How much influence do reviews from consumers have on the purchasing decisions of other consumers? Turns out, quite a bit, according to the recently released “Buy It, Try It, Rate It” study from Weber Shandwick.
The majority of potential consumer electronics purchases (65 percent) for example are inspired by a consumer review to select a brand that “had not been in their original consideration set” according to the report. “The increasing impact of consumer reviews on sales means that marketers must learn how to effectively manage the flood of online opinion engulfing shoppers,” said Williams. “Online user reviews are transforming buying decisions. Our study sheds new light on why, how and when shoppers use both user reviews as well as traditional editorial reviews in the purchase process.”
Other interesting findings from the study include:
- Consumer electronics buyers pay more attention to other consumer reviews than to editorial reviews by a margin of three-to-one.
- Nearly nine in 10 consumers (88 percent) say they are somewhat or very knowledgeable about consumer electronics, yet still consult reviews, consumer and/or professional (60 percent and 52 percent, respectively), when looking to make a purchase.
- 80 percent of consumers are concerned about the authenticity of consumer reviews.
- Consumer electronics buyers read an average of 11 consumer reviews.
- The most influential reviews are those that seem fair and reasonable (32 percent), are well written (27 percent) and contain statistics, specifications and technical data (25 percent).
The full report is available here (PDF).
The consumer electronics maker reported the low tablet sales and negative earnings on Thursday in its quarterly earnings report. The loss came on revenue of $3.44 billion in the fourth quarter. A year earlier, the company reported a fourth-quarter profit of $80 million on $3.43 billion in revenue.
For the full year, Motorola reported a loss of $249 million on $13 billion in revenue, up from an $86-million loss on $11.5 billion in revenue in 2010.
Product shipments are also down year over year for the fourth quarter. Motorola shipped 10.5 million phones and tablets (all of which run Google's Android operating system) in the last three months of 2011, down from 11.3 million in the fourth quarter of 2010.
In 2011 as a whole, Motorola shipped 42.4 million mobile devices, up from 37.3 million devices shipped in 2010.
Motorola also said it remains "energized by the proposed merger with Google and continue to focus on creating innovative technologies." The Google takeover is still awaiting approval from regulators in a number of countries, but Motorola said it expects the $12.5-billion deal to "close in early 2012 once all conditions have been satisfied."
– Nathan Olivarez-Giles
Photo: Motorola's Droid Xyboard 10.1 tablet on display at Motorola Mobility's booth at the 2012 Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas. Credit: David Becker/Getty Images
Apple just reported its best quarter of all time, as covered by my colleague David Sarno here on the Technology blog.
The Cupertino tech giant reported a boost in sales of iPads, iPhones and Mac computers (but not iPods), pushing it into a record quarterly revenue of $46.33 billion and $13 billion in profit for the first quarter of the company's 2012 fiscal year.
Let's take a closer look at Apple's huge numbers for the quarter ended Dec. 31, which showed strong holiday sales and sent shares in the company up 8% after the markets closed Tuesday.
Cash balance — One major number to note from Apple's earnings report, as mentioned in its earnings call, is that the company has a cash balance of $97.6 billion, up from $81 billion a year ago.
That's a massive amount to be sitting in the bank and it's a sum Apple will spend in part on developing new products that will help it remain competitive against rivals such as Samsung, Sony, HTC and Motorola.
Revenue — Apple racked up $46.33 billion in sales in the 14-week quarter, which is up from $26.74 billion in the same quarter a year ago.
Profit — The tech giant reported a $13-billion profit last quarter, which is more than double the profit the company reported for its first fiscal quarter of 2011.
IPhones — Apple sold 37.04 million iPhones in the last three months of 2011, which marks 128% growth from a year earlier, when the company sold 16.25 million iPhones.
IPads — Sales of the ever-popular Apple tablet grew 111% when compared to the year-earlier quarter, with 15.43 million iPads sold for the company's fiscal 2012 first quarter versus 7.33 million iPads sold in the first quarter of 2011.
IPods — The iPod isn't dead yet, but it is on the decline. Apple sold 15.4 million iPods last quarter, down 21% from 19.45 million iPods sold a year earlier.
Mac computers — Apple's Mac line of desktop and laptop PCs — which includes MacBooks, iMacs, Mac Minis and the Mac Pro — saw a 26% increase in sales from the year-ago quarter, with 5.2 million Macs sold in the first fiscal quarter of 2012 and 4.13 million Macs sold in the first fiscal quarter of 2011.
