Dialed In Live: Phones that mattered at CES 2014The CNET crew runs down the most important trends in smartphones and emerging mobile tech from the show floor.
-Hi, everyone. And welcome to Dialed In coming to you live from the CNET's stage at CES 2014. We are gonna run down all the smartphone news and trends for you at the show. I'm Jessica Dolcourt joined by Brian Bennett, Lynn La and Kent German, your CNET Mobile Experts. Well, this was a very interesting show for a lot of reasons. First of all, all of the big names in smartphones pretty much took a hiatus this year. We didn't see Samsung, we didn't see HTC-- -Motorola. -Motorola, Nokia, not much from LG either. But there were still phones. So Lynn, you've got one here. Why don't you tell us about what you saw? -I have the LG G Flex. Fortunately, we were able to see this before CES 2014 but they really emphasized it here along with like their 4K TV. -So this phone is on sale right now worldwide, correct? -Yeah. It's available. It's gonna be on AT&T, Sprint and T Mobile. That's what the news that they announced this year so I'm really looking forward to that. -So the most interesting thing about this phone, of course, is that it's got a curved screen and you got a chance to actually review the phone. Do you think that this is an exciting or interesting phone for the US market? What do we feel about having it on three carriers? -It's definitely an interesting form-factor. I mean Samsung also has something similar to it except it curves the other way and this one is it curves and it's flexible. But the fact that it's coming on three carriers, I was really surprised about that and it's like something that's very exciting for especially for AT&T who announced other phone this year. -So it sound like LG is really committed into making the curve phone and maybe even a little bit of a flexible phone. Can you give us a little demo there? -I don't like, right here if you could press-- -If you press down, I don't know if you guys can see it but-- -I would not wanna try that. -I was afraid of it the first time I did it but now I could really-- -And it just make you a little nervous, you're suddenly-- -Yeah. -And it accept something like 90 pounds a pressure, is that right? -Yeah, I think around like 88 pounds a pressure could withstand that much, so yeah. -So theoretically you could sit on it and then not crack, right? That's the idea it's in your pocket? -Can you give us another little demo right there? -Oh, sure. See, you could put it down like this. You just have this urge not to do it. You think it's gonna be bad. -No. -But it works. -And then [unk] with the scratching on the back too? -Oh, yeah. It has like a self-healing coating that they say that is featured in like cars too for like their paint jobs and you could scratch-- it's for unusually daily wear and tear and stuffs like that. So it's not really-- you just like if you have like x-acto knife, it's definitely going to cut but, you know, if you throw it in your purse, if you just throw it on the table will definitely will not accumulate the kind of general scratches that we normally see, so-- -So if you have keys in your pocket then, what then? -I think the nice thing about it too is, you know, the curve isn't just the gimmick because it does help with the viewing angle of the-- watching any movies or video on the screen. -And I saw a lot of this with TVs too. -Yeah. -So curving is definitely gonna be something we see in the year. -Can you sit it on the side? -Oh, yeah. You could sit it on the side. It was like, it has like a really-- -It kind of like bends the reflections away from what you're looking at too, right? It improves visibility that way as well. -And then we've got no pricing or availability on this yet, right? -No. -The carriers themselves are gonna announce all of that information. -Yeah. -Brian, you've got a phone right here too. -That's right. So I can dive right in. -Do it. -Essentially, this is the-- I don't know if you guys can see. This is the Xperia Z1S and this is the-- basically the US version of the Xperia Z1 that was shipped globally. But now it's on T Mobile and has basically all the flagship components that you expect has fast processor, huge screen and, as a matter of fact-- -Is that about 5-inches? -It's 5-inch, full HD and the camera is 20-megapixel. It is also water-resistant and dust resistant so you can drop it and, you know, up to 3 ft. of water or 30 minutes I believe and you're fine. It has, you know, water tight. I don't know if you can see this here but, it has water tight seals around each of the ports so much a lot of the Xperia phones, you know. -And it looks pretty high-end too like the build quality on this looks nice. -Yeah, it's definitely looks nice. It's very shiny. It's very sleek, very thin so you can see here a little flap here covering one of the ports. I think it comes with a lot of memory. Has a pretty nice camera. So this is a really good attempt by Sony to get back into the smartphone game, which is really great. -I gotta say that waterproof thing is something I still can't get used to though. The idea of like, oh, I can dunk it in water