Let’s, just this once, take some wild guesses.
Given the imminent release of the Apple Watch – come on, that can’t be a spoiler at this point – it’s all too appropriate to compare Apple to the clock. Like the clock we all live by day in and day out, Apple observes a fairly strict set of cycles and patterns. Springtime is quiet time, with all the cooks busy in the kitchen preparing the second half of the year’s goodies. With June comes WWDC, Apple’s first big event, alongside Mac notebook hardware and new major versions of iOS and OS X. Then September – iPhone time – and finally late October, the iPad.
This year had to be different. When Apple announced the Apple Watch at last September’s media event, it was also announcing its first new product category since the iPad in 2010. It was announcing a product unlike one ever to come out of Apple; intimately customizable, from watch face to watch band to watch price. Are you in the market for the potentially five figure Apple Watch Edition, by any chance?
The Apple Watch makes predicting Monday’s event impossible. Traditionally, anybody who knew how to read Apple’s product release cycle and what type of product they traditionally released could make fairly accurate predictions on what to expect – it’s why we’ve been correct in all but one of our nearly twenty predictions thus far. This time, the only thing we can know for sure is that the Apple Watch is coming. Everything else?
Let’s, just this once, take some wild guesses.
What to realistically expect…” is a series of posts which we use to temper expectations concerning upcoming industry events. This Monday’s event promises to be one of the largest Apple events in recent memory, making this one of the most difficult – and interesting – events to predict. Read more to hear what we think.
Sprint to create new
As had been rumored heavily reported earlier this week, we can confirm that RadioShack has filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy. Today’s announcement brought an internal memo written by company CEO Joseph C. Magnacca, who outlined the “lengthy” bankruptcy process confirming key details of the announcement, including the sale of “between 1,500 and 2,400″ company owned stories to Radio Shack affiliate Standard General and plans for new “dedicated mobility ‘store within a store’ retail” in 1,750 of those acquired stores.
Click through after the break to read the full corporate memo, as delivered to RadioShack stores this evening.
I’m sure we’ve all done stupid things when we were younger that have negatively affected our credit scores, or perhaps we’re just getting our start as an adult and have no credit score to speak of. According to T-Mobile CEO John Legere, anyone who fits that description can’t get the deals that carriers advertise and instead either pay much more or leave with nothing.
In addition, Legere also stated the following as to why they’re doing this:
Ultimately, this initiative will lower the barrier for millions more Americans to get a smartphone – the most transformational technology in our lifetime. At a time when mobile connectivity is sweeping the globe, the United States ranks a miserable 13th in the world in terms of smartphone penetration − behind a dozen countries including Australia, Ireland, Israel and Saudi Arabia among others. There are more than 100 million American adults who don’t have a smartphone according to data from Pew Research and the US Census Bureau. That’s 100 million too many.
In today’s world, the smartphone is anything but a luxury. It’s a lifeline. It’s your source of news and information, your compass and your map. It’s how you stay safe and stay connected to family and friends. It’s how you do your banking and how you find a job. In other words, it’s an absolute necessity. The smartphone has become critical to plugging in to economic opportunity and participating in the global conversation.
Starting next week, any and every T-Mobile customer who has paid their bills on time for just one year is eligible for their best prices on phones and tablets. This also includes zero down, no interest and no credit check.
No, you're not getting Windows 10
Remember Microsoft’s Surface RT? It was Microsoft’s own tablet that ran full Windows on an ARM chip, right down to the confusing Metro/Desktop switch. It had Office pre-loaded, but you couldn’t use any other desktop apps with it unless you jailbroke it. And with relatively few quality Metro apps in the store, there was really no incentive to buy a Surface RT over a comparable x86-based tablet.
If you were at or watched Microsoft’s Windows 10 conference yesterday, you may have noticed that not a single utterance of “Windows RT” was heard anywhere. In fact, according to C|NET, Microsoft “devoted only a few seconds to Windows RT, saying during a Q&A with reporters that it is ‘working on an update for Windows RT as well.'” Companies like Asus and Dell who both introduced Windows RT tablets have already gone and killed their products with the remaining holdouts being the Surface RT and the Lumia 2520.
