The 53rd-annual CES is upon us, with the 2020 edition of the tech industry trade show set to kick off in Las Vegas on Tuesday, Jan. 7. Whether you create devices and gadgets, write about them, or just shop for them, CES is a big deal, with more than 175,000 people expected to attend and more than 4,400 companies exhibiting the latest and greatest technological wares.
What’s on tap for this year’s installment of CES? From TVs and laptops to 5G and folding gadgets, here are the trends to watch out for as CES 2020 ushers in a new year of tech.
CES fast facts: When the big events are happening
Mark your calendars: Here’s when some of the big players are holding press events during CES week. The majority of the news conferences are held on the Monday before CES officially opens.
- LG: Monday, Jan. 6, at 11 a.m. EST/8 a.m. PST
- Panasonic: Monday, Jan. 6, at 1 p.m. EST/10 a.m. PST
- Qualcomm: Monday, Jan. 6, at 2 p.m. EST/11 a.m. PST
- TCL: Monday, Jan. 6, at 3 p.m. EST/Noon PST
- Toyota: Monday, Jan. 6, at 4 p.m. EST/1 p.m. PST
- Intel: Monday, Jan. 6, at 7 p.m. EST/4 p.m. PST
- Impossible Foods: Monday, Jan. 6, at 8 p.m. EST/5 p.m. PST
- Sony: Monday, Jan. 6, at 8 p.m. EST/5 p.m. PST
- Samsung: Monday, Jan. 6, at 9:30 p.m. EST/6:30 p.m. PST
We’re expecting big things on the TV front this year, from the obvious steps forward, like more 8K TVs and adoption of standards like HDMI 2.1 and ATSC 3.0, to the wacky and weird. Expect OLED TVs from companies other than LG, and QLED sets from companies that aren’t Samsung.
MicroLED is also going to get some more attention, said Rick Kowalski, the senior manager of industry and business intelligence for the Consumer Technology Association, the organization that runs CES. He also said he anticipates that companies will try to make TVs, rather than smart speakers, the center of people’s smart homes, by better integrating Alexa and Google Assistant.
But aside from new features and updated models, we’re also expecting wild new models that fold and rotate.
Both Dell and Lenovo have already teased notebooks that have either dual displays or folding screens, a la the Samsung Galaxy Fold, and we wouldn’t be surprised if other laptop makers followed suit. Expect to see more laptops with 5G built in, as well as always-connected Chromebooks and laptops powered by Qualcomm processors.
For a more in-depth breakdown of all the laptop news coming at CES, be sure to check out Laptop’s CES 2020 preview.
You’ll probably see smart assistants like Alexa or Google Assistant in new types of devices — where can you go after Kohler’s $8,000 Alexa smart toilet last year? — as well as a refinement of how those assistants are used in smart appliances. Calling it a “Cambrian explosion,” Kowalski said we should see more entrants into the kitchen and bathroom arenas, as well as a focus on the outside of the home. Robot lawn mowers, anyone?
Given that Google also used last year’s CES to trot out new skills for the company’s Assistant (the Google Assistant interpreter feature was really cool), it’s safe to assume that the search giant will announce new features this year as well.
Health and fitness
Every tech company is eyeing Apple’s move into medical-grade wearable devices, which have earned clearance from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. And we expect to see Apple Watch-like devices that combine smartwatch features with health-diagnostic tools on display at CES this year.
We’re also expecting to see a slew of Peloton competitors, with smart gym equipment that can stream workouts straight to your home. Hopefully, those rivals will undercut Peloton on price, because it still costs thousands to put the company’s stationary bike or treadmill in your living room (on top of the monthly workout subscription).
CES has legitimately become a car show in recent years. So much so, in fact, that Detroit’s International North American Auto Show had to move to June to give itself room to breathe. Bearing that in mind, we expect to see everything from exciting, pie-in-the-sky concepts from established players — like an autonomous car from Honda and a flying car from Hyundai — to new rideables from the likes of Segway and NIU.
Additionally, companies on the front lines of self-driving technology, like Qualcomm and Aptiv, will announce the strides they’ve made in vehicle-to-vehicle communication and platform architecture.
In the wake of Apple’s AirPods Pro making the leap, we expect to see a lot of truly wireless earbud makers following suit by debuting buds with active noise cancellation. We’re also expecting longer battery life and better Bluetooth efficiency.
For traditional headphones, we’re hoping to see new cans from Sony, Bose, Samsung, Sennheiser and Jabra, just to name a few.
Although CES is primarily a hardware show, Kowalski suggested that a lot of news will come out around new streaming services that cater to more-specific use cases, such as sports and video games. “That’s going to be a huge focus, and that’s just on the entertainment side,” he said.
When we think about what 5G is these days, we typically think about wireless networks delivering faster download speeds to 5G-ready phones. And while that’s part of the 5G story, it’s not what CES attendees will be focusing on when they turn their attention to the emerging networking standard. Rather, all the talk about 5G at CES is likely to focus on areas beyond the smartphone.
That includes connected devices, which stand to benefit not only from 5G’s faster speed and lower latency, but also from the additional bandwidth for handling all those connections. That makes things like real-time monitoring more practical, which is appealing not only to industries and enterprises, but to cities as well. Expect to hear a lot about smart cities making use of 5G to monitor things like traffic.
Speaking of 5G and vehicles, the technology also figures to play a role in the automotive industry, particularly in autonomous vehicles. Kowalski mentioned the possibility of demos of the artificial intelligence that goes into autonomous cars, with much of the focus on things like emergency braking. As we noted above, Qualcomm, which has been one of the leaders in the push to 5G, has a press conference slated for Monday, Jan. 6, where the company’s expected to focus on automotive announcements.
Let’s be frank: CES is not a big trade show for smartphone announcements. The bigger mobile news tends to come a month later, when Mobile World Congress convenes in Barcelona and Samsung holds the launch event for the company’s next major flagship, in this case, the Galaxy S11.
There could still be talk about phones at CES, though. “I think we’ll hear a lot of rumors about phones coming out in 2020,” Kowalski said.
But Samsung might still make some smartphone news at CES, as the company is rumored to be ready to unleash Lite versions of either the Galaxy S10 and Note 10 (or maybe even both). Samsung will give a Monday night keynote, delivered by Hyun-Suk Kim, president and CEO of the company’s consumer electronics division.
We do know of at least one phone maker planning on making some news at CES. OnePlus has announced that it’s going to show off its first concept phone at the event, with most speculation pointing to a foldable device.
More folding screens
And that may not be the only foldable on display at CES 2020. While Samsung’s Galaxy Fold didn’t get off to a great start, smartphones with folding displays, like the Motorola Razr, got a lot of buzz this past year.
This technology was also teased in laptop displays, so we expect to see versions of foldable screens that are closer to market. And we wouldn’t be surprised to see TV makers experimenting with this technology. After all, if we can have a TV that rolls up, why not one that folds?