor ones) that is announced this week. In the meantime, here’s what you can expect to see and some of what has already appeared, broken down by category.
SMARTPHONES AND TABLETS
While mobile isn’t generally a chief focus of CES – Mobile World Congress a few weeks later is a bigger deal for this segment of the market – there are usually a few new products debuted here.
You probably shouldn’t expect any major flagship device announcements, but there might be some interesting mid-range products. Sony, Samsung, LG, Huawei, Lenovo and ZTE all have press conferences during the show, so there’s plenty of potential for some new devices to break cover.
Acer has already announced its Continuum-toting Liquid Jade Primo, a 5.5in AMOLED smartphone set to square-off against Microsoft’s own Windows-to-go mobiles. Cutting-edge the styling isn’t, but Snapdragon 808 smarts and 3GB of RAM, with a 21MP snapper to boot, mean the Primo is anything but banal.
Trustworthy Twitter leaker @evleaks claims Samsung will be launching a 12in Galaxy TabPro 2-in-1 Windows tablet at CES, so that’s definitely one to look out for (in about 15 minutes or so).
BlackBerry (yes, really) has a media briefing scheduled for 6 January at around 7PM. There could be new phones or tablets on show, we suppose, but it seems more likely that the Canadian company will focus on other areas, perhaps security and the Internet of Things. Still, there may be a surprise or two in store.
Huawei has revealed that the Mate 8 will be launching in the US, along with a gold version of the Nexus 6. It also revealed a mid-range stylus-toting tablet, the MediaPad M2 10, which sports an all-metal build.
Wearable tech has swiftly expanded into one of the gadget world’s key areas (ironic, considering so much wearable tech is about making its wearer do the opposite of expanding), so you can expect plenty of new gear to launch at CES 2016.
Putting its best foot forward, Misfit has paced in ahead of the power pedometer pack with the announcement of its fashion-first fitness tracker, the Ray. Packing a 3-axis accelerometer, notification alerts and a battery good for 6 months of motion motivation, its 12mm-slim diameter fights fashion faux pas with its interchangeable ingenuity. What’s more, Misfit’s nifty Link app means the Ray can talk to nearby electronic kit – from controlling the tunes to snapping selfies.
Far be it for Fitbit to be left lagging, the sweat-encouraging tech corp has pulled the covers off the Blaze, a new wrist-strap wearable that’s almost-but-not-quite a smartwatch. As we’d expect from the makers of the Charge HR, Fitbit’s Blaze will track sleep, steps and calories, as well as auto-detecting exercise (making use of a built-in optical heart rate sensor). Whilst it offers notification alerts and music controls, too, there’s no third-party app support – which means no wrist-based gaming.
Having ditched the Grip, HTC has opted for a tie-in with Under Armor to deliver the UA band – a flexible, single-button activity tracker that pushes data to UA Record, which, in turn, will take calorie data from MyFitnessPal and record your runs from MapMyRun. Heart-rate sensing makes a welcome appearance, as do notification alerts – though water resistance (rather than waterproofing) means it’s not the wearable for water babies. Bundled with UA Connected Scales and a chest-strap heart-rate sensor, it’ll be available later in the year.
Huawei has revealed two new smartwatches aimed primarily at female gadgeteers. The Jewel and Elegant feature identical specs to the existing Huawei Watch, but differ in their design. Both are plated in gold, and the Jewel’s watch face is surrounded by Swarovski crystals for a little bit of extra glamour.
We also wouldn’t be surprised if Sony stepped in with new watches and fitness trackers, while Intel and Qualcomm’s events may give us some insight into the future of the tech that powers these small devices.
Samsung looks set to debut some of the weirder stuff: the WELT, a smart belt that tracks your waist size; and a wrist strap that, through bone conduction tech, enables the user to listen to a connected device’s audio simply by touching their finger to their ear.
Cyclists will be happy to hear about Kopin’s Solos AR glasses, which were designed in a wind tunnel to cut down on air resistance. They beam data from your smartphone or wearable onto a heads-up display in real time, turning a 4mm projection into a 5in display that puts heart rate, speed, pace and cadence info at a glance. No more taking your hands off the drop bars to check your phone.
More than 40 exhibitors will be showing off VR wares at CES 2016, signalling that the technology is going to be one of the coming year’s biggest trends. Big guns such as Oculus, Sony and Samsung may take the opportunity to show off their VR headsets, but don’t be surprised if we unearth one or two smaller companies delivering something noteworthy in the field.