"Portables," which would include the MacBook Air and MacBook Pro laptops, made up the majority of Macs purchased, with 3.71 million units sold last quarter, up from 2.9 million sold a year ago. Apple sold 1.48 million desktops last quarter, up from 1.23 million sold a year earlier.
Looking ahead, Apple said Tuesday that it is projecting it will record about $32.5 billion in revenue in the second quarter of its fiscal year.
[Updated: An earlier version of this post incorrectly stated that Apple's profit for the first quarter of its fiscal year was $6 billion. Apple reported a $13 billion profit last quarter and recorded $6 billion in profit a year earlier.]
– Nathan Olivarez-Giles
Photo: An Apple Store in San Francisco. Credit: Justin Sullivan/Getty Images
A company called 4moms has just released the Origami, a baby stroller packed with features that you never knew you needed.
Power folding with the push of a button? Done.
Daytime running lights and special pathway lights to help you see at night? Yup.
A digital dashboard that displays temperature, speed, miles covered during your current trip, total miles covered, and whether or not a baby is actually in the stroller? It's got that too.
The Origami debuted at CES 2012 and is already available at some fancy baby stores like Giggle and Right Start. A 4moms spokeswoman said it will be available at diapers.com and buybuybaby.com in the next few days, and at target.com in the next few weeks.
The stroller costs a cool $849, which may sound expensive to normal people, but is actually comfortably within the range of higher-end strollers. The standard Bugaboo Chameleon, for example, will set you back $880.
The power for the power-folding feature, the lights and even the cellphone charging is produced by an onboard generator that charges the stroller as you push it. You do have the option to plug the stroller into the wall if you need to, and to fold and unfold the stroller manually if you're desperate, but the company says even a short walk is enough to keep the stroller powered for days.
One drawback is that it is kind of heavy for a stroller — it weighs 32 pounds in toddler mode — but you know, it's got that onboard generator. You can't have everything.
– Deborah Netburn
Photo: The new Origami stroller by 4moms comes equipped with an online generator that allows parents to charge their cellphones while strolling with their baby. Credit: Courtesy of 4moms.
Beats Electronics and Monster Cable Products, two companies that together defined the current $1-billion headphone industry with the Beats by Dr. Dre line, are parting ways at the end of the year.
But before the two become competitors in a segment of consumer electronics that is just as much about fashion as it is technology, a wave of new Beats by Dr. Dre headphones and boom boxes (built by Monster) will hit store shelves.
At the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas last week, I caught up with Jimmy Iovine, Beats Electronics' chairman and CEO of Interscope Geffen A&M Records, to talk about what products the Beats brand had planned for 2012 (you can see our interview in the video above).
First up will be the new Mixr headphones, designed by Grammy-winning producer and DJ David Guetta. The Mixr is a lightweight and strong design — I twisted and bent the headband, and it returned to form and never felt week — that offers the bass-heavy sound Beats is known for. At $279, the Mixr is set to hit U.S. stores in early February in black and white. They're already available in Europe.
February will also see a wireless release of the Solo headphones, also priced at $279. And due in mid-September are the $349 Executive headphones, which bring a sleeker and more understated look with a leather headband and aluminum ear cups.
Iovine was also proud of the new BeatBox, a follow-up to the first-generation (and much less portable) BeatBox, which will sell at a price of $399. A release date hasn't yet been set for the new battery- or AC-powered BeatBox, which plays music from smartphones and MP3 players docked on the speaker setup.
Since launching in 2009, Beats has teamed with Justin Beiber, Lady Gaga and Sean "Diddy" Combs for artist-sponsored headphones. The Mixr is the only artist-specific set of headphones planned for 2012, Iovine said.
But this year we will see more HTC smartphones paired with Beats headphones as a result of HTC purchasing a $300-million stake in the audio company late last year, he said. And Beats speakers will be found not just in the Chrysler 300, as they were in 2011, but also in the Dodge Charger. And, as we saw at CES, Beats speakers are making their way into more HP laptops this year too.
After the Monster manufacturing deal expires at the end of the year, Beats plans to go out on its own, Iovine told my colleague Gerrick D. Kennedy on our sister blog Pop & Hiss. Despite reports to the contrary, Iovine said, the split was always the audio start-up's intention.
"It was always planned. It was always a five-year deal," Iovine said. "It was a manufacturing distribution deal. We were with Monster for headphones and speakers. It was always a plan to turn into a freestanding company."
Image: The Beats Executive headphones from Beats by Dr. Dre. Credit: Beats Electronics/Monster Cable Products
Most folks will tell you: Growing old ain't sexy.
