LAS VEGAS--Tomorrow, the CES press conference machine will whip us up into a lather and new phone announcements will zing out fast and furiously.
While we don't always know precisely how the cards stack up, a combination of leaks, press day schedules, and common sense provide more than a hunch of how the game will play out.
Phones you can bet on
I would put money on these, and I'm not a gambling woman.
- Nokia Lumia 900: Details of this LTE Windows Phone for AT&T were leaked last week, then confirmed yesterday by the New York Times. Why you should care: This will be bigger and badder than the globally released Nokia Lumia 800, and will be the first Windows Phone capable of 4G LTE speeds.
- Samsung Galaxy Nexus for Sprint: In a major uh-oh, a Sprint ad for an LTE version of the Samsung Galaxy Nexus (reviewed here for Verizon) mistakenly published early on CNET's site. Even though CNET has since removed the ad, that's tantamount to a smoking gun. Why you should care: Sprint will launch its 4G LTE market with the debut phone running the advanced Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich operating system. Previously, we considered the handset a Verizon exclusive.
- Samsung Galaxy Note: Samsung can't fool us. The center strip may have fallen/been stripped from/never pasted onto its banner adorning the CES conference center, but Hangman pro that I am, I can deduce that the Galaxy No--! is the Note, especially when you pair it with a picture of the familiar design and the loaded reference to its 5.3-inch screen size. Plus, we already heard it was coming AT&T's way. Why you should care: The monster screen size verges on tablet territory, which could fall flat. Already available globally, the Note is expected to plump up AT&T's LTE offerings.
- LG Spectrum: Another superphone, the LG Spectrum is expected to pack 4G LTE, a 1.5GHz dual-core processor, and a 4.5-inch display. Why you should care: Big, powerful, and fast, the Android successor to the Revolution is tipped to bless Verizon's already sensational lineup.
More than a hunch
There are certain events at CES that give us a hint at who's announcing what. Here's a rundown of the ones to watch for on Monday.
- AT&T: The carrier's developer summit-cum-press-conference kicks off tomorrow morning at 9 a.m. PT (CNET reporter Roger Cheng and I will be live-blogging the juicy bits). AT&T is continuing to expand its 4G LGE markets, so it's a good guess that in the midst of showing off developer tools, there will be more than a few smartphone announcements, like the Note.
- Samsung: Sammy's 2 p.m. PT presser covers the gamut of its tech portfolio, but in addition to the two handsets coming, the usually prolific Samsung should be pumping out a few more.
- Nokia: The company's 3 p.m. PT press conference is sure to showcase the aforementioned Lumia 900, but rumors have circulated about a more midrange Windows Phone device as well. There's a chance that Nokia will also announce partnerships with CDMA carriers like Sprint and Verizon, but this could also pan out to be a GSM-only show for it, with announcements for AT&T and/or T-Mobile.
- Huawei: At CTIA's fall show, a confident Huawei proclaimed that it would become a top-five U.S. vendor in three years. It'll never reach that goal without offering compelling smartphones that can really perform. Keep an eye out for news from its 8 a.m. PT gathering (we'll be live-blogging all of these, in fact).
Calling their bluff
They don't have their own kick-off events, but expect them to deliver the goods.
- HTC has been a strong and consistent performer at CES and other conferences in the past.
- Motorola is in the same category as HTC. Its Atrix 4G took home the Best of CES award for the smartphone category last year; a silent 2012 would be terrible (and unlikely) follow-up.
- Pantech might be an up-and-comer in the smartphone arena, but its recent 4G Android releases make me believe we'll see something from the company before we all pack up our gear and head home.
Don't waste your money
- RIM: The BlackBerry maker is hosting an event of sorts, but we already know it's a showcase and not a product launch. RIM will show more of its hand at Mobile World Congress in Barcelona next month.
- Quad-core phones: We know they're coming, we're just not sure when. Although our mobile team predicted that an Nvidia Tegra 3 quad-core smartphone would pop up at CES, so far we've heard not a whisper. It might just make an appearance at Mobile World Congress instead.
Even if Lady Luck isn't sharing all her CES secrets, there are two themes we know will dominate the show: 4G LTE and Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich. So with that, keep your eyes focused on CNET's full CES coverage, or sign up for the smartphone-centric RSS feed for all the phone news.