SLIDESHOW

2011 Innovations Awards Honorees: Phones and Accessories

These groundbreaking smartphones, Bluetooth headsets, hybrid devices, and mobile accessories nabbed high honors as part of the 2011 CES Innovations Awards.

CES 2011 Innovations Awards Honorees: Phones, Wireless Devices, and Accessories

The Consumer Electronics Association has been rewarding forward-thinking technology with its Innovations Design and Engineering Awards for 35 years, honoring hardware and software products that do things differently.

Here's a closer look at some of the 2011 honorees in the categories of Wireless Handsets and Wireless Handset Accessories. For a complete list of the winners in all 35 categories, visit the official 2011 CES Innovations Awards page.

Also, be sure to see our roundups of the 2011 Innovations Awards honorees for computer hardware, digital imaging, home entertainment, and computer peripherals. Plus, see which products had the highest scores across the board in our CES 2011 Best of Innovations slideshow.

Samsung Epic 4G

Category: Wireless Handsets

The standout model in Samsung's line of Galaxy S Android phones, the Epic 4G for Sprint offers such enticing features as a physical keyboard, a front-facing camera, and 4G network support. As a multimedia device, the Epic edged out Sprint's HTC EVO 4G in my tests. Although the Epic's 4-inch Super AMOLED display is smaller than the EVO's, its quality is better. The Epic also supports more video codecs than the EVO does, such as Xvid, DivX, and H.264. And the Epic definitely wins for having three software keyboards in addition to a very good hardware keyboard. --Ginny Mies

Plantronics Savor M1100 Bluetooth Headset

Category: Wireless Handsets Accessories

If you can't stand to be away from your e-mail and Twitter feed for long, you might appreciate the freedom that the Plantronics Savor M1100 Bluetooth headset affords. You can listen to e-mail and tweets without a PC, send replies as audio attachments, and (with an extra-cost option) have the unit convert your speech to text. At the heart of its extra abilities is Plantronics' Vocalyst online service, which enables voice features. Once you register it on the Vocalyst Website, you can answer or reject calls without touching it: Just say "answer" or "ignore" as a call comes in. Other commands require the press of a button. If you don't know what command to give, ask "What can I say?" You say "send an e-mail" to do that task, or you say commands such as "sports" or "weather" to get the latest updates. --Robert S. Anthony

Samsung Captivate

Category: Wireless Handsets

The Samsung Captivate Android phone for AT&T is amazingly thin and lightweight, due in part to its Super AMOLED screen technology. Its 4-inch Super AMOLED screen puts touch sensors on the display itself, as opposed to positioning them on a separate layer (which Samsung's old AMOLED displays did), making it the thinnest display technology on the market. Super AMOLED is fantastic--you really have to see it in person. Colors practically burst out of the display, and animations appear lively and smooth. --Ginny Mies

Dell Streak

Category: Wireless Handsets

The somewhat unclassifiable Dell Streak has a roomy 5-inch touchscreen and a design that emphasizes its huge potential as an Android-based data device. I often found myself judging the Streak against the smaller e-readers I've taken for a spin--and the Streak compares quite favorably. I also evaluated the Streak against handheld entertainment devices I've used before, such as those from Archos. In this area, the Streak stands out as well, due to its compact size and versatility. But it's a phone, too, and in that regard it feels less worthy; its audio quality is mediocre, and it lacks the visual and interface polish of competing devices. --Melissa J. Perenson

Powermat Wireless Charging System for iPhone 4

Category: Wireless Handset Accessories

We've all run into this scenario: You arrive home or get to work, and instead of plugging your phone into a charger, you put it down on your desk or a table. By the time you pick it up again, your phone's battery is at 3 percent. With the Powermat wireless charging system for the iPhone 4, you put your phone in a not-very-bulky Wireless Receiver Case. Afterward, you just set the phone down on a snug-fitting, mat-like charger, and your battery gets juice. --Ginny Mies

Technocel Battery Boost

Category: Wireless Handset Accessories

Technocel's Battery Boost looks like a thumb drive but contains a 600 mAh lithium ion battery that can give your smartphone a power boost when you need it most. A mini-USB connection extends from the Battery Boost and plugs into your phone (or any other device that has a mini-USB port). The company says the small, durable device can inject enough battery life into a phone to allow up to a full hour of additional talk time. The battery in the Battery Boost recharges via a slide-out USB plug, and you can start recharging the Battery Boost even while it's busy recharging your phone. A MicroSD card slot at the top of the USB plug lets you store photos, documents, and music files in the device and transfer them via the mini-USB cable to your phone. --Mark Sullivan

Motorola Droid X

Category: Wireless Handsets

With a 4.3-inch display, the Motorola Droid X for Verizon is just begging to be a portable video player. A few third-party video apps come preinstalled, including a Blockbuster app (for downloading and watching feature-length movies), Skype Mobile, and NFL Mobile. Verizon has also expanded its VCast portal for downloading and watching TV shows, news, sports, and other content. The Droid X has DLNA and HDMI connectivity, which is a boon to media addicts. --Ginny Mies

Binatone iHome Phone

Category: Wireless Handsets

The iHome Phone handset runs the Android OS, has a 2.8-inch touchscreen, and allows you to download apps and widgets. But instead of relying on a cell network to make calls (which can be dicey inside a home), it connects via a dedicated wireless signal to its base station, which plugs directly into a phone jack in the wall. Much of the device's functionality relies on a home network Wi-Fi connection. Once connected, it can do everything an Android phone can, such as storing and playing MP3s, streaming music from Pandora, displaying photos and videos, browsing the Web, and managing your contacts, e-mail, and calendar. The stereo speakers on the front can play music files or streams out loud. The B2000 is currently available only in the UK for 99 pounds ($154), but Binatone says it's planning a Motorola version for the North American market. --Mark Sullivan

Samsung Vibrant

Category: Wireless Handsets

The Samsung Vibrant Android phone for T-Mobile boasts a gorgeous 4-inch display and a bevy of multimedia features, but some users might be disappointed by the absence of a flash for its camera. It offers the same Super AMOLED technology as other Galaxy S phones do, putting touch sensors on the display itself. T-Mobile also does a great job of making the phone stand out from the rest of the Galaxy S pack by preloading it with fun apps, throwing in a 2GB MicroSD card, and treating customers to the full-length version of Avatar; the Vibrant's display nicely showcases the film's beautiful animation. --Ginny Mies