Las Vegas – Smartphone suppliers are looking to differentiate their products with licensed brand names, affordable LTE price points and niche designs, while smart watch makers are adding functionality and delivering devices that look more like traditional watches.
CEA forecasts that U.S. factory-level smart watch revenues will rise 474 percent in 2015 to $3.1 billion on unit sales of 11 million. Factory-level smartphone revenues will rise 5 percent to $51.3 billion on unit sales of 169 million.
Here at International CES, retailers here will find a new design for Sony’s Android Wear Smart Watch 3 in stainless steel, Alcatel One Touch smart watches designed to look like mainstream watches, a watch phone with secure communication from GoldKey, and LG’s next-generated G Flex curved-screen phone. Dealers will also find a Kodak-brand phone optimized for imaging and more sub-$200 LTE phones without subsidy.
In a related wearables category, Sony unveiled its Attach SmartEyeglass concept, which takes the form of a display module that attaches to regular glasses for use with sports and performance apps. The company also showed a SmartB-Trainer prototype, which takes the form of a waterproof all-in-one headset-style device with multi-sensor capability designed for runners. The prototype features embedded memory and provides voice coaching as well as music playback.
Here’s a sampling of what you’ll find in new phones and smart watches:
Alcatel OneTouch: The TCL Communications brand is launching its first smart watches, an expanded selection of LTE smartphones, and its first phone series available in Android, Windows and Firefox OS versions.
The company already offers Windows and Firefox smartphones outside the U.S. but offers only Android smartphones in the U.S.
Alcatel One Touch did not reveal the timing of the smartphone releases nor which models might come to the U.S., but it did say the smart watch series would be available in the U.S. in the first quarter.
The new Pixi 3 phone series consists of what the company called affordable smartphones with 3.5-, 4-, 4.5-, and 5-inch screen sizes. All feature 4G LTE except for the 3.5-inch model. They are the first Pixi series phones with LTE and the company’s first phones available in three OSs.
In launching the Alcatel One Watch series, the company said the products will be available “at a fraction of the cost” of competitors’ models.
The products offer the “same look and feel” of a traditional watch but incorporate sensors and apps that let users monitor activities and connect to Android smartphones to control music, take photos, receive notifications and the like, the company said. The watches feature USB charging built into the band and a proprietary OS to deliver longer battery life than the Android Wear smartphone OS, the company contended.
Archos: The company came to the show to expand its range of 4G smartphones and tablets, with one new phone, the Archos 50 Diamond, promoted as the “best 4G smartphone ever under $200” because of its octa-core processor, 16GB of internal storage, 2GB of RAM, 16-megapixel camera, and 5-inch full- HD IPS display.
The under-$200 segment was “previously dominated by entry-level handsets with basic functionality,” the company said.
“In 2014, consumers don’t have access to high-performance handsets from traditional smartphone vendors below $500,” claimed Archos general director Loïc Poirier, General Director of ARCHOS.
The company also unveiled a full range of 4G smartphones, including the 45b, 50b and 50c Helium phones. Details were unavailable.
Bullitt Group: The U.K.-based company builds ruggedized cellphones under the licensed Caterpillar brand and has launched the industry’s first Kodak-brand smartphone.
The imaging-oriented Android phone will be followed in the second half by a Kodak-brand 4G Android phone, an Android tablet and a connected camera. All will offer “best-in-class image management software and features,” the company said.
The Kodak products will offer “easy access to printing and sharing services,” the company said.
The devices are targeted to “consumers who want a high-end experience but aren’t always as comfortable using increasingly complicated mobile devices as they would like to be,” the company added.
Cricket Wireless: The prepaid cellular provider and phone maker ZTE unveiled the 6-inch LTE-equipped ZTE Grand X Max+, which goes on sale in Cricket stores and the company’s Web site January 9 for an unsubsidized $199. It is an update of the current 6-inch ZTE Grand X Max but equipped with a better camera and double the storage and system memory.