and even put it in a sink and turn it on and just ran it to the bottom of the sink and it's really amazing. -But because most people aren't really going to dunk it in water. It's more like, you don't have to freak out if you accidentally spill something on it. -Actually, I think you'd be surprised. I think a lot of people do. -Just go for it and dive in the pool. -Well, actually that, you know, cellphones have ruined people on the pool at pool party. -Yeah. -That is true. -They just can't do it anymore. -I demand that we change this. -Before it was just your wallet, your keys, now it's like your phone is going to be ruined but-- -Actually there is a company here that has kind of a cool thing. If they say that we're doing things backwards with the whole seals instead of worrying about the rubber gaskets and things like that. What you should be doing is waterproofing the internals so they worked on coding to do that. -Oh, yes. -It's kinda cool. -Yeah, definitely. There are a lot of people who do that after the market. You know, you can give them your phone and they will like pump it full of some sort of nano-coding which will, you know-- -Exactly. -lock it all down and make sure that there's no water damage at all. -So, pool parties safe again for pranks. -Okay. That's good to know. -So, T Mobile has this phone. AT&T also announced that it was gonna carry a phone that's been previously released globally. This is a trend right? -Yeah. -Global first then at CES announce that. -Yes, it's like boy bands. -You took a look at that one right? -Yes. So in addition to the G Flex, AT&T is going to announce the Asus PadFone X. It was basically a phone, a smartphone that you could plug into the rear side of a tablet and the tablet is powered by the processor from the smartphone. And we took a look at it me and Luke Westaway from CNET UK took a look at it and it's basically a really, really nifty device. We cannot touch it as per AT&T's request but, you know. And there's a mini version that's coming out. There's no availability of that yet. -Is that also gonna be AT&T or is that a global announcement? -For the Mini version? -Yeah. -No. It's global. We don't-- there's no US availability information that they gave us at that point but the Mini comes in a lot of colors. It has like this really cool soft-touch sheen material that we really like and I believe it's a 4-inch smartphone into a 7-inch tablet. -Versus a 5-inch smartphone into a 9-inch tablets. -Five-inch smartphone into a 9-inch tablets. So-- -And, you know, the other say the other pad phones you have that you have to kinda put it in and then the door close looks like this one just slides on the back. -Yeah. It's not that smooth but like you kinda, you know, you shove it in and it connects and then it powers up the tablet. The tablet has its own battery source, so-- and you can use the tablet to power the smartphone but you can't-- but it doesn't have, you know, its processor and-- -But you couldn't touch it. -And I couldn't touch it. We wanted to just-- -You know, I'm not a fan of that. The companies bring these things to the show and you're not supposed to stare at it-- -Yeah. -What do you supposed to do, just stand there? I bet you could just knuckle it all. -We wanted to just lick it and just put our finger on it just to-- but we know we can't do that 'cause, you know, then they'll never invite us back. -Or put a post-it "Lynn La was here." -Yeah. -They removed the glass for us though so we also-- -Oh, wow. So-- -That's very nice of them. -What's really exciting to me about this announcement is that we've seen this before. Kent, you and I have seen them at Mobile World Congress in Barcelona. And this phone has never come to the US market and it's really cool. Lynn and I also took a look at the Asus PadFone Infinity earlier this year and we had it in the office and we're playing with it. And it is so cool and in a such a great idea for people who are interested in the tablet but kinda wanna cut cost a little bit. -Uh-hmm. -Because sometimes, you know, you use your phone when you're out and about and then you use the tablet when you're at home because you wanna play a game or just have a larger screen or share it with somebody. This is like the zip off backpack from the backpacking backpack. -Yeah, yeah, yeah. -It's kind of like and it's [unk] or like zip off pants or something that the pants have become shorts. -It's called modular-- -If you could bring it all these 90's brand-- I don't know if they can do that. -What can I say, I'm a 90's girl. -Well, you know, all this modular, you know, smartphone designs seems to be a real trend. You know, you've got Motorola with their Ara project. You got ZTE. -Yeah, ZTE just-- they showcased it here. It's their eco-Mobius Modular phone concept design. It came out in there. -Is it cool? -It's cool. I mean the-- -Is it gonna work? -It's-- they just displayed it. We weren't able to like take a really good look at it. It's just a concept design that came out in their RND program and they're just something that it's exciting that another manufacturer is also working on their modular phone concept. -It's pretty