Consumer electronics have changed beyond recognition since the first Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in 1967. Just in the last few years alone, it’s easy to see the major changes that have swept the technology world. Smartphones have risen to become the most important consumer gadget, replacing everything from digital cameras, music players, and voice recorders. Boring old desktop computers have all but disappeared, as have the huge CRT televisions that used to be considered cutting edge.
At CES these days, there are hundreds of innovative products that seem like something from a science fiction movie: incredible 4K televisions, flying drones, self-driving cars, 3D cameras and of course smartphones and tablets. CES has been criticised in the past few years for being rather boring, but this year there was plenty of new gadgets and technologies to get excited about.
In this follow up article, we briefly cover some of the best products on the show floor at CES. Of course, some of these may not make it to production, but here’s our list of the most innovative gadgets that made the headlines this week.
The best new gadgets at CES
Best smart phone: LG G Flex 2
When LG released the original G Flex smartphone, many people wondered why you’d want (or need) a flexible phone. As a demonstration of flexible AMOLED screens, it was certainly impressive, but didn’t exactly catch on as a mass market device.
LG is nevertheless undeterred and launched the follow up device, the G Flex 2 at CES this week. With the same banana-shaped curve and an improved “self-healing” coating, it deserves the award not only because there weren’t that many phones released at the show, but because it represents a huge technical achievement.
The G Flex 2 is more practical than the first generation, with its 5.5-inch screen and a much brighter and sharper display. It will be sold by Sprint initially in the US, and is also one of the first phones to sport Qualcomm’s new Snapdragon 810 chip, which is one the very best mobile CPUs available right now.
Best accessory: Lenovo Vibe Xtension Selfie Flash
Taking a selfie is par for the course these days, what with selfie sticks becoming popular for smartphones and GoPro cameras. However it’s quite hard to take great pictures in the dark or dim light.
The Vibe Extension plugs into the headphone jack and provides sufficient light via a ring of LEDs to take a decent picture. There were of course lots of other great accessories at CES, but most tend to be cases and battery packs.
Another accessory that caught our eye is the new FLIR One thermal imaging camera, design for iOS devices. The company introduced the original FLIR One back in 2015 which was basically a case for the iPhone 5 and 5s. The new model however is even more flexible as it just plugs into the Lightning port of any device – whether iPhone or iPad.
Best smart watch: LG WebOS smart watch
LG gets another Best Of win in the smart watch category with its WebOS-based smart watch which was developed in conjunction with Audi cars. The device runs the WebOS system rather than Android Wear, and lets you receive alerts, control your smartphone camera, track health and lots more. However, the unique selling point with this device (aside from the gorgeous design) is that you can pair it via NFC with your car and use it as a set of keys.
Just tap the door handle to lock and unlock the car, or tap it on the dash then hit the Engine Start button. Basically, it completely replaces your car keys. What’s more, it looks incredibly beautiful with solid metal edges and attractive leather strap, making it look somewhat more classy than the current crop of smart watches. Thankfully, most of the smart watch makers are upping their game (the Sony Smart Watch 3 for example now comes in a brushed stainless steel) in anticipation of the Apple Watch this spring.
As for the launch date, nobody at LG or Audi could provide more details, but we hope this one will launch soon.
Best fitness device: Garmin Vivoactive
Garmin has a history of creating excellent sports watches, but now its moving firmly into smart watch territory with this hybrid device called the Garmin Vivoactive. The smart watch is one of the thinnest on the market, and comes with built-in GPS and several apps to track sports activities such as swimming and golf. There is also an optical heart monitor which helps to generate more accurate calorie burn statistics and helps you train based on your heart rate.
According to Garmin, the device will be compatible with Android and iOS for notifications. It has some great sports-related features as well as an app market, and a great design making it one of the best fitness devices announced at this year’s CES.
Best smart home gadget: Belkin WeMo
Smart home products have been causing a stir in the tech world recently. From smartphone controlled heating and lighting, to kettles that you can boil remotely, it seems that the home of the future will be brimming with networked, intelligent gadgets designed to make our lives easier.
Belkin has extended its WeMo line up of networked plugs and devices with various sensors such as motion detectors, door sensors, window sensors and a keychain which help you keep an eye on your home while you’re away. All of the WeMo sensors can be monitored via a dedicated smartphone app. The WeMo Keychain sensor is particularly useful as it’s basically a small fob that can be attached to a keychain, or to various devices (or even pets), sending you alerts related to location and status.
Best tablet: Lenovo Yoga Tablet 2 with Windows and AnyPen
The long-winded sounding Lenovo Yoga Tablet 2 with Windows and AnyPen looks just like the earlier Yoga tablets that ran Android, much like the Yoga Tablet 2. However, the difference with this model is that it runs Windows 8.1. That’s not the innovative part though, because it also has a very durable scratch-resistant touchscreen that works with standard pens or pencils with points larger than 1 mm. If you want to sign a document for example, just find a normal ballpoint pen and use it on the screen.
It might not be a great future for home use, but retail outlets and small businesses might find the Yoga 2 Windows with AnyPen to be a fantastic device for everyday use.
Best virtual reality device: Samsung Gear VR
It looks like virtual reality (VR) could finally take off in 2015, for those people willing to overlook the fledgling technology’s shortcomings. It’s now at a stage where it’s ready for early adopters, and while it can definitely improve over the next few years, products such as the Oculus Rift already provide a great user experience.
Besides gaming, VR could have important implications in other fields such as medicine and industrial design, but it’s expected to remain a niche product for some time yet. As far back as the early 1990’s, even British companies such as BT were experimenting with VR displays and virtual environments (such as the VisionDome and several wearables projects at the company’s Martlesham Heath research centre), but it’s taken a long time for it to finally mature into the amazing products available today.
Various VR companies displayed their devices at CES, led by Oculus Rift, but Samsung showed off its Gear VR headset (developed in conjunction with Oculus) and its Milk Video service which delivers content to the Gear VR. Samsung seemed to have the best implementation of new VR tech and services, developed in conjunction with its technology partner Oculus.
We can’t wait to see more VR products and developments from Samsung and other companies later in 2015.
Best drone: DJI Inspire 1
DJI’s new Inspire 1 drone was already announced back in November but it’s just started to ship to consumers, and CES was the first chance that most people have been able to see one up-close and in person. It’s a step up from the more hobby-oriented Phantom Vision range of drones that the company makes, with superior video capabilities (24 fps at 4K quality, and 60 fps at 1080p), as well as a better built-in camera with no fish-eye distortion – a common issue on current DJI drones that can only be corrected by post-processing the video.
The new model also supports dual flight controllers, so that one person can fly and the other operate the camera. This makes the Inspire 1 extremely attractive not only to serious hobbyists but also professionals such as movie directors and photographers. The Inspire 1 was by far the best drone shown at CES this year.
At CES this year, the new product announcements came thick and fast. 4K televisions were of course one of the main attractions, but all the other tech on show held more excitement for us: VR systems, wearables, fitness devices and drones, to name but a few.
In just over a month, Mobile World Congress kicks off, and our very own Ewan will be there to report back on all the latest developments. There’s bound to be lots more in the way of new smartphones, networks and tablets.
Let us know in the comments below what you thought of this year’s CES. Did it live up to your expectations, and would you buy any of the tech that was shown?