And realizing you need bifocals? Even less alluring.
The reading lens is embedded in super-thin layer of liquid crystals and can focus within a fraction of a second — the time it would take you to blink. Inside the arms of the glasses are a computer chip, rechargeable battery and what the company touts as the world's smallest accelerometer.
You trigger the electronic bifocals by tapping and swiping the arm (manual mode) or simply by tilting your head down toward what you want to read (automatic).
The emPower lenses are available now in about 1,500 locations across the U.S., including a handful of optometrists selling them in the Los Angeles area. The will be in Europe in the spring.
They aren't cheap. About $1,200. This includes the lenses, frame and charging station. So you don't want to leave them lying around. And, unfortunately, the lenses and module can't be reprogrammed if your prescription changes.
I thought these glasses might appeal to my fortysomething husband who's dealing with the reality of getting bifocals. It would probably make him feel a bit like Bond — James Bond — even if, these days, he's a tad closer to Sean Connery's Bond than Daniel Craig's.
– Michelle Maltais
Image: You can tap and swipe your glasses to turn on the bifocals. Credit: PixelOptics
On Tuesday, here on the Technology blog, we summed up a few of the TV-related highlights of the 2012 Consumer Electronics Show from LG, Vizio and Sony. But make no mistake, Sharp and Samsung made some news of their own.
As noted by my colleague Jon Healey and myself, 4K TVs have been a major trend at CES in Las Vegas this year. The promise of 4K TVs is a display that offers up to four times higher the resolution of today's highest resolution high-definition TVs, which currently top out at 1080p.
A bit confused by all the terms? No problem — 1080p refers to TVs with a resolution of 1,920 x 1,080 pixels with the 1,080 counting the number of lines of resolution on the vertical side of the TV. The newer 4K standard refers to displays with about 4,000 lines of resolution counted on the horizontal side of a screen.
Sharp, however, took the resolution jump further than its rivals and introduced a prototype 8K TV this year, which it says will offer double the resolution of a 4K TV set, or a resolution of about 16 times higher than a 1080p TV. Sharp's 8K TV is currently planned for retail, but the prototype at CES did come in a whopping 85-inch screen size. The screen resolution of the Sharp prototype does fall short of an actual 8,000 mark, despite the name, with a 7,680 x 4,320 resolution display being used.
Huge TVs are something Sharp has been into for the last few years, choosing to concentrate on the higher-end of the TV market. This year it also showed off an 80-inch LCD TV, with LED backlighting, that will playback 3-D video (viewable with 3-D glasses of course). Sharp said its 80-inch was equal to about the size of nine 32-inch TVs, or about 266 smartphones laid out next to each other.
The TV maker also said it was committed to its LCD TV business and plans to introduce 17 new LCD TVs over the next 90 days.
But not all of those 17 new TVs will be big-screen heavyweight sets. As noted by my colleague David Sarno, Sharp also introduced its line of Aquos Freestyle TVs at CES this year. The Aquos Freestyle is a series of TVs that are built thin and light and can actually be picked up and moved around a home.
The idea is maybe you'd want to take the TV out in the back yard for a couple hours, or maybe into another room for a bit for a party or other good reason.
As reported by Sarno, "Sharp's Aquos Freestyle flat-screens get their signal wirelessly, and as the models demonstrated by parading them down the showroom runway, they are light enough to be carried around the home, whether to the balcony, the kitchen or the powder room."
Portable? Yes. Mobile? Not really. The Aquos Freestyle sets were shown off in 20-inch, 31.5-inch, 40-inch and 60-inch sizes.
Like Sharp, Korean electronics giant Samsung had some prototypes to show off at CES too, including a 55-inch TV that it described as "Super OLED."
OLED, or organic light emitting diodes, are more energy efficient, thinner and provide better black-levels when compared with standard current LEDs used in TVs today. OLED is also more expensive to produce than LED backlighting. And just about every TV maker throws out claims at CES that its display, which is also 3-D capable, provides the best picture — Samsung's stance is no different with its Super OLED sets, promising in a statement that its prototype display offers "the ultimate in vividness, speed and thinness, with true-to-life picture quality, enhanced color accuracy and motion picture quality even in the fastest scenes."
Samsung also announced an update to its high-end Smart TV line, which runs apps such as Netflix on its TVs, that it says will allow users to control their sets with voice and motion control and facial-recognition technology.
