LAS VEGAS—When we wrapped up the 2018 CES show last January, we said this: “The one story that overshadowed everything else was the rivalry between Amazon and Google to get their connected speaker technology into as many products as possible, from speakers, stoves, refrigerators and even a shower to respond to your wishes.”
So how did the show go this year? Funny, it was déjà vu.
At the CES, which attracted some 180,000 attendees, the Google/Amazon rivalry played itself out, with even more intensity and new products — seemingly everything was connected. Manufacturers outdid themselves with flashy, giant TVs that touted higher resolution, screen sizes and body forms. The set I heard more people talking about than any other — LG’s rollable TV — was first introduced at last year’s CES.
The new standard of 8K TV, with four times the resolution of 4K, was touted at CES 2018. This year, there was more of it, even though the odds of 8K becoming mainstream is still years away.
Car manufacturers and participants showed off flashy concepts of what could be — a backseat Disney virtual reality experience in an Audi and talking Batman comic book from Intel in a BMW, and then, there was the Hyundai car with legs, Elevate, to take you to places no car had gone before. The manufacturer didn’t bring a working model to the show, just a tiny prototype, but at least it was something new.
Last year had the talking toilet from Kohler, to show off what a manufacturer could do with Amazon’s Alexa. This year the $8,000 Numi returned, along with a connected bicycle, electric piano, motorcycle helmet — you name it, from Amazon and Google third parties.
I jotted down my favorite CES showstopper products and asked colleagues Michele Maltais, Jennifer Jolly, Marc Saltzman and Reviewed.com’s David Kender to weigh in as well.
Maltais: The SOMAINNOFIT Bra: “Sometimes a girl just needs the basics, like a bra that actually fits. And the promise of Soma’s technology nearly made this woman shed a tear for technology doing God’s work.” The bra sells for the promotional price of $25 currently, and will be available by January 31. notes the website.
Jolly: Lenovo Smart Clock. The $79 unit with the 4-inch screen is basically a tiny version of the Google Home Hub that does everything it does except show photos. Jolly calls it “a total rethink of the classic alarm clock. The Smart Clock is equipped with Google Assistant, letting you set or modify alarms and reminders with your voice, and the charming clock faces look like they’ll fit in just about everywhere.” The product is expected to be released in the spring.
Saltzman: The 98-inch Samsung QLED TV. “Samsung’s nature footage running in 8K resolution — on a 98-inch QLED television — was a sight to behold. Truly breathtaking.” No availability or pricing was announced, but Samsung’s current 85 inch 8K TV sells for $15,000. CNET guessed the TV would retail for $50,000 when it’s released.
Kender: He went for a TV as well, Samsung’s 75-inch MicroLED TV. “I’m excited about Samsung trying to break the shape and size of TVs as we know it with the new, Lego-like microLED.” As Reviewed noted, when it gave the set one of its CES Editor’s Choice Awards: “Samsung delivered a 75-inch 4K microLED TV, alongside a massive 150+ inch ‘wall’ of micro LED blocks and smaller, modular ‘windows.’ In reality, it’s all one TV: a super-bright, tightly packed cluster of teeny tiny light-emitting diodes that create their own light and color.” No pricing (expect tens of thousands of dollars) or availability was announced, but Samsung said it could be two to three years.
My favorite: While I loved the Pivo, a tiny camera that can track your movements and record the footage to a memory card (great for one-man-band video productions) nothing wowed me more than the collection of 250-plus 55-inch 4K TV sets, all linked together into one master theme park-like production at the entrance of the LG booth. Note to savvy readers: This is exactly what I said last year, too. LG brought the same setup back, and, to these eyes anyhow, seemed to attract the biggest crowd.
And so what if it was old? It was still really cool and awe-inspiring. And maybe that’s OK.
See you at CES 2020, starting Jan. 5.
In other tech news this week:
Amazon founder Jeff Bezos and wife MacKenzie announced they were divorcing after 25 years. The divorce could net the novelist $67 billion and make her the world’s richest woman.
Samsung’s new phones: Feb. 20 is the date for the first major new smartphone of 2019. The South Korean tech giant has chosen that date to introduce the latest edition of the Galaxy premium smartphone, expected to be called the Galaxy S10. The Mobile World Congress, a giant trade show that attracts the worlds mobile players to Barcelona, opens on Feb. 25 and is expected to attract many other new handset announcements.
Make a million dollars with 5G: If you have a killer idea for exploiting the emerging next-generation wireless networks known as 5G, Verizon would like to give you $1 million for it. Verizon says the challenge is open to venture-funded companies, bootstrapped startups, non-profits, educators, and yes, creative individuals. The $1 million that the company promises to dish out represents a pool of money that will be shared among a limited selection of potential winners; no more than two or three seems likely. If you’re the only one you could get the full million.
This week’s Talking Tech podcasts
Five coolest things we saw at CES
Crazy futuristic car rides in Las Vegas
Hey BMW, what’s up with your personal assistant?
Samsung isn’t giving up on Bixby
Hey Google, who won the CES war with Amazon?
After a mad encounter with a desert tricycle in Las Vegas, Lyft saved the day.
And that’s this week’s Talking Tech newsletter. For us, the new year starts tomorrow, now that CES is behind us. Don’t forget to subscribe to the newsletter, http://technewsletter.usatoday.com, listen to the daily Talking Tech podcast on Apple Podcasts and Stitcher, and follow me (@jeffersongraham) on Twitter, Instagram and YouTube.