As expected, HTC has unveiled an updated version of its Vive headset – dubbed the Vive Pre. Redesigned with interchangeable foam inserts and nose gaskets, the new model should feel better on the face, whilst brighter panels and ‘image refinements’ should make for an even more immersive VR experience. Better still, addition of a front-facing camera means digital reality can replicate the real world environment for more refined object avoidance. Want one? Only 7000 units will be put into production, and they won’t come cheap.
TV AND HOME CINEMA
Once again, we expect 4K to be the main “theme” around CES 2016’s new television, projector and home cinema product announcements. Despite being available for a few years now, Ultra HD is yet to become a mainstream technology – but 2016 could be the year it makes the push.
That said, it seems LG has its eyes on a grander prize: pixel-pushing tech doesn’t get much sharper than its ‘production-ready’ 8K TV. The wall-dwarfing 98in UH9800 is the star of Samsung’s rebranded Super UHD lineup and looks set to share the same IPS LCD True Black tech as the rest of the range.
Still, an 8K agenda doesn’t mean 4K is dead. LG itself is set to unveil a selection of non-Signature TVs at CES 2016, featuring the Korean manufacturer’s new webOS 3.0 smart TV operating system, as well as a number of OLED models and some nifty new home appliances.
We can also still expect to hear quite a bit about 4K Blu-ray. We already know that the first batch of 4K Blu-ray movies is going on sale in the coming weeks, with Sony, Samsung and Panasonic the three companies planning to launch 4K-capable Blu-ray players. Count on much more info about those at the manufacturers’ press conferences, and also how the Blu-ray Disc Association plans to make its format the enthusiast’s preferred method of 4K delivery.
We know next to nothing about what Japanese giant Sony has planned, but aside from 4K Blu-ray, we’d expect to see a new batch of premium TVs, and possibly a 4K projector and some home cinema speakers.
Like Sony, Panasonic has let slip very little (aside from some marketing speak about “products and solutions designed to meet the needs of people wherever they are”) regarding its CES plans. All will doubtless be revealed. If we had to predict: expect TVs and a 4K Blu-ray player. And other stuff, as mentioned above.
Samsung has just made a bunch of annoucements, and has previously revealed that among its launches will be a SmartThings controller hub designed to turn Samsung smart TVs into control centres for connected home products.
Samsung has already announced the HW-K950, its first soundbar speaker to offer compatibility with high end Dolby Atmos sound.
Budget manufacturer Hisense already makes one of the cheapest 4K TVs on the market, and has some 22 new models planned for unveiling at CES 2016. Thrifty thrill-seekers take note.
And let’s not forget streaming. Both YouTube and Netflix have sent senior figures (Chief Business Officer and CEO respectively) to make keynote speeches at CES, so perhaps we’ll get some indication as to the future plans of these two major players in the streaming market.
LAPTOPS AND COMPUTERS
Acer isn’t always the brand to beat when it comes to captivating eye-candy of the laptop world, but its announcements at CES 2016 may just change that. The devilishly re-designed Chromebook 11 carries an aluminium alloy cover and crosshatch styling, coupled with a quad-core Celeron chip and 2GB of RAM. It’s hardly revolutionary, but its refreshing to see form and function fielded in harmony.
Those in the market for power over prettiness need look no further than Acer’s TravelMate P648, a carbon-construction carrying the latest Intel chips and designed to withstand the worst of a life on the road, whilst the addition of Intel’s RealSense smarts to the Aspire V Nitro Black Edition signals the arrival gesture-based gaming.
Hybrid hardware hasn’t been forgotten, either, with Acer unveiling the Aspire Switch 12 S, an aluminium transformer tablet toting a 4K display. Finally, Acer’s Chromebase 24 is a 23.8in desktop running ChromeOS on proper Intel Core chips, which should make for some seriously slick surfing.
HI-FI AND AUDIO
Under Armor has leapt onto the fitness tech bandwagon, unveiling a collaborative effort with JBL in the form of the aptly-named UA Headphones Wireless Heart Rate. Sweat-proof and sweet-sounding, Twistlock tech means they’ll stick fast as you stride – which, with a bundled 12-month MapMyFitness membership, you’ll certainly want to do.