"For example, users can turn the TV on or off, activate selected apps or search for content in the web browser simply by speaking in any of the 20 to 30 languages that are supported by the technology," Samsung said in a statement. "With a wave of their hand, they can browse and choose a link or content via the web browser."
A built-in camera in the top-of-the-line Smart TV sets "recognizes movement in the foreground and two unidirectional array microphones recognize voice at an incredibly accurate rate. Noise cancellation technology helps separate any background noise from the users commands."
– Nathan Olivarez-Giles
Image: Samsung's LED 8000 Smart TV, which features built-in cameras and microphones for voice, gesture and facial recognition. Credit: Samsung
Surrounded by every electronic device imaginable at the 2012 Consumer Electronics Show, HP’s new Envy 14 Spectre is in a class by itself, mostly because the class it's in — “the premium consumer Ultrabook” – seems to have been invented just to have some place to put it. Let’s take a look.
The first descriptor used is “premium.” That’s a good one, and if you are paying $1,400 for something about the size and thickness of a place mat, whatever it is you are buying should be stamped with the word premium. Generally this would indicate a plethora of features, like Beats Audio for doctor-recommended sound quality (is Dr. Dre still licensed to practice in California?) and the HP Radiance Display that delivers 1600 x 900 lines of resolution. OK, the Spectre has all that. So far, so good.
Right after premium comes the word “consumer,” and that's a little odd because that usually indicates a dearth of features, where things are stripped out to make the product less confusing and cheaper or accessible to the masses, the opposite of premium. So that word makes the least sense, seeing as it has high-end video and audio (knob notwithstanding), a slew of inputs and outputs — including trusty old USB (though in it’s latest 3.0 variant), HDMI and Mini DisplyPort, and a $1,399.99 price tag on a laptop is enough to knock it out of the consumer arena and right back into premium land. It’s kind of like a rich kid who dresses in old clothes so he can make friends with the poor kids, then invites them to his birthday party at the country club with the strict dress code. Just because you add the “consumer” to something doesn’t make it any more affordable, it just makes it take longer to say.
Lastly, it’s an "Ultrabook" because it’s thin, and that’s what ultra means in computer-ese, and into its 20mm of thinness HP has crammed a good deal of stuff, like an Intel Core processor, HP Wireless Audio to stream your music throughout your home, a multitouch trackpad, an HD webcam and a battery that “boasts up to 9 hours” of life among other things. So maybe they are using “ultra” to mean “going beyond” because they amount of tech stuffed into this machine is beyond what one might expect in a package of its dimensions.
So, marketing lingo aside, the really interesting thing about the Envy 14 Spectre is the material used to build most of it: glass. Corning Gorilla Glass to be specific. Not surprisingly, the monitor is fronted with glass, but so is the rest of the lid. It’s almost as if they took a giant iPhone 4 and attached it with a hinge. So, right off the bat, half of the computer is built out of glass, then you have the palm rests and some of the chassis! All this makes for a more durable and lighter package, according to the company, though at about 4 pounds that last bit seems like we’re having our chocolate rations increased from 15 grams to 10 grams. But who cares what it weighs? It’s a laptop made out of glass! I’m not even sure what the advantage really would be for that, but I feel cooler just to have typed out that last sentence.
Perhaps the most telling thing about this device is who HP thinks would want it, and judging by the product photos in the company’s news release, they are aiming for the coveted “I’m far too cool to even acknowledge my expensive new computer sitting there” demographic.
– Tim French
I recall before I had my baby the empathetic terror that shot through me as I watched my friend's child dragging her naked iPad by the power cable. It was story time. Great.
Now that I have my own child, enamored with all of my (expensive) tech toys and tools, the terror is all the more real. Keeping these tools away from their quick but not-yet-agile hands is quite a task. And sometimes, technology can be a great teaching tool.
M-Edge, the maker of cases for today's most popular handheld devices, has a case they say can withstand the rough treatment an iPad can get in the hands of kids and toddlers. We took a look at it at CES in Las Vegas.
The SuperShell is a super lightweight case made of closed-cell foam that's easy to grip, doesn't slip out of small hands and, if it does, will bounce back, almost literally, after a fall.
We watched the representatives toss the encased iPad 2 on the floor several times without damaging the tablet. (Check out the video above.)
Granted, if your kid takes his toy drumstick to the screen, it's not going to be protected here.
But if you've got a droolly teether, the case may even take an actual licking and still keep ticking.
Parent reviews on Amazon say the $30 bright lime-green color makes it easier to find the iPad after your child drops it like a hot potato and moves on to the next thing.
