Commentary: Apple never formally participates in CES, but its products still strongly influence the 2022 show.
Lisa EadiciccoSenior Editor
Lisa Eadicicco is a senior editor for CNET covering mobile devices. She has been writing about technology for almost a decade. Prior to joining CNET, Lisa served as a senior tech correspondent at Insider covering Apple and the broader consumer tech industry. She was also previously a tech columnist for Time Magazine and got her start as a staff writer for Laptop Mag and Tom's Guide.
CES may be the biggest tech event of the year, but it's always missing one of the industry's key players: Apple. Still, that hasn't prevented its technology and products from appearing seemingly everywhere during the show. Some of the buzziest CES 2022 announcements so far involve new accessories that work with Apple's Find My network, a smart door lock you can unlock with your iPhone, and Intel's efforts to keep pace with Apple's powerful M-series computer chips.
It's not unusual for Apple to have this type of "invisible" presence at CES. In 2019, for example, the integration of AirPlay 2 into new TV models was one of the show's big themes. Apple also posted a giant billboard near the Las Vegas strip during CES that year to reiterate its stance on privacy, which has been a hot-button topic for perennial CES headliners Google and Amazon.
But the company's influence feels notable again this year. That's likely because of newer Apple technologies such as Find My and MagSafe, which depend on adoption from third-party accessory-makers that usually unveil their new product lines at CES.
More gadgets that work with Apple's platforms
Apple doesn't have any new products at CES, but its technology can be found in everything from new backpacks to earbuds and smart door locks. CES 2022 saw a deluge of new products designed to work with Apple's Find My location service as well as its connected-home platform and MagSafe charging system.
Take Targus' new Cypress Hero Backpack, which the accessory-maker announced at CES. It has a built-in location tracker that works with Find My, which enables the owner to see it on a map in Apple's app without having to buy a separate AirTag. There's also a button inside the bag that will send a ping to the user's iPhone if it happens to be misplaced. The Targus Cypress Hero Backpack will be available in the spring or summer and costs $150.
Chipolo, a company that makes Bluetooth tracking products similar to Tile, also announced a new Find My-compatible product during CES. Chipolo was one of the first brands to embrace Apple's Find My network last year with its One Spot. Now, it's launching a new credit card-shaped model designed to easily fit in wallets.
Like the Targus backpack, Apple's AirTags and other compatible accessories, you can monitor the Chipolo Card Spot in the Items tab in Apple's Find My app. The Card Spot costs $35 and launches in February.
Belkin, which like Chipolo was one of the first to add Find My support to its products last year, also announced a new version of its earbuds at CES 2022. The Soundform Immerse earbuds, which include hybrid active noise cancellation, will come with Find My support just like its older Soundform Freedom True earbuds.
Apple opened its Find My platform to third-party developers in April, but it hasn't been widely adopted among accessory-makers just yet. Apple's Find My network works by crowdsourcing Bluetooth signals from nearby Apple devices to send the lost item's approximate location to the cloud.
We also got a glimpse at one of the first smart locks that will work with Apple's Home Keys functionality at CES 2022. Schlage is launching a new version of its Encode smart lock that will support the ability to unlock your home door just by tapping your iPhone or Apple Watch against it. Similar to how Apple Pay works, using the key won't require the phone to be unlocked or a specific app to be launched. Apple introduced the ability to add home and hotel keys to your Apple Wallet in iOS 15, but the rollout has been gradual.
Intel's gambit to compete, and play nicely, with Apple
Intel announced a slew of new 12th-generation processors designed to work across cheap laptops, Chromebooks, gaming laptops and thin-and-light notebooks at CES 2022. And crucially, the company claims that its most powerful new chips can outperform Apple's well-received M1-series laptops. It's a signal that Intel is taking Apple's entry into the chipmaking arena seriously.
Aside from competing with Apple, Intel also hopes to make it easier for Windows PCs to communicate with the iPhone and the Apple Watch. That will be one of the key new features in the next iteration of Intel's Evo platform, a set of requirements for ensuring consistency in performance, battery life and other specifications among certified laptops.
During its CES 2022 press conference, Intel showed how you'll be able to view and respond to iMessages on Windows. The way Apple's phones and laptops work together has been a key reason why Macs are so popular among iPhone owners. A move like this could help Windows PC-makers challenge that notion and better appeal to Mac loyalists.
Apple is always the CES outlier
For the most part, Apple is the only major tech company that rarely shows up to CES in an official capacity. Even if they're not announcing any new products of their own, companies like Google, Microsoft and Amazon usually demonstrate the broad reach of their platforms across cars, home appliances, PCs and more.
Apple hasn't participated in CES formally since 1992, aside from having its chief privacy officer attend to talk about privacy in 2020. But I'm starting to wonder if it should. Relationships with third-party partners and developers are as important as ever for Apple as it seeks to expand more deeply into newer product categories, particularly in the home. That's one of the biggest areas of focus during CES, and also one where Apple has generally fallen behind Amazon and Google.
I doubt we'll ever see Apple attend CES the way Google, Amazon, Samsung and Microsoft do. But I think CES will continue to be an indication of how well Apple's new technologies and services are catching on.