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CES 2018 Device Blog : Day 5 : Wrap-Up

by Juha Winter | Jan 12, 2018

CES 2018, America's biggest consumer electronics trade show, takes place in Las Vegas, Nevada, US, from Sun 7 to Fri 12 Jan, 2018. As usual, Strategy Analytics has a large team of analysts across various services including smartphones, drones, robots, tablets, wearables, smart home, semiconductors and automotive in attendance. As we're into the final day of the show, it’s time to wrap up what we’ve seen from our perspective.

Our CES 2018 preview blog can be seen here.

Our CES 2018 Day One blog can be viewed here (Smartphones).

Our CES 2018 Day Two blog can be viewed here (Smartphones).

Our CES 2018 Day Three blog can be viewed here (Technologies and Trends).

Our CES 2018 Day Four blog can be viewed here (Robots and Drones)

 

First off all, it comes as no surprise that automotive remained a major theme at CES, as the show has become the foremost place for companies to showcase automotive-related technologies and services, already for many years now. As electro mobility (electric vehicles) and autonomous driving are closely related to the digitization of the automotive experience, and more broadly, the increasingly digital life of consumers that permeates everything, these were some of the key topics being discussed by automotive players, whether major OEMs like Toyota or small companies / startups like the Chinese/European Byton, or even search giants like Baidu.

Much like its American "counterpart" Google, Baidu has also been developing automotive driving technology for quite some time now, and at CES 2018, Baidu introduced the version 2.0 of its Apollo autonomous driving platform, based on an open software stack. With the latest updates, the Apollo platform offers improved security as well as more robust capabilities for positioning, control, and cloud-based simulation. The four primary components of the platform, reference vehicle platforms, reference hardware platforms, the software stack, and cloud services, have been integrated to work together properly. As such, the Apollo platform is capable of autonomous guidance of a vehicle in an urban environment, even at night.

As always, SA’s Devices team published its pre-show predictions of what we would see. Let’s revisit some of those predictions briefly below.

  • AI Smartphone Wars
  • Foldable Display Smartphones
  • AR Smartphones Gain Traction
  • 5G Hype Continues
  • Cryptocurrency Wave to Smartphone
  • Chinese Vendors Eyeing US market
  • New Smartphones from LG, Sony and others

Starting with the last item on the list and looking at the new smartphone models launched, Huawei focused its attention on launching new Honor branded devices, the Honor View 10 and the Honor 7X, available in several major European countries as well as the US and India, the latter being countries that Huawei has had difficulty in gaining traction in before. A major disappointment must have been the falling-through of the deal between Huawei and major US operator AT&T which would have given Huawei much needed presence and a major distribution channel in the US. The Huawei Mate 10 Pro will be sold unlocked in the US, however. The Porsche Design Mate 10 will also launch in mid-February.


Huawei Mate 10 Pro
Exhibit 1: Huawei Mate 10 Pro in blue

Samsung launched the Galaxy A8 (2018) and the Galaxy A8+ (2018), which are higher mid-range models positioned to succeed the A5 (2017) and A7 (2017) models, not the aging A8 (2016). Thus, it’s likely that we won’t be seeing 2018 versions of the A5 and A7. These changes are part of an expected model series restructuring that would likely also affect the J series going forward.

While we did not see new smartphones from LG at CES 2018, smart TVs, robots, and AI-enabled (based on LG’s own DeepThinQ platform) home appliances made their appearance. Sony did launch three new mid-range models in an attempt to turn around its smartphone sales: the Xperia XA2, Xperia XA2 Ultra, and Xperia L2.

Chinese vendor TCL also announced three new series of smartphones (and three new corresponding models) under the Alcatel brand: the Alcatel 1 series, 3 series, and 5 series. The new models were simply called the Alcatel 1x, Alcatel 3v, and Alcatel 5. TCL, which also owns the BlackBerry brand, launched two new model variants of BlackBerry smartphones that were originally launched last year: the BlackBerry Motion and the BlackBerry KEYone Bronze Edition, available unlocked in the US through open retail channels.

Looking at smaller vendors, Razer, known for its gaming gear such as keyboards and mice but also laptops, launched the Razer Phone, a gaming oriented phone with powerful specs including a Snapdragon 835 SoC with an impressive 8 GB of RAM memory and a quad HD, wide color gamut display that refreshes at 120 Hz. The device also sports a large 4,000 mAh battery that should give most gamers enough play time between charging.

Razer Phone
Exhibit 2: The Razer Phone


Artificial intelligence
(AI), not just in smartphones’ digital assistants but increasingly in everything from robots to smart home appliances and gadgets remained a strong, recurring theme at CES. While Amazon’s Alexa was the most prominently featured AI-enabled digital assistant at last year’s show, Google has really stepped up its game in pushing its Google Assistant to developers. Although Alexa has by no means lost support, now it’s finding more serious competition from Google, with the Google Assistant being featured alongside Amazon’s digital assistant in many products or product roadmaps, at least. Despite a slow start, Google is very much in the AI game, a game in which it cannot afford to lose. China’s Baidu is also serious about AI, with its Baidu Brain cloud-based AI finding new applications and cross-device capabilities across cars, smartphones, TVs, smart speakers, robots, and various other gadgets and household electronic devices. This puts Baidu ahead of any other AI and digital assistant contender in China, even if behind Google globally.

The third topic, augmented reality (AR), was clearly becoming more mainstream at CES, making itself into more and more devices. Up until now at least, the top AR engines in the market, ARKit by Apple and ARCore by Google, have been designed to run on high-end smartphones and premium level devices only, but Chinese Spreadtrum and uSens have introduced the world’s first mainstream AR engine called uSensAR. It will become available first in the new Spreadtrum SC9853I chipset platform lending itself to many new affordable applications, helping to democratize AR.

As before, robots were a top draw at this year’s CES. While familiar models such as Mayfield RoboticsKuri home robot and Sony’s Aibo robot dog, examples of companion robots, made appearances packing upgraded technology and having learned some new tricks, many new robot models debuted at the show, too. LG introduced new commercially-oriented professional service robots under its CLio branded line-up, including a Server robot (for serving clients in a restaurant or a lounge), a Porter robot (for delivering luggage), and a Shopping Cart robot that would enhance the shopping experience through guiding and assisting customers in a supermarket in various ways.

Emotions and emotional AI seem to be one area where companion robots in particular are picking up new capabilities quickly. Honda’s concept robots, including the 3E-A18 companion robot, are able to recognize and show emotions. Blue Frog Robotics also demonstrated a companion robot called Buddy which has a large-eyed expressive face on its display-like head. Not only do many of these companion robots detect real emotions and express AI-based emotions of their own, but they also interact socially with people, almost becoming real family members, and can help record precious moments that otherwise perhaps would not be captured by humans. The Kuri robot mentioned above is one of the forerunners in this space. While some of the robots only detect speech and respond with beeps and lights, others have more advanced text-to-speech capabilities and can respond with real sentences. Many companion robots also double as home security guards, monitoring movement and ambient conditions while their owners are away.

Blue Frog Robotics Buddy companion robot
Exhibit 3: The Buddy companion robot

That wraps up our live coverage of CES 2018, but be sure to check out our various insight reports on the newly announced products, services, and key developments from the event. Also, as said, SA has cutting-edge expert research available in all of the areas discussed – let us know how we could help your company succeed in 2018 and beyond.

 

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