independent

Sunday 20 April 2014

CES: Las Vegas showcases the hottest gadgets we'll all be buying (or wearing) this year

THIS will be the year of cheaper tablets, curved smartphones, giant TVs and fewer PCs, according to tech companies showing off this year's key technology trends.

New products to be unveiled later this week at the world's biggest technology trade event will show bigger, fancier touchscreen devices that further blur the divide between phones and tablets. Samsung and LG are both set to announce 'curved' screen smartphones and giant, 105-inch televisions.

The global Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas is tipped to see new 'wearable technology' devices, including new smartwatches, web-connected visors and glasses.

While Samsung and Sony launched smartwatches in 2013, Google Glasses are still not available to buy in Ireland.

Meanwhile, fewer of us are set to buy PCs or laptops this year, with tablet and smartphone sales due to overtake desktop and laptops sales. According to Irish-based global web statistics firm Statcounter, web traffic from PCs is falling sharply while traffic from phones and tablets now takes almost a quarter of the market.

So-called mobile money is also expected to feature prominently at CES, with new services aimed at capturing the growth of cashless digital payments. While technologies such as Near Field Communications (NFC) continue to struggle in the European mobile payments field, services such as M-Pesa in Africa have resulted in mass-market cashless commerce in some African countries.

Irish broadband speeds could double in 2014, a year when the Government has promised fibre-speed broadband to every household in the country.

A BMW i3 electric vehicle is prepared for a display during set up for the 2014 Consumer Electronics Show (CES) at the Las Vegas Convention Center in Las Vegas, Nevada, January 4, 2014. REUTERS/Steve Marcus (UNITED STATES - Tags: BUSINESS SCIENCE TECHNOLOGY TRANSPORT)
A BMW i3 electric car at the 2014 Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas REUTERS

In December, Eircom pledged to extend its fibre-connected broadband rollout to 1.4 million premises by the end of 2015, leading to a sharp increase in broadband speeds available to some non-urban Irish homes businesses.

In late December, the Government also announced legislation to allow the ESB to offer its electricity cables as carrier routes for broadband firms seeking to reach non-urban locations.

Six tech product trends to look out for this month:

1. The €50 tablet

While Christmas 2013 saw the proliferation of €100 tablets such as Aldi's Lifetab, 2014 looks set to see €50 tablets become available in increasing numbers. Hundreds of Chinese and Indian companies at CES will showcase budget, camera-enabled tablets running the Android operating system and capable of downloading apps, playing games and streaming Netflix.

In December, an Indian firm launched a €35 Android tablet -- the UbiSlate -- in the UK. Such machines are set to proliferate throughout 2014.

2. Large, curved screen phones

Last year, saw the first 'phablet' (half-phone, half tablet) devices introduced to the mass market. 2014 will see an acceleration in this trend of phones with screens of five inches or more. (Only Apple sticks to smaller, four-inch screen devices. It is expected to change direction and introduce a bigger iPhone in late 2014.)

Both Samsung and LG are also set to introduce curved-screen phones, potentially causing havoc with accessories such as protective cases.

3. Even bigger TVs

Those who thought 40-inch TVs were huge may have to reassess their views in 2014. Most manufacturers are moving to 50-inch tellies as the standard large set. Some manufacturers are going much higher, with Samsung and LG set to launch 105-inch 'UHD' televisions that also feature curved screens for improved cinematic viewing. Current market data shows a strong market for high-end sets, with Sony Ireland indicating that sales of its 65-inch, €4,000 '4K' televisions are "strong".

4. More 'wearable' tech

Last year, it was Samsung's Galaxy Gear smartwatch. The year before that, it was Google Glass. This year, promises many more forms of 'wearable' technology devices, including a large variety of new fitness gadgets.

Much attention may be on integration of tech into physical clothes, such as the recently-launched 'Drumpants', a pair of jeans that allows you to play and record instruments by tapping your jeans. Shoes and runners with integrated technology are also currently being launched.

5. Retina devices will start to become the norm

Whether it's iPads or televisions, higher screen definition looks set to become one of the main growth areas, according to new products being lined up at CES. The world's biggest phone manufacturer, Samsung, is reported to be boosting its next-generation Galaxy S5 screen to 568 pixels per inch, far higher than current smartphone screens, including Apple's iPhone 5S.

Meanwhile, TV manufacturers are starting to introduce '4K' sets that provide double the resolution of existing HD televisions. Higher-resolution screens currently attract a premium in price but are expected to become the norm.

6. PCs to slump

While tablets boom, PC and laptops will slump in 2014, with few major new models being announced at CES. In 2013, PC sales fell by 15pc in Europe and the US. Only the emerging markets in Asia, Africa and South America provided some growth for old-fashioned keyboard computers. The move to tablets will also hit video game sales, as kids prioritise tablets over handheld games consoles.

Irish Independent

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