LAS VEGAS — It’s the last day of CES 2014, and as the booths come down and the crowds filter out, it’s time to reflect on what we’ve seen this week. Clearly, a lot of the trends we expected to see coming into this year’s show were right on the money.
Curved screens on smartphones and televisions made an early splash with high-profile releases from Samsung and LG. The idea is that by watching TV with a curved screen, viewers will feel more immersed in the program or video. But it’s an idea that could take time to catch on. The benefits of a more enveloping screen make sense when you’re looking at a 105-inch television or are close to a big smartphone screen. But, at least on the demo floor, the effect doesn’t pack quite the same punch on smaller TV screens, and it will be interesting to see how TVs that actually fit in your living room take advantage of the new shape.
Hand in hand with the new curves hitting the television production lines is a focus on Ultra HD, or 4K, content. The clarity and color you get out of a 4K television can be astonishing -- and a nightmare for any television personality who dares to sport a wrinkle. There was some skepticism back at CES 2013 about whether there would ever be enough high-quality video to make having a 4K television worth the price. But this year brought more optimism for the future of Ultra HD, including an announcement from Netflix that its streaming is 4K ready. So, at least 4K is a path that content providers are willing to try.
The “Internet of Things” also came to the forefront in a big way, with pushes from chip makers such as Intel who showed off their visions for a world in which everything was “smart” — thought the use of their increasingly tiny but powerful chips, of course. The clearest application of this concept showed up in smart appliances and other household objects that boasted some form of built-in connectivity.
In fact, the annual “Last Gadget Standing” contest awarded that enviable title Thursday to Kwikset’s Kevo -- a smart lock that turnss your smartphone into a digital key. The Kevo was just one of many home security devices on display at the show as part of larger home automation systems that allow customers to do such things as manage their home lighting to ward off burglars and tap into home security cameras remotely.
Wearables, of course, were also big this year -- and not only because CES drew what was probably one of the highest concentration of Google Glass owners around. Smart watches and fitness trackers held their places as the most common wearables, though new types of tech glasses and clothing also drew interest.
That said, it all comes down to what consumers will actually buy to determine how well any of these products do in the market.
John Curran, a senior executive with electronics and high-tech at consulting firm Accenture, said that over half of respondents in a survey of the online populations of the United States and five other key countries expressed interest in buying wearable devices of some kind. Fifty-six percent of respondents from the United States, India, South Africa, the United Kingdom, Australia and Canada said they would by a wearable device -- though, Curran noted, the firm did not ask what price was right for the gadgets.
He noted another trend at the show: the steady growth in the size of smartphone screens. That’s driven, he said, by smartphone owners who are are using their phones less and less for actually talking on the phone and more for watching online video, television and other forms of rich media.