Not content without announcing audio hardware of its own, JBL has also unveiled two new bluetooth boomers. The waterproof Clip 3 is a puck-shaped portable player that’ll handily hook onto just about anything with its in-built carabiner. The Charge 2 totes more traditional styling with multi-room abilities – though it’s still completely waterproof and packs a mammoth 6000mAh juice pack.
Libratone has delivered a style update for its Zipp multi-room bluetooth speakers – and its a doozy. Significantly sleeker than the already attractive original, the Copenhagen Edition pairs aluminium with Italian wool for a 360-degree design delight. Fancy coordinating with the furniture? There’s a collection of covers available, with appropriately delicious names: Raspberry Red, Salty Grey, Pepper Black and Steel Blue.
Danish company Bang & Olufsen has long been the leading light when it comes to stylish (and eye-wateringly expensive) audio and home cinema gear, and has promised that it will announce the global unveiling of a “new B&O product” at CES 2016. Will it be a TV? A multiroom audio system? A portable music player? We’ll find out this week.
Sony’s save-the-date invite for its press event shows off camcorders and cameras, so you can expect a few new imaging products from the Japanese manufacturer. Sony’s firmly established itself as one of the world’s most innovative camera makers, so there could well be some interesting stuff on show.
One company we wouldn’t count on showing off new cameras is Samsung, as they’re not really seen this side of the world that much. There could be some US product news, however: Mirrorless Rumours has been tipped off that Samsung will have a “major surprise” among its camera announcements.
Believe it or not, CES has become something of a car show as well as a gadget show. Big name motor manufacturers have marked it out as the perfect venue for showing off the bleeding-edge electronic tech going into their latest vehicles.
First of the motoring bunch to break cover is Ford, with CEO Mark Fields throwing some shade in Tesla’s direction as it announced an expansion of its autonomous vehicle testing fleet, which will see it become the auto industry’s largest. The car giant also heralded the availability of Apple CarPlay and Android Auto on all 2017 cars featuring its Sync 3 infotainment tech, as well as impending Amazon Echo implementation.
We’ve already seen Volvo recruit Cortana for in-car voice controls: you’ll be able to speak into your Microsoft Band 2 to set the sat-nav, lock the doors, start the heater, flash the lights or sound the horn, with commands relayed through the Volvo on Call smartphone app.
You can expect to hear a lot about self-driving technology, of course, not only from manufacturers such as Mercedes, Toyota and Kia but also from technology companies such as Qualcomm and Nvidia. The latter two are chip makers, we know – but they’re heavily involved in autonomous car development due to the sheer amount of processing power required to make the self-driving tech work.
This year’s show should also give us a first look at BMW’s AirTouch, a new gesture-based in-car interface that allows drivers to control certain functions of their car without taking their eyes off the road or both hands off the wheel.
Finally, mystery-shrouded Tesla Motors rival Faraday Future has unveiled its first all-electric vehicle concept at a press conference in the early hours of 5 January. To date, no other manufacturer has come close to offering the all-round performance and efficiency of Tesla – perhaps Faraday can be the first?
BEST OF THE REST…
With all this talk of TVs, tablets and wearable tech, it’s easy to forget that most fascinating facet of wish list wonder: the humble – or not-so-humble, as the case may be – accessory. From docks and droids to stylii and mice, CES 2016 promises a plethora of pretty peripherals.
Steel Series, makers of gaming gizmos around the globe, has announced its Rival 700 mouse. Carrying a customisable OLED display (because, why not) that displays game-relevant graphics, the 7-button ergonomic clicker also carries swappable components and delivers tactical alerts straight to the palm.
Brydge has revealed two new table-top tappers for the iPad Pro and iPad Mini 4 – labelled the BrydgePro and Brydge Mini. Built from aluminium, with backlit keys, a three month battery life and an ingenious hinging mechanism, the patented ‘Pad peripherals promise a keytastic blend of productivity and portability, and are set to ship in the first quarter of 2016.
Sphero has indelibly etched its name into Star Wars spin-off history with the BB-8 whizzaround toy – and now the manufacturer is channelling the power of the Force into its spherical success. Forget smartphone controls: a prototype motion controller will now let you pilot the BB droid with a gyroscopic wrist attachment – dubbed the Force Band – programmed to recognise gestures, set to arrive later this year.