While the Surface Pro lineup will naturally be getting the Windows 10 update, Microsoft only said that there would be a future update that brings some of Windows 10’s functionality to Windows RT. This statement feels eerily similar to how Microsoft mis-handled the Windows 7.5 upgrade path, where Windows Phone 7 handsets would never see an update to Windows Phone 8 but would instead be updated to have some of the same functionality as Windows Phone 8. We’ll be waiting to see what Microsoft has to say later on about Windows RT but for now, it certainly sounds like this is the end.
Yours for only $200
We’ve been waiting for several months now, but it’s finally here. Announced at today’s Nintendo Direct presentation, the New 3DS is finally coming over to North America as well as a couple of exclusive New 3DS titles.
For those unfamiliar with the New 3DS, it features more processing power and RAM, two more shoulder buttons, a C-stick and NFC to take advantage of Nintendo’s Amiibo figures. There is a port of Xenoblade Chronicles coming specifically designed to take advantage of the extra processing power and Super Smash Bros. 4 will be picking up with the Amiibos. There’s also a new Fire Emblem game coming, but we can’t quite yet tell if it will be a New 3DS exclusive. And for the Zelda fans, a remake of Majora’s Mask is coming and there’s even a limited-edition Majora’s Mask version of the console coming.
In Japan, there’s both a New 3DS and a New 3DS XL (or more accurately, LL). The major difference between the two other than the size is that the smaller of the two allows for removable and customization faceplates; the New 3DS XL allows for no such customization. In today’s presentation, Nintendo announced only the New 3DS XL will be coming to North American shelves which leaves people who prefer small hardware like myself out in the dust.
The New 3DS will come in red and black colors unlike Japan which offers white and blue. Curiously, it will ship without an AC adapter with Nintendo opting to let you continue to use your DSi or 3DS charger. If all of this floats your boat, you can pick one up on February 13th for $200.
An extension of Blu-ray makes it all happen
4K televisions (or Ultra HD, if that’s your thing) are amazing, with picture quality that often goes far beyond anything you can even remotely hope to find on now standard 1080p sets. The big problem, however, is that up until now, there just hasn’t been much to actually watch with these new, expensive, beautiful televisions. Netflix has helped fill the gap with a small library of shows streaming in 4K, but the selection is next to nil and support is limited to only select, Netflix sanctioned smart televisions. That’s all about the change however as The Blu-ray Disc Association has just announced at CES that they’re working on a new version of the existing Blu-ray technology that will bring 4K movies to your next home theater system, in convenient disc format.
The new discs, which will be branded as Ultra HD Blu-ray and will essentially be Blu-rays manufactured with a new process that allows up to 33GB per layer (up from 25GB), meaning that a single disc will allow for as much as 99GB. This is absolutely necessary given that 4K movies require an obscene amount of available space, way more than the average 1080p Blu-ray movie.
Manufacturer Panasonic is proving the concept with a prototype Ultra HD player, seen above. Sure enough, it works as you’d expect – this is just your average Blu-ray player with the added bonus of beautiful 4K video playback. According to Engadget, the new Ultra HD Blu-ray specification – which has yet to be finalized – will likely call for HVEC encoding, a next-generation encoder that allows for incredibly highly compressed file without losing quality.
These new Ultra HD Blu-rays are expected to hit market by the end of 2015, however a delay into early 2016 is still possible. While all this technology is cool and it’s fantastic that 4K will finally have an opportunity to invade the average living room, the real question is whether or not Americans are ready to invest in a next generation optical disc format. It seems like just yesterday that the industry tried to get us to ditch our old and busted DVDs for high definition Blu-rays. Can that same strategy be successful only a couple of years later?
Maybe - I mean weirder things have happened
I specifically remember sitting on my uncomfortable, college provided dorm bed a couple of years back and being so excited about the Ouya. A $100 game console with a beautiful, functional user interface, familiar and quality controller, at a price even a broke college student could afford, plus an open software development kit familiar to the thousands of existing Android game developers; yes, the Ouya seemed to have it all. Then it came out, and it was a huge, mega flop. In fact, the Ouya was such a huge flop that it effectively killed any interest most people had in the entire category of Android game consoles that seemed so exciting, so recently.
Yet here I am, the week of CES 2015, so excited about this – an Android game console with essential all the same great, promising qualities that I saw in the Ouya just two years ago. The Razer Forge TV is the first Android game console that may actually have the one thing that the Ouya never did. The Forge TV has a chance to survive – or maybe even thrive – in the console market.