GoldKey: The company unveiled a watch phone called the GoldKey Secure Communicator, said to come with “dual-factor authentication” featuring secure email and encrypted cloud storage. The Android watch phone downloads apps from Google Play and features GPS, speaker, microphone, Bluetooth, Wi-Fi hotspot capability, dual-core processor, 5-megapixel camera, HD video capture, and SIM card. It becomes available Jan. 6 though the company’s web site and its partner network at $399 unlocked or $199 with GoldKey premium services. Additional details were unavailable.
LG: The G Flex 2 curved phone reduced its P-OLED screen size to 5.5 inches from 6 inches to balance a more comfortable grip with content viewing. The display steps up to 1080p, the processor steps up to a 64-bit 2GHz octa-core Qualcomm processor from its predecessor’s 2.26GHz quad core, and the OS moves up to Android 5.0 Lollipop, the latest Android OS available
The self-healing coating on the back also got an improvement, making scuffs and scratches disappear in 10 seconds rather than in a few minutes.
The phone also boasts improved optical image stabilization and the new ability to recharge from almost 0 percent to 50 percent in 40 minutes, or about half the time it takes most phones, the company said. The phone also features 20 percent stronger cover glass than before.
Also new is laser auto focus. which appeared first on the G3 smartphones and uses a laser beam to measure distance to the subject for fast autofocusing.
Like its predecessor, the phone features a curved display from speaker at top to microphone on bottom to mimic the comfort of early landline-phones and clamshell cellular phones, bring the mouth and ear closer to the microphone and speaker for improved voice quality, and provide a more immersive viewing experience, the company said. It will be available in red or platinum silver.
RCA: Sonoma Communications, the RCA licensee for smartphones, is launching its first four RCA-brand smartphones, having previously said it would launch only two.
The two 4G and two 3G smartphones are GSM unlocked models running Android 4.4 KitKat. The $159-suggested RCA G1, available in both 4G and 3G versions, features 5.5-inch HD display with 720p resolution, 1.3GHz quad core processor, 1GB RAM, 8 GB built-in storage, 32GB Micro SD slot, and 8-megapixel rear camera with 1080p video capture, auto focus, LED flash, and face detection. The front camera offers 2 megapixels. Its 2,000mAh battery delivers up to 10 hours of talk time and 300 hours of standby. It weighs 6.6 ounces.
The $139-suggested RCA Q1, also available in both 4G and 3G versions, features a 5-inch 720p, offers the same features as the G1 phone, and adds object-distance sensor and dual SIM-card support.
Both phones will be available in February on Amazon.com, Sears.com and Rakuten.com.
Snail Games: The Los Angeles company, part of China’s Snail Games, launched two gaming smartphones, the Android-based W and W 3D with gamepad-style design said to bring the feel of traditional game controllers to mobile devices. The devices come with preinstalled games
Sony: The stainless-steel version of the SmartWatch 3 rolls out globally in February. It features 1.6-inch 320×320 TFT LCD transflective display for visibility in bright sunlight, IP68 waterproof rating, and charging via a standard microUSB port.
To go with it, Sony unveiled a SmartWatch 3 holder that lets users add any standard 24mm watch strap. It will be available early this year.
Android Wear allows for native music playback, intelligent sensor technology, and built-in GPS sensor. From this month on, the watch will be available preloaded with Golfshot and iFit apps out of the box3.
Sony also said it is working with the Virgin Atlantic airline to develop solutions using Sony’s SmartWear products to support operational activities and enhance the customer service.
Separately, for use with its IP58 waterproof-rated SmartBand SWR10, Sony’s Android Lifelog app for Android smartphones will be upgraded to access recipes at IFTTT, develop healthy habits with Habit Monster, and use the Withings Smart Body analyzer and other connected health devices to monitor weight, BMI, and body fat in Lifelog. Lifelog helps users set personal goals, monitor progress, and make smarter choices about health, entertainment, and the like. It is IP58-rated for waterproofing.
In another change, Lifelog data can be accessed through a web browser.