cool. So you basically just like build your phone like, you know, a stack of Legos or something. -Yeah. -You know-- as long as you don't drop it and then it all falls apart until like all these little pieces. -I want Lego to make a phone like a build-your-own-phone-case. -Maybe a Simpsons House this week so they can probably make a phone. -I think so. I mean, it's really how hard is that to make a phone really? I took a look along with Eric Franklin at the Samsung Galaxy Note Pro. This is a 12.2-inch tablet. Now why are we talking about tablets-- -Yes. -we're talking about smartphones. It's because it's really important to keep an eye on the Samsung tablet space because what happens on the Note tablets usually winds up in some form or another on the Note smartphone. So, what was interesting about this is that Samsung is really making a push to go Pro especially with tablets, you know. They want their tablets to replace your desktop. But what it means is there might be a trickle down in fact with the new magazine interface design. It's basically just re-designed with widgets and things like that but really aims to put a lot of productivity front and center. And Samsung, this massive juggernaut has also come up with a lot of partnerships with content providers. So we can see that maybe coming down to the next version of the Note smartphone, where it comes preloaded with all the stuff and what Samsung really trying to make a play for offering you a corporate productivity experience on the smartphone. -So it runs on Android but then the magazine UX just sits over that. So it's, you know-- -Yeah. -it's similar to TouchWiz. -Yeah, it's-- right. -And the way that it works but in different time. -It looks different and that's really-- -That's like Windows calling to me-- -to tablets right now but it sort of like, keep an eye on this because you might see it appearing later down the line. -So it almost sounds like Microsoft and Samsung are gonna go head to head and like the enterprise sort of production and Pro tablet kinda surface. -Well, Samsung wants to rule the world. So they'll take on anyone. -Yes, exactly. -Google, Apple, Microsoft-- you're down, right? -That's right. Watch out. -So we saw a lot of themes here at the show that don't relate directly to smartphones but they build off of that. And one of those is wearables. Brian, you took a look at a boatload of wearables. -Yeah, definitely there are a ton of wearable products here. I was seemed like the major theme of the show. We saw-- well, we saw the new Pebble Steel, which is a brand new watch from the, you know, people who innovated the entire, you know, whole segment of the category. -The category. -It's very nice. It looks beautiful. It's expensive. It's $249. But it looks like a real analog watch that does not look like a smartwatch at all until this little OLED strip in the bottom starts to roll and it was like a ticker tape style of smartphone notifications so you see texts, you see, you know, social media meetings, all the stuff you wanna at a glance. And it also does this crazy thing where it actually will buzz with haptic feedback, the way you want it to. So when you get an alert, you can have it like a little like mini Morse code kind of thing to say like, dot, dot, dot, dot. Like long, long, short, short, short, short and long, long, long or long, short long. I mean it's crazy. All the stuff happening on your wrist and no one will know. -Does it actually talk to you like a Martian? -No it doesn't. Though the big joke is, they should have come up with the watch named The Martian Chronicle, you know, that would be great-- yeah, like that, but no. It's a really interesting product. It's a very low price, you know. It's like. I think it's $129 is the expected price. So it's really nice. -That is actually remarkably low especially when you compare it to something like the Samsung Galaxy Gear that only works with-- -Oh, yeah. -the Samsung phones and not even all of them yet, right? -That's true, that's true. -So this connects to your phone via Bluetooth and it gets all of your contacts and notifications for your phone that way. -Uh-hmm. Yeah, they have, they basically have two versions of the same app; one for Android and one for iOS, and you could figure all of your notifications directly there and it all gets pushed to your phone. As a matter of fact, what's really cool is it will support apps that aren't even out yet because as long as you get a notification and any sort of app you install gets, you know, sent to the notification area on your phone. It will self-populate and basically now send those alerts to your watch, you know, if you want to or not. So, you know, whatever softwares out there, they'll figure it out. -So-- -Which means you're always checking at your watch and look at texts on your phones, so-- -Whatever it is-- -You were out to dinner and someone is going like this, you know. -Yeah, 'cause it's got the Morse code. -No, no, no. Yeah, you just keep it on five. -You don't even know how to look at it. You just-- it reads it out to you that way, right? -You just feel it, you know, and then you get the emergency alert then you