With a quad-core Snapdragon 805 CPU and a Adreno 420 GPU, the Razer Forge TV is a relative powerhouse, far more capable than anything the Ouya could possibly dream of. Graphics capability wise, we’re looking at something roughly on par with the last generation big name consoles, the Xbox 360 and the PS3. It’s got a beautiful controller, an impressive selection of existing Android games, and perhaps importantly the Razer name – one that has become synonymous in the PC industry with quality gaming equipment. This is where the Ouya may have gotten cut at the jugular. While the Ouya certainly had promise, nobody would deny that, it was incredibly ambitious for what amounted to a Kickstarter funded start-up. To compete in such an intense market one needs a name that can draw people, and I think that’s exactly what Razer has and what could propel the Forge TV to greater heights.
Not to mention the Forge TV’s ultimate trick – streaming. Razer knows that while Android games are good, they’re no match for true console experiences. That’s why they’re padding the Forge TV’s native game library with a collection of Steam games already installed on your PC. Razer promises that their streaming solution is so low-latency that streaming games becomes an actually enjoyable experience. That is “enjoyable”, meaning more than the “mildly infuriating” experience on today’s solutions. It’s also worth mentioning that the Forge TV doubles as an entertainment box running Google’s new Android TV operating system.
The Forge TV console ships this Spring for just $99 for the console only, or $150 for a bundle with the included Bluetooth controller. That’s a fair price for everything you’re getting – let’s just hope Razer can actually pull it off.
It's an Android tablet, but nice
Dell hasn’t always been known to make the most lust-worthy devices, but the company has struck design gold with a couple of the new devices they’ve brought with them to CES this year. Introducing the XPS 13 laptop – an ultra-thin, ultra-portable, ultrabook with an optional super high resolution display, an aluminum body with just a touch of carbon fiber, and practically no bezels. Okay, there’s a little bezel, but we’re talking one tiny bezel here.
Spec wise, we’re looking at all options coming equipped with a next-generation Intel Core processor, which the company just announced at CES this week. There’s a model with a 1080p display that starts at a cool $800, while higher end model with the 4K display will cost you a more hefty $2,349. The lesser model went on sale today, while the 4K model ships soon.
Next up is the Venue 8 7000 tablet, an Android 5.0 tablet that has more than few tricks up its sleeves. For one thing, it is gorgeous, with an amazing aluminum body, and OLED (yes – OLED, like the ones found in LG’s new TVs) 8-inch display with an impressive 2560 x 1600 resolution. But what makes the Venue really special is its camera set up. Intel’s new RealSense technology is on board, marking the first tablet – and one of the first devices – to have the new, motion and depth tracking technology with Kinect-like utility.
The Venue 8 7000 starts at a very reasonable $400 and is also available in a higher end LTE model. If that perks your ears up, you can head on over to Dell’s website and get yours now.
Forget it, pack it up, we're going home
While CES can bring us some pretty cool innovations and new technologies, it can also introduce plenty of truly “WTF” moments. Oh, and on that note, WTF. OhMiBod is apparently a regular manufacturer at CES, and this year they truly went all out with their latest and greatest: a Bluetooth “massager” that syncs with that Apple Watch you aren’t even wearing yet for in order to keep track and control your, uh, you know, pleasure levels. Or something.
Apparently, your Apple Watch will control the way that “massager” vibrates, used to – and this is a quote from Suki Dunham, founder of OhMiBod, and apparently a very strange woman, “create the vibrations that drive his or her partner’s pleasure, […] (and) also determines the strength and intensity of those vibrations.”
But wait, there’s more! You’ll also be able to use your voice to record “vibration patterns” that you can push to your “massager” to really personalize your intimate time in ways that nobody could haver ever, ever, ever dreamt before, unless you want did in which case hey, more power to you.
OhMiBod promises that new features will be coming to their “massagers” as early as March 2015, all based on the company’s existing “Cuddle and Share” product. And with that, I am officially done.
webOS lives on... again
Last year LG resurrected Palm’s ill-fated webOS smartphone platform, reimagining it as a next-generation Smart TV platform with little in the way of any sort of competition when it comes to usability and design. It was just June that LG announced that they’ve sold 1 million television sets running webOS, and now the company is back with seven – yes, count them, seven – new models running an upgraded version of LG’s webOS platform, which the company is calling webOS 2.0, all in various sizes. Oh, and some of them are even curved.
