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Jan 12 2013

CES 2013 Revisited

Look, up there in the rear view mirror! It’s a bird! It’s a plane! It’s…it’s…

It’s CES! A teeming maelstrom of technology, a crush of bodies and more announcements than a high school principal with his first intercom. IT IS OVER!

This year was the largest in the show’s 45+ year history, with 1.92 million square feet of exhibit space. The previous record was 1.86 million square feet of space at the 2012 International CES. More than 3,250 exhibitors unveiled some 20,000 new products at the 2013 CES, drawing more than 150,000 attendees, including more than 35,000 from more than 170 countries outside the United States.

The size of the show was most obvious to me when I scheduled appointments that were 30 minutes apart at opposite ends of the panoply of tech. I actually brought a pedometer to CES this year to track how many miles I walked.

It broke.

Yes, it was that many miles. I had already walked almost 2 miles by the end of the second presentation on Monday at press day so I would estimate I walked between 25 and 30 miles in the three days that I was there. Possibly more, but I am trying to be conservative. Pass the ibuprofen! Good shoes at this kind of a show are a must.

There were several themes that ran throughout the show.

1. Headphones-

Revo headphones from Jabra

Revo headphones from Jabra

There were 11,414,768 manufacturers at CES showing headphones. I counted them. Closed, open air, over the ear, on ear, in the ear, bluetooth, wireless and wired at every single price point.

While traditional powers in this marketplace, like Sennheiser, were there, it seems that EVERYONE is making headphones now. Chinese ODMs, phone companies, accessory companies…pretty much everyone.

About half of them looked strikingly like a Product Manager walked into the office one day screaming, “We need our own Beats!” and the product team complied a bit too literally. Those that didn’t look like Beats would try and find another connection. When I was asking one designer about the technical aspects of his headphones he leaned forward and said, “Confidentially, these use the same drivers as Beats Solo.”

Sigh, my kingdom for headphone innovation over reproduction.

2. Bluetooth Enabled Watches

watches

Crazy Italians, Martians and Casio. Strange bedfellows indeed, but everyone seems to be getting in on the smartwatch game, with Apple rumors constantly floating about in this market segment as well.

The presentations at CES on the watches ranged from poorly planned techno feeding frenzies at i’mwatch…

Please speak into the microphone...

Please speak into the microphone…

To the “Battery lasts for two years” practicality of the Casio G-Shock…

casio

The feature range on Bluetooth watches ranges all over the map but notification of calls and messages and prox sensing (YOU FORGOT YOUR PHONE DUMMY!) seem to be fairly universal. I am currently playing with imwatch trying to decide how useful it is for me but one of the guys over at Android Spin showed me the Martian, and it seems to be a really good balance of useful and geeky.

3. Batteries

Extended batteries, battery cases, battery packs. Everywhere you looked companies were trying to do something clever with batteries in just about every single booth.

Of course, battery life is the limiting factor on mobile electronics, so I can hardly poke holes in the strategy.

Last year, I took a long test drive on the MyCharge Power Bank 6000 and it was so useful, it found a place in my bag for this trip to CES.

The new range of products from MyCharge are sleeker and more elegant and range from the bandaid range (1000mah) all the way up to metric crap piles of power. Their approach to the iPhone 5 Freedom battery case is particularly clever with a little tail on the back of the case coming free so you can charge you depleted phone. This approach leaves the connectors on the bottom completely accessible.

Screen Shot 2013-01-12 at 8.58.13 PM

Their new Jolt series features a built-in carabiner attachment and captive cables for micro USB and Lightning.

The AMP series are ruggedized for outdoor fun and the Hub series has built-in cabling and runs up to 9000 mAh.

HyperJuice also had some pretty sick stuff and they don’t just limit you to charging your iDevices…

hyper

A whole range of power products ranging all the way up to a staggering 27000mAh means you can fly from here to New Zealand and still watch movies. If you are already in New Zealand…well, than you can fly back to the states and not run out of juice!

Ampt was showing their PowerSlate products which are batteries designed to slide into ringed binders and lengthen your operational life. They were also showing off their powered messenger pack.

iBattz was also showing their whole range of battery cases but the Mojo Armor really caught my eye. It has a rugged exterior, a slimline exterior and actually comes with two removable 1700 mAh batteries in the box. At less than $65 this is a really great bang for the buck! I am currently working on a field test of this unit.

There were some other big trends at CES that I was interested in (lots of health monitoring) and several that I was ambivalent about (more, bigger and 3der TVs) but those will have to wait for another day and another article.

The last thing I will leave you with was how quickly last years product is abandoned. There were bunches of companies there that literally had nothing along for the iPhone4/4S. I am all for chasing the leading edge but let’s not leave the consumer out in the cold.

I have lots of reviews cued up for the next couple of months so stay tuned and we will keep you apprised here at Restless Tech!

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