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Phones

One of tech's biggest events will go lean on phones. What's up with that?

CES may be the world's largest tech show, but it won't be where the year's best phones premiere. Here's why.

Josh Miller

Don't hold your breath for high-end phones like these.

Juan Garzón/CNET

One of the world's largest stages for new gadgets and devices will be in the spotlight this week -- so you would expect to see a flood of innovative and high-powered phones there, right? Wrong.

Phones are still coming to CES 2017, but not a laundry list of outstanding smartphones. Instead we're expecting:

  • Midrange devices rather than top-shelf products
  • Phones that have been recently announced globally that we're seeing for the first time

Although they may not have the allure of a snappy Google Pixel or magnetically modded Moto Z, these could still be quality devices whose worth hangs on budget prices or a new feature.

CES is mobile limbo land

While CES was once a launching pad for groundbreaking phones like the Palm Pre back in 2009, very few big phones have launched at the Las Vegas event in the past several years. These days, you tend to see major releases in the spring and fall, though there are some summer stragglers as well. CES is after the holiday crush and before MWC, or Mobile World Congress, the phone world's Super Bowl, which takes place in late February every year.

MWC is where we typically meet the next blockbusters from Samsung, LG and the like, so we expect these companies to hold back their best at CES. (For the record, Samsung's Galaxy S8 could come later than usual, possibly this March or April.)

htc-invite.jpg

HTC is saving its big plans for after CES.

Screenshot by CNET

Increasingly, phone makers like Apple, Google and Motorola launch products at their own events rather than at big trade shows, so we'll see those announcements throughout 2017.

HTC gave us a perfect example of those standalone unveilings when it sent out invitations for an HTC announcement "for U" scheduled on January 12, just after CES. We're not sure if this is a new phone, VR experience or other venture, so we'll have to wait a few weeks more to find out.

Not big phones, but...

While you may not see scads of new phones until MWC, there's a lot that happens at CES that affects phone owners everywhere.

We'll get news on:

  • Advances in 5G networks that make data faster
  • Tons of phone cases and accessories
  • Technologies we'll soon see in phones, like sensors
  • Devices that use the phone as a remote control, such as smart-home gadgets and appliances

Check in with us from January 3 through January 8 for all the news from CES 2017.