But unlike last year’s webOS Smart TVs, which featured essentially mostly conventional 1080p LCD panels, this year LG is making a bold move by heavily pushing the next generation 4K OLED technology. OLED panels have several improvements over traditional LCDs, including blacker blacks, deeper and richer colors, and better energy efficiency.
OLEDs aren’t necessarily anything new – they’ve been a staple of numerous CES’s past, at this point – but LG’s new webOS 2.0 OLED Smart TVs promise to be among the first relatively affordable OLED sets. 4K panels, of course, offer a much higher resolution than 1080p displays resulting in a much sharper, more detailed picture.
LG hasn’t said anything in the way of pricing or availability of any of their 4K OLED Smart TVs, however expect to learn more in the weeks and months ahead.
It's like the original G Flex, but better
As we reported in our pre-CES coverage, LG is back with the sequel to last year’s original G Flex smartphone – and this time, you might actually want it.
Whereas last year’s model featured a ridiculously large 6-inch display, the G Flex 2 has a much more manageable (yet still very, very large) 5.5-inch display. That’s still firmly in “phablet” territory, but let’s be real here – last year’s G Flex felt more like a small tablet than a big smartphone. The technology inside that warped body is also much improved; whereas the original G Flex had a 720p display, the new model features a 1080p resolution – a noticeable improvement over the older model at this screen size.
LG says this new G Flex 2 is 20% more durable than last year’s model, and is able to recover from more scratches, more easily than last ear’s model using an improved version of the company’s unique self-healing finish found on the back of the phone, whereas Gorilla Glass 3 strengthens the front.
There’s a next generation Snapdragon 810 processor inside, one of the first mass market a 64-bit mobile processors to make their way into an Android device. There’s also a 13 megapixel camera on the back and a 2.1 megapixel front-facing camera, for all your selfie needs.
The LG G Flex 2 will ship later this first quarter on AT&T, Sprint, and U.S. Cellular calling first dibs in the United States. Pricing has yet to be announced, however LG did say that the company is considering this a niche, high-end device that will likely cost more than the existing (and more capable) LG G3.
Bringing Smart Homes to life
I’ve been a fan of the Smart Home concept since I first saw the American classic movie “Smart House” by the Disney Channel, which means I’ve been waiting to talk to a robot house for the last 15 years. Finally, my time as come, and it figures it would be in part thanks to Apple to lead the charge; though Apple may not actually have any sort of presence at CES 2015, hardware supporting their HomeKit smart home ecosystem is absolutely everywhere.
iHome, manufacturer of an absolutely endless line of portable speaker systems that work well with iPhones, iPods, and iPads, came to CES with their first HomeKit accessory, the $40 SmartPlug. SmartPlug works as an intermediary between the electrical outlets in your house and whatever you plug into the wall, allowing you to turn nearly every piece of electronics in your house on and off, right from your iOS device. It even supports Siri, so if you’re really lazy, you could just say “Hey Siri, turn on my lamp,” and poof – lamp is on.
There’s also Switch by accessory manufacturer iDevice, another device that plugs into your wall outlets and devices to do the same. iDevice’s accompanying application allows you to set “schedules”, which work as advanced timers. Know you get home from the library at 3:00 PM every day? Switch will remember to turn on the lights before you even get home.
Next up – and most ambitiously – there’s the Elgato Eve, a complete line of HomeKit connected devices and sensors that do everything from determine how energy efficient your home is to the amount of water you consume in a given timeframe, to automatically turning the lights on and off like the aforementioned devices, and even the weather both in and outside your house. Elgato’s Eve iOS application then puts all of this data together to give you a ridiculously specific idea of every element of your living environment.
While Apple has yet to officially launch HomeKit, and none of these devices have hit the market just yet, CES 2015 is the sign we needed that smart homes will finally become a real, honest to goodness thing this year. While we may be a little while away from talking to a holographic avatar representing your house complete with a unique, crazed personality – especially one with the likeness of famous actress Katey Sagal – I think this is close enough to count. Welcome to the future!