have to check your watch. -Have you seen any smartphones at this show that actually is built for like a woman's wrist 'cause I'm waiting for that? -Oh, the smartwatches? -The smartwatches? -Yeah. -No. And that's a huge, that's a huge hole in this thing because I have yet to see one smartwatch that is targeted at, you know, a woman yet. -Or a dainty man. -Yes. -Well, you know-- -The one who-- -I feel bad to have a small wrist. -Or just anyone who has a small wrist. -It's true. -I mean. -It's true. I put on the Galaxy Gear and they have this pretty rose color-- -Oh, it's massive. Yeah. -and I like that. But it was so uncomfortable just fitting over my bone. I didn't think it was really designed for anyone. -Yeah. I mean it does look-- that device looks, it looks sleek and it's interesting but it's so futuristic looking. You know, you definitely look like you're kinda like the Cyborg from the future kind of guy, you know, or woman, you know. It's definitely people will look at you if you have it on your wrist. And that's not what you want. You want a watch, I think, that just looks like a watch and has an elegant kind of sophisticated style-- -Yeah. -that, you know, people won't even know that it's giving you all this sort of-- -You don't wanna looking like one of those calculator watches, you know, with all the buttons on that. They were so big and clunky but- -But those are actually pretty cool. Those were actually come back. -That Kickstarter project where you just actually strap your phone to your wrist. -Oh, yeah. -So with smartwatches, I mean do you think that this year-- last year was sort of everyone getting started. This year we've had a lot of version 2.0s but it's not really gain a lot of attraction. Are we gonna start seeing those actually getting picked up? I mean is pricing really important or is it just the technology? -I think pricing. Well, pricing is getting there. It's getting lower. But I also think that the technology is starting like especially with Bluetooth 4.0 getting into a lot of phones now in the Bluetooth-- -Low energy. -Yeah, low energy. That and, you know, it natively will support a lot of its push notifications on Android and iOS already has it. So, you know, you've got a lot of-- now the ecosystem is kind of building and it's building momentum and it's a lot easier to actually create products and software, so-- and everyone has one of these and it seems like you don't wanna be checking it, you know, 200 times a day. It drives you crazy, you know. -Right. -It drives people that you go out to eat dinner with you, right? You sitting there across the table and you're like, you know. -Pay attention to me. Okay, well you will definitely pay attention to me if I showed up to dinner wearing my Smart Glasses because I tried it on four of these and Scott Stein tried on one. And these are all Google Glass-alikes I'm gonna call them. -Glass-alikes. -They are rivals-- one of them was specifically for a camera use like you put it on. I mean you could slip these modes on the end to extend battery life or do cool things and then developers can create an app and you can press the button maybe look around and it takes a panorama and uploads it. A lot of these are Kickstarter and Indiegogo projects. There's one that actually looks kind of like glasses. It looks like a cycling helmet 'cause when I tried on that was just like absolutely insane. It looked-- I mean it has like pivot wheel. It just looked like it was taking over my entire face. -That is the pivot, right? Is that the pivot? -It's called the Ora-S AR Eyewear and it is a tongue-twister. -Catchy. -Yes. Rolls off the tongue. -And I'm looking at myself it may seems like, you know, it's just like high school all over again with my big old glasses on my face. You will definitely get noticed wearing these and I've seen a lot of Google Glass around the show as well like a ton of it. -Yeah. -And I think that right now, smart glasses are probably where smartwatches were two years ago. -Uh-hmm. -Right? They are not a practical solution yet. They are all just pure development and they do rely on your phone quite a lot. And I know there are some smart contact lenses that mix that from news-- looked at. -Really? That's amazing. -That's very boring like, you know, and it just look like gonna be assimilated if I put one of those things in my eyes. I don't know. -So there's definitely a lot of next wave tech coming on. -Uh-hmm. -Brian, you took a look at Iris scanning. What's that gonna mean for firms? -Yeah. Seems like, you know, wearable tech and biometrics, you know. These devices pay attention to your body. It's a huge thing. And this company called EyeLock. They actually announced or they're showing a demo of basically a device that would scan your iris and know who you are based on your individual patterns and it works like lightning fast. It's actually really quick and it's no stretch of the imaginations to see that actually going into smartphones. As a matter of fact, yesterday there were some buzzes that perhaps the Samsung Galaxy S5 may have some iris-scanning technology built into it. -Is that gonna use the camera for