CES Preview: Mobile Technology Will Dominate Everything

Smartphones

CES is a hot-or-cold show for mobile phones. With Mobile World Congress slated to take place the very next month, and with CTIA happening in May, previous CES events have been a bit on the quiet side for phone news.

Nevertheless, CES 2011 was a big year: Verizon unveiled its first LTE 4G phones, including the HTC Thunderbolt and Droid Bionic; AT&T stepped up its Android game with the Motorola Atrix 4G; and LG revealed its superslim Optimus phones. Will this year be equally exciting? It's hard to say. [Read: "15 Sizzling Smartphones of CES 2011."]

The carrier presence at CES won't be huge--only AT&T has a press conference of the Big Four--but Nokia will be there, as will Samsung, LG, and Nvidia. Last year, Nvidia showed off the first Tegra 2 dual-core phones. Could its return engagement mean that we'll see mega-powerful quad-core Tegra 3 phones at this year's show? The rumored "HTC Edge" has been on our radar for awhile, as it supposedly will be the first quad-core phone released; but I've heard conflicting reports about when its makers will actually announce it. More than likely, it will appear in February at Mobile World Congress. We may also see the "HTC Elite," which will run Android 4.0 (Ice Cream Sandwich), and the first LTE Windows Phone for AT&T.

Speaking of the Windows Phone OS, Nokia is expected to announce a U.S. version of its flagship Lumia 800 phone. According to rumor, the Lumia "Ace" 900 is larger than its European sibling, with a 4.3-inch display rather than a 3.7-inch display. The Lumia 710 for T-Mobile has already been announced; but some additional, lower-end Nokia Windows Phones may also make an appearance.

We probably won't see the Samsung Galaxy S III at CES, since the company traditionally announces its flagship phones at Mobile World Congress. However, some affordable Galaxy phones are likely to show up. Likewise, LG tends to make its big announcements in February, but I'm hoping to get my hands on the flashy new LG Prada, which rolled out in Europe and Asia last month. Sony Ericsson, which is rebranding as Sony, has a few press events at the show. I expect to see at least one new Xperia phone, which may be the rumored "LT28at" (and which I hope has a catchier name at launch). This Sony Ericsson Xperia supposedly comes with a 13-megapixel camera (yes, 13 megapixels), LTE and HSPA radios, a 4.55-inch display, and a front-facing camera. --Ginny Mies

Cameras

Expect a bigger-than-usual crop of camera announcements at this year's CES, as 2012 marks the first year that the annual PMA (Photo Marketing Association) will occur simultaneously with CES. PMA usually sees more high-end camera announcements in the realm of DSLRs, compact interchangeable-lens cameras, and lenses; whereas CES tends to be a showcase for point-and-shoots and relatively beginner-friendly photography devices.

We do see a few connected cameras every year at CES, but this year promises to be heavy on Wi-Fi-enabled imaging devices. Cameras are feeling the competitive heat from smartphones, and more and more of them this year will come equipped with phonelike uploading and sharing features so that they can compete more squarely with phones. Samsung has already announced a new DualView point-and-shoot camera with Wi-Fi connectivity, and several companies traditionally use CES to show off their new connected cameras.

Big optical zoom ranges in very small cameras are another big trend, as the pocket megazoom category has grown in popularity over the years. In the past year, we saw pocketable cameras with optical-zoom reaches of up to 20X--specs that required a camera about the size of a DSLR just a few years ago. What's more, cameras with zoom ranges of up to 12X have become more pocketable than ever; at less than an inch thick, they're smaller than some 3X-optical-zoom cameras from just a few years back.

For an in-depth discussion of what to expect in the cameras category at CES and beyond in 2012, see "Camera and Camera-Phone Trends to Expect in 2012" and "CMOS Is Winning the Camera Sensor Battle, and Here's Why" --Tim Moynihan

Desktop PCs

The biggest desktops news out of CES will be the long-awaited appearance of
Intel's Ivy Bridge CPUs. These processors will make thinner, faster all-in-one PCs possible, cutting down on power consumption while boosting performance--theoretically.

The traditional PC tower hasn't disappeared, but over the past year consumers have been steered toward all-encompassing all-in-one desktops, and that trend shows no sign of slackening at CES. [Read: "How Desktop PCs Got Their Groove Back."]

Expect the new all-in-ones to be thinner, faster, and equipped with larger screens. Their tower counterparts will continue to shrink, primarily targeting folks who need a media-center PC or want an inexpensive Web-surfing machine. Massive, performance-level desktop PCs will be out in force, too, but they will be aimed at exclusively at content producers who need lots of horsepower, and at gamers.

It's probably too soon for actual products to make the rounds, but I hope to see a few prototypes of impossibly slim all-in-ones and monstrous gaming rigs running Intel's latest and greatest processors. --Nate Ralph

For more blogs, stories, photos, and video from the nation's largest consumer electronics show, check out PCWorld's complete coverage of CES 2012.

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