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Smartphones At CES: Something To Talk About

LAS VEGAS – Smartphone suppliers competed at International CES to give attendees something new and different to talk about.

A curved smartphone, smartphones that take pictures underwater, a phone with 4K video capture, a dual-screen smartphone that displays almost any two apps side by side, and more 6.1-inch phablets made their way to the Nevada desert.

Key introductions included the Asus PadFone X, which docks with a tablet and will be sold exclusively by AT&T.

Other debuts included new Sony Xperia models with ability to snap pictures underwater, LG’s curvedscreen G Flex, two ZTE phones with dual-screen display, a different ZTE phone with 4K 30fps video capture, sharply priced LTE phones from smartphone newcomer Archos, and Huawei’s upgraded Ascend Mate 6.1-inch phablet.

ZTE, meanwhile, unveiled its first 5.7-inch phablet. Also at the show, Techno Source and KD Interactive, the makers of Kurio Android family tablets, launched the first Kurio phone for kids. DDM Brands, makers of Yess-brand phones, launched two more fashion-oriented unlocked phone. Alcatel OneTouch showed an Android phone with speedy octa-core 1.7GHz processor, 5-inch FullHD display and HSPA+21 cellular data. (See TWICE, Jan. 7, p. 16.)

Here’s what many of the companies highlighed:

Archos unveiled its first U.S.-market smartphones, which will be offered as unlocked models and through carriers.

The Archos 50 Helium 4G with 5-inch 1,280 by 720p HD screen and the 4.5-inch Archos 45 Helium 4G with 854 by 480 FWVGA screen both feature Android 4.3 OS. Both are also upgradeable to Android 4.4.2, and both feature IPS display.

Unlocked, the GSM/W-CDMA/LTE smartphones will sell for $249 and $199, respectively.

Supplied spec sheets show the two models aren’t banded for the U.S. market, but the company said it would match North American bands when the phones become available in late March for the AT&T and T-Mobile networks.

Both smartphones come with Qualcomm 1.4GHz quad-core CPU, Adreno 450MHz GPU, 1GB RAM, 1080p video capture and decoding, BSI camera sensor, Bluetooth 3.0, assisted GPS with Glonass, Wi-Fi hot spot capability and a MicroUSB 2.0 port.

The larger model features a 2-megapixel front camera and 8-megapixel main camera, which has autofocus and LED flash. The larger model also features 2,000mAh lithium-ion battery. The smaller model features VGA front camera and 5-megapixel main camera with autofocus and LED flash.

The larger model is 0.35 inches deep, and the smaller model is 0.38 inches deep.

Asus will offer its PadFone X exclusively through AT&T. The PadFone X is a 5-inch FullHD smartphone that docks with a 9-inch FullHD tablet, enabling users to switch screen sizes as needed for different tasks.

The LTE-equipped Android 4.4 smartphone features a brushed-metal frame, a soft-touch back cover and dual front speakers.

Pricing, availability and more detailed specs will be announced at a later date.

PadFone X supports LTE-Advanced technology, including carrier aggregation. It also supports Voice over LTE (VoLTE) and HD Voice.

When docked, apps auto-adjust to fit the 9-inch PadFone station, or tablet. The station includes a large battery that charges the smartphone’s battery and doubles smartphone battery life.

Bullitt Group, the licensee of the Caterpillar brand for ruggedized cellphones, unveiled a 3G feature phone that operates on the T-Mobile and AT&T networks. The company offers its phones unlocked and through carriers. It features 2.2-inch screen and 3-megapixel camera.

LG announced that its G Flex LTE smartphone with 6-inch curved plastic-OLED (P-OLED) display will be available in the first quarter from Sprint, AT&T and T-Mobile. Sprint priced the phone at $299 with contract and will make it available Jan. 31 on its website, telemarketing and business channels, with availability in Sprint stores planned for Feb 7. AT&T also plans a $299 price.

The curved 1,280 by 720 HD screen matches the contours of the face, and the new Dual Window feature displays separate applications in two windows so users can drag and drop information between windows.

The 6-inch G Flex phablet, part of LG’s premium G series, reduces the distance between a user’s mouth to the microphone to improve voice and sound quality.

LG also promotes the curved display as offering “a more reassuring grip” and a fit that is more comfortable in a user’s back pocket. In landscape mode, the display is promoted as offering an “IMAX-like experience” and providing a more comfortable viewing angle for watching videos or playing games.

The Android 4.2.2 device also comes with a new user interface designed to take advantage of the curved form factor, the company added.

As with the flagship G2, the G Flex lacks side buttons and features back buttons to power the device on and off with one hand and adjust volume more easily while in a conversation.

The device is the company’s first with a “selfhealing” elastic coating on the back cover to keep on looking new longer when subjected to daily wear and tear, scratches and nicks, the company said.

The Korean version of the LTE/HSPA+ handset came with 2.26 GHz quad-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 800 CPU, Adreno 330 450MHz GPU, 6-inch HD 1,280 by 720 display, 2GB RAM, 32GB memory, 13-megapixel main camera, front 2.1-megapixel camera, embedded 3,500 mAh battery said to last more than a day, LTE Advanced, Bluetooth 4.0, USB 3.0 compatibility, Wi-Fi 802.11a/b/g/n/ac, NFC, and, like the flagship G2, 24-bit/192kHz audio playback.

Sony unveiled a compact version of its flagship Xperia Z1, calling it the Z1 Compact, and announced a Z1 version called the Z1S. The latter became available exclusively through T-Mobile at $0 down with 24 equal monthly payments of $22 with a Simple Choice Plan.

The original Z1 became available late last year in the U.S. as an unlocked HSPA+ phone for use on the T-Mobile and AT&T networks. The Z1S offers the same features but adds 4G LTE on T-Mobile’s AWS band and on AT&T’s 700MHz band. The Z1S also adds more storage at 32GB, a camera defocus feature to blur a picture’s background, and a preinstalled PlayStation Mobile app for remote PS4 control and for use as a second PS4 screen.

The Z1S is available on T-Mobile’s website and in T-Mobile stores.

Like the Z1, the Z1S features FullHD display 2.2GHz Qualcomm quad-core CPU, 20.7-megapixel main camera and IP58 waterproof rating, enabling the device to withstand submersion in up to 1.5 meters of water for 30 minutes. Because it has a dedicated physical camera key, the phone can be used to take pictures underwater.

The Xperia Z1 Compact offers the same features as the Z1 but in a smaller size with 4.3-inch 720p display instead of 5-inch 1080p display and 2,300 mAh battery instead of 3,000 mAh. Key carryover features include 2GB RAM, 1080p video capture on both cameras, NFC, Android 4.3, DLNA and MHL.