optics? -Yeah, because what I believe how this whole thing works is it uses the front-facing camera or, you know, in front of your laptop and it will basically shoot IR like infra-red beams into your eyes and record the, you know, the little patterns in the colored part of your eye, the iris and matches that against the database that lives up there, you know. But, of course, it's all-- I think it's all local so you don't have to worry about your fingerprint or your eye prints or your iris ID, you know, just kinda living in the Cloud somewhere. It's all like local. But it's supposed to be really, you know, tight security and really fast and it's very futuristic. -Yeah. I mean we have face unlock that doesn't quite work the same way it does. -That was terrible. -And you've tried face unlock, Lynn, you've tried it. -Yeah. But the thing is you can use a photo like if you-- -Yeah. -that give you a face unlock if you, I guess, you know, if you had somebody kinda looks like you, you can unlock your phone. I mean this is a unique thing that, you know, somebody's iris is definitely unique to them like their fingerprint not so much of face in some ways but it's a little bit different. -There are companies that are also working on voice unlock as well, right? -Uh-hmm. -So they pattern your voice. They called it the Voice Matrix. -Uh-hmm. -And then you have like an unlock password that only you would say like "the quick brown fox" or "I hate passwords" or something like t hat. It's a little bit longer and that supposed to unlock your phone. So another thing that I took a look at that may also be on this Samsung Galaxy S5, I'm guessing this is totally unconfirmed. It's a new kind of gesture. So basically, you know, a lot of these smartphones have gesture technology in it and they use-- -Yeah, that's been around for long time. -Yeah. They use optics through the camera or some other devices use infrared and this one uses ultrasound. -Ultrasound? -Yeah, ultrasound. -So it uses normal microphones but then these ultra sound speakers. So when you turn it on it sounds all the sound waves that you can't hear and you'll basically wipe your hand over the phone doing any number of elaborate or simple gestures and it will bounce back. Now what's cool about ultrasound is that the space isn't limited because you don't have something that's looking at you. It's setting out these sound waves so you can use a wider field, I guess, of space. -Uh-hmm. -And you can use more elaborate controls like moving your hand on a circle could turn up the volume or turn down the volume or something else -So it's like a three-dimensional, you know-- -Yeah. -you can make like different things with your fingers or whatever some kind of strange shape and-- -That's pretty cool. -I don't know what this means. It means something, right? -This means unlock the phone. -Anything looks amazing. I mean, I just love the way in that video how you're just, you know, moving your hand. So many of these phones-- it's so particular you have to be so close. You have to do very certain thing. I mean, you're just going like this up into the side of the phone. -Yeah. -And it's working. So I think this is really interesting to come. -The only problem with that is that when I was shooting the video, there were a lot of false positives and negative-- -Oh, okay. -well, a lot of false-- whatever, it's because I just stick to it a lot. And so it's up to the device makers to actually constrain that and define what it means to do these things. But the app makers can also start integrating that into the apps when that happens and we have been assured that that is gonna start showing up in tablets and smartphones in 2014. So, I think the big theme of this phone show-- of this show here at least is that we're gonna see a lot more from phones in the future in this year, it was quite here but we've got Mobile World Congress coming up at the end of February into early March. -Yeah. -The three of us are going to that. -Oh, yeah. -The [unk] CES is for mobile, the bigger MWC is going to be. -Yeah, that's a big show on Barcelona Spain every year and it's been growing in importance every year for-- we've been going since 2008 and it's really, where cellphone and smartphone news really happening now. It's gonna take in over the show in that way. I mean, smartphones still are here but we'll see new smartphones there more than we did here. -That's really evidence by the fact that Samsung didn't have a presents. Nokia-- well Nokia getting bought up by Microsoft and we'll know more about that by then. There should be a phone either from Nokia or a new Windows phone, whatever that's gonna be branded as. I'm expecting that we're gonna see that there. -And of course, CNET will have great coverage of Mobile World Congress so the last week of February soon to turn in to us and we'll bring you all the news, these guys will. They will be there. -And you will be there in spirit. -I will building slideshows back in-- -Exactly. So, again, thank you so much for joining us. You can find out all of the coverage about every product we talked about and every product that CNET covered as whole at ces.cnet.com.