You can still access the front and back cameras of the iPad 2, its ports, speaker and most of the buttons. The volume buttons are covered, but then again do you really want little Chris or Christy blasting the repetitive music of kid-friendly apps?
Coming this year are SuperShell cases for iPhone and Kindle Fire.
– Michelle Maltais in Las Vegas
Image: SuperShell case for iPad 2. Credit: M-Edge
One of the more notable and surprising reveals so far at the 2012 Consumer Electronics Show has been the debut of Vizio's line of laptops and all-in-one desktop PCs. Vizio declined to detail the specifications or release date of its new products, but gave us some hands-on time with the PCs.
The All-in-One, as the desktop version of Vizio's PC debut is known, comes in 27-inch and 24-inch models, both containing high-definition 1080p resolution panels. The general approach is similar to that of Apple's iMac, with nearly the entire device in one self-contained monitor/base unit. Unlike the iMac, however, which positions its processing hardware behind the screen, CPU and hardware connection ports on the All-in-One are all positioned at the base of the device, which still manages to be very thin and is connected to the monitor through an aluminum neck.
The base includes USB 3.0 connections and inputs for two HDMI cables, allowing you to connect your computer, Xbox or anything else that can output HDMI. Vizio's director of product development, Tim Almeda, said the desktops could be configured with up to quad-core processing and 1 terabyte hard drives.
But not all of the device is contained in the base. The power source and subwoofer for the PC are housed in a mash-up external unit that connects to the. This makes it not quite all-in-one, but helps provide a 2.1 stereo sound setup that Vizio says will be included with the computers. User input comes from a wireless keyboard, trackpad and TV-like remote.
Vizio's upcoming laptop line includes two Thin + Light computers, basically in the ultrabook genre, which come in at 14 inches and 15.6 inches, and one more robust 15.6-inch notebook. The full notebook is a little thicker and heavier, but boasts a dedicated graphics card and a hard drive and SSD options. The "Thin + Light" models carry an SSD, and are geared to compete against computers such as Apple's MacBook Air and similar recently released ultrabooks. None of the computers carry an optical drive, but an external CD/DVD drive is available (Vizio wouldn't specify whether an external drive would be available on the larger laptop by default or at an extra cost).
Overall, sleekness and simplicity embody the design of both sets of computers — clean lines, an aversion to design flairs that don't serve any useful function, a brushed metal exterior and a very integrated look between the series. Industrial chic, if you will.
This is apparent even in the font used on the keyboards, which almost looks as if it were built for speed and my colleague Nathan Olivarez-Giles compared to the lettering used by Porsche Design. One can't ignore the design cues taken from Apple in both sets of computers, but if Vizio is successful in creating a stylish, sleek and lower-cost alternative to the iMac, MacBook Pro and MacBook Air, it could be a challenge for the computing giant.
– Armand Emamdjomeh in Las Vegas
Photo: From back to front, Vizio's new 14 inch and 15.6-inch Thin + Light and 15.6-inch notebook computers, and separate optical drive. Credit: Armand Emamdjomeh / Los Angeles Times
At the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, it's something of a rebuilding year. There have been no jaw-droppingly new consumer technologies unveiled, or obvious must-have new devices like in years past.
But that's not stopping near-record crowds from descending on Sin City, slurping up all its beer and bandwidth, and filling convention halls up and down The Strip.
The show's organizer, the Consumer Electronic Assn., has said that close to 150,000 attendants filled the city's hotel rooms this year, coming to check out exhibits from a record 3,100 companies.
The booths at the Las Vegas Convention Center on Tuesday, the show's official opening day, ranged from tiny stalls hung with bejeweled iPhone cases to city-block size mega-booths from global electronics makers, many paying millions to erect giant walls of high-definition screens that showcase their latest TV technology.
After attendants handed out 3D glasses at the booth of South Korea's LG Corp., a movie started on a massive IMAX-size screen showing a meteor shower shooting toward the audience. More than a few "whoas" where audible from the crowd below.
At the Samsung booth, representatives gave demonstrations of the company's new Smart TVs, showing onlookers how to change channels or search the Web with simple voice commands, or to "click" on-screen buttons and links with a hand gesture. A model of the company's latest ultra-high-def TV hung on another wall, with pictures of waterfalls and forests that were so clear that one visitor said, "Wow, is that in 3D?"
And more laughs were had Monday night at Microsoft Corp.'s final keynote (the software giant has said it will no longer give the show's main speech, or maintain a booth at CES.) The company did its best to mark the semi-somber occasion by hiring American Idol host Ryan Seacrest to be the master of ceremonies.
Seacrest and Microsoft Chief Executive Steve Ballmer enjoyed some amusing back-and-forth banter, such as when Ballmer explained the new, tile-based look of Windows 8, which is called Metro and is an improvement on the company's earlier phone operating system.
"The Metro user interface — you’ve seen it being pioneered in recent years, but now it’s all coming together."
"Why did you look at me funny when you said Metro?" Seacrest asked, feigning hurt feelings.
Ballmer laughed, and Seacrest said, "I guess I'm going to be your mascot now."
More stunts lay in store for the show, too — on Thursday, ESPN will stage a live boxing match at the convention center that will be broadcast in 3D on the network.
– David Sarno
Image: Ryan Seacrest and Steve Ballmer at the Microsoft keynote at CES. Credit: David Sarno / Los Angeles Times
As always, the 2012 Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas has been filled with new TVs and home entertainment product announcements.
In fact, there have been so many announcements that it might be tough to keep up with them all if you're actually looking to CES to help you decide what your next TV set will be.
No worry, we're here to help sift through the noise. We'll have more on TVs and Google TV products coming, but here are some of the highlights from LG, Vizio and Sony thus far.
As we reported ahead of CES, LG had big-screen plans for this year's Vegas show with a new 55-inch OLED TV that is just 4 millimeters thick and an 84-inch LED-backlit LCD TV with 4K-display resolution.
For those who don't know, 4K resolution is what many in the TV industry believe will be the next bump up in high-definition standards for TVs and Web video. Current top-of-the-line HD TV sets available to consumers now are either 1080p or 720p — each number indicating the number of vertical pixel lines of resolution the HD sets can handle. The term 4K resolution identifies displays with about 4,000 horizontal lines of resolution. There isn't a ton of 4K video content out yet (most HD TV channels are 720p), but many filmmakers are moving toward shooting in 4K with newer digital cameras.
As promised, LG unveiled both the 55-inch and 84-inch sets at CES this year, each set falling into what LG is calling its Cinema 3D series of TVs, which will range in size between 55 and 84 inches and feature a super-thin bezel when they hit the market later this year. I saw both sets in person here at CES and they looked big, bright and clear.
Of course, how a TV looks on the showroom floor and how it looks in the living room can vary. But LG, as well as many other TV makers, seems to be producing thinner and lighter TVs with increasingly more detailed and accurate pictures displayed on screen.
Another announcement from LG this year was wider implementation of its Magic Remote, which was shown off at CES in 2011 too. As my colleague David Sarno noted in his reporting on CES, the Magic Remote acts much like the Wii remote used by Nintendo's Wii video game console.
With the motion-sensing Magic Remote in hand, a user can navigate on-screen TV menus, settings and even channel changes with a combination of gestures and button presses.
LG is also showing off Google TV sets that will launch in the U.S. in the first half of 2012 and later for the rest of the world. Among LG's Google TV offerings will be a 55-inch model, and each Google TV set from LG will come with a Magic Remote with a built-in keyboard.
Google TV will run on LG's TVs alongside its Smart TV platform unveiled last year. Since 2011's CES, LG said it has added more than 1,200 apps to its Smart TV offerings.
Just as it was last year, 3-D is a major theme at CES this year, and LG also said that about 50% of its 2012 TV line would be made up of 3-D TVs. But like Vizio, and unlike many other TV rivals, LG's 3-D TVs won't use active-shutter 3-D glasses. Instead, LG's and Vizio's 3-D TVs will work with passive 3-D glasses that are more like the glasses often found in movie theaters.
Irvine-based Vizio also showed off a newer, wider vision for home TVs. Dubbed Cinema Wide, Vizio is releasing a line of new TVs with a 21:9 aspect ratio. Nearly all TVs currently being sold have a 16:9 aspect ratio.
However, if you're watching TV on a Cinema Wide set, you're almost guaranteed to see black bars running to the left and right of the screen, since most TV shows and sporting events nowadays are broadcast in a 16:9 aspect ratio.
Vizio says it will release its Cinema Wide sets (which will also be 3-D TVs) in both 50-inch and 58-inch sizes in the first six months of the year, with a 71-inch size to follow later.
The bargain-priced TV maker is also releasing a lineup of Google TV products including TVs running the Google TV software, Google TV Blu-Ray player and a set-top box called the Stream Player that will enable Google TV to run on any HD TV.
In 2012, Sony's Bravia line of TVs will be divided into three series — BX for entry-level models, EX at the mid range and HX at the top.
The high-end HX line will be made up of LED-backlit LCDs with 3-D and built-in Wi-Fi for Skype and Sony apps. The even higher-end HX850 series will also feature screens made of Coring's Gorilla Glass, which is easy to clean and scratch resistant, as well as thin and light. The HX series will be available in 46-inch and 55-inch sizes, each with a 1080p resolution.
The EX line won't have Gorilla Glass or 3-D, but these TVs will have built-in Wi-Fi and Sony apps and will be available in 40-inch, 46-inch and 55-inch sizes, each with a 1080p resolution.
The entry-level BX line from Sony will be made up of some pretty basic TVs. The BX450 series,will offer 1080p resolution in 46-inch and 40-inch sizes while the BX330 series will consist of one 31.5-inch set with a resolution of 720p, the lowest resolution that can still be classified as high definition.
Top photo: LG's press conference at CES 2012 in Las Vegas on Jan. 9. Credit: LG
Second image from top: LG's Google TV Smart TV set. Credit: LG
Third image from top: Vizio's Cinema Wide TV. Credit: Vizio
Bottom image: Sony's HX850 TV at an angle. Credit: Sony
It used to be that only "real" cameras had the cool lens accessories. But more and more are coming for the camera on your phone. One that caught my eye at CES gave a new perspective to iPhone video.
GoPano Micro — which really made me want to yell "up periscope!" — is a lens by EyeSee360 that lets your iPhone 4 and 4S shoot real-time 360-degree video. You attach it over the iPhone's camera using the case that comes with it. And in conjunction with a free app, you can shoot the scene around you with minimal effort.
The video isn't just panoramic. It's also interactive. You can tap the screen — or click in the video on your computer — to shift perspective and see what's on the other side of the camera. You can also flatten out the image to see all angles at the same time.
GoPano Micro sells for about $80.
– Michelle Maltais in Las Vegas
Are you the kind of person who loses your keys all the time but always seems to have your phone nearby?
Treehouse Labs has a leash for you. Its new lost-and-found system, Bikn (pronounced "beacon"), is basically two low-powered radios talking. One is on the case you put on your iPhone; the other is on the tags you attach to your stuff — or your people. Then the Bikn app connects them.
Some folks consider the ubiquitous smartphone a kind of leash. Now you can actually "leash" your favorite devices — and your two- and four-legged family members who might wander off — using the same device.
The kit performs two functions — tracking and "leashing." You can set a perimeter of near, medium or far. When your tagged person or item moves out of the established perimeter, an alarm sounds.
The $99 kit comes with two tags and the case. Additional kits come in pairs of two tags for $49. You can "leash" up to eight items.
Of course, you have to keep track of your iPhone — but I suppose that's what Find My Phone is for.
– Michelle Maltais in Las Vegas
Ever watch in slow-motion horror as your pricey smartphone leaves your hand too quickly and drops into water? Or maybe you forgot to take it out of your pocket after a workout or workday. The stories of toilet tragedies are myriad.
But, according to a Santa Ana start-up company at CES in Las Vegas, it doesn't mean your phone has to go down the drain. And maybe you can save the rice for dinner instead of for trying to save your phone.
With an iPhone sitting in a cylinder of cascading water, representatives from Liquipel were showing off their patent-pending coating that provides invisible armor against accidental water exposure at Start-up Debut at the Consumer Electronics Show.
This doesn't mean you can take you iPhone in the pool with you, but it might be a little more safe sitting on a towel nearby.
They were dunking iPhones nonstop. But for some reason, the tissue demonstration is the one that got my attention. (Although dropping an iPhone into water without warning is dramatic, the tissue example is more tangible.) Two dry tissues — one treated with Liquipel — are placed into a dish of water. You quickly see the difference.
They pushed it in the water, poured water on it. The thing refused to get wet. When you touch it, you feel that the treated tissue is just as nose-friendly as it should be.
I got some video of the demo. (Sorry, it's a little dark. The mood lighting in the Foundation Room might be conducive to meaningless connections, but it's a tad challenging when you're really trying to get to know the score.)
Danny McPhail, co-president of Liquipel, says the coating will outlast your phone. It permanently bonds with your device on a molecular level.
The company is "talking with manufacturers," according to McPhail. I asked whether the fact that the demo was exclusively with iPhones was any indication of where we might see the first treated phones for sale, but there was no confirmation.
While we have to wait to see which phones come packaged with it, the average clumsy consumer can have his or her phone treated for $59. The only challenge for the perpetually connected is that you have to give up your phone for a couple of days for treatment. I had to take oxygen because my phone was out for a few hours. They do offer a priority service for $10 more.
The Liquipel site lists 11 different kinds of phones (Apple iPhone 3G through 4S; HTC Evo 4G, Shift 4G, MyTouch 4G and Thunderbolt; Motorola Droid X and X2; and Samsung Charge) that can be treated with the vapor.
Frankly, it'd be great to not feel as if your phone might melt, like that green gal from Oz.
– Michelle Maltais in Las Vegas
What attendees and analysts are looking for right now is that sought-after, life-changing digital device that will define the show. Not going to happen, some analysts have said. Still, the show does have devices that could change, if not the world, your small corner of creation.
Gaze-interaction technology, which tracks eye movements, allows a user to navigate the Web using just his or her eyes. The technology obviously has wider implications than the Asteroids video game that Tobii Technology was using at the convention to demonstrate its software.
Allure Energy Inc.'s "wireless energy network" is part of the intelligent-home movement. You can use your mobile phone to communicate with your house, such as heating it or cooling it for when you get home. Automating energy use by hooking up appliances, thermostats, etc., to the Internet can help cut down on costs.
Hundreds of new TVs, smartphones and tablet computers are expected to be announced this week by exhibitors.
Still, enthusiasm for the show has been dampened as top firms — including Verizon Wireless, Motorola Mobility and T-Mobile, have scaled back their presence. Microsoft has its exit planned too, saying it wants to announce its products on its own timetable. And the absence of Apple has long spurred manufacturers to bring out Apple-type products, many of which quickly fade from the marketplace.
"If you really take all the big guys out of there, all you have is a bazaar," Roger Kay, an analyst at Endpoint Technologies Associates Inc., told The Times' David Sarno.
Yet a huge number of exhibitors and attendees are expected this year. Organizers said there were about 2,700 exhibitors and more than 150,000 people who would attend — the highest number since 2006. That turnout is in keeping with the estimated $1 trillion — yes, trillion — expected to be spent globally on tech devices in 2012.
"You're talking about a market of 3 1/2 billion people that all want TVs … phones," Steve Koenig of the Consumer Electronics Assn. told The Times' Andrea Chang. It's a huge opportunity, he said.
– Amy Hubbard
Photo: Nick Laperle displays SonoFit custom-fitted earphones at the Consumer Electronics Show on Sunday. Credit: Frederic J. Brown / AFP/Getty Images
"It underscores just the magnitude of this marketplace," said Steve Koenig, director of industry analysis at the Consumer Electronics Assn. "When you're talking about a market of 3 1/2 billion people that all want TVs, that all want phones, that's a huge market opportunity…. I don't know when we're going to hit $2 trillion, but with the pace of growth in these emerging economies, it probably won't take long."
As people around the world buy more tech gadgets, the industry is entering the second phase of the digital revolution. Consumers should expect the newest devices to become even more seamless in their lives; tech companies will be keenly focused on rolling out new smartphones and tablets that are multifunctional and can replace old-school products (sorry, camcorders).
Those findings were shared in two back-to-back news conferences Sunday during the media preview day at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, the first on the state of the industry and trends to look out for at CES, and the second on global market figures.
Tech experts told an overflow crowd of reporters — nearly all of them clicking away on laptops and tablets and snapping photos on their smartphones — that they expected slower growth in tech spending in developed countries like the U.S. but an explosion of spending in countries such as China and Brazil. One "sweet spot" in emerging markets will be low-cost smartphones; LCD televisions are also expected to do well.
Among the big trends expected to be seen at CES include devices that are geared more toward personalization and customization, said Shawn Dubravac, the Consumer Electronics Assn.'s chief economist and director of research.
He said he expected to see 20,000 new products launched during this year's show, one of the world's largest consumer electronics trade shows. Many of the products will be smartphones, and phone makers will be aiming to make the "pocketable devices more and more like full-fledged computers," Dubravac said.
Also expected at CES: 30 to 50 new ultrabooks, or super-thin and light laptops, as PC makers try to take share away from Apple's popular MacBook Air.
– Andrea Chang in Las Vegas
Photo: An ice sculpture at CES Unveiled at the Venetian in Las Vegas. Credit: Armand Emamdjomeh / Los Angeles Times
Siri, how do you say profit in Chinese?
One answer Apple's digital assistant might consider giving is: start selling the iPhone 4S in China. And starting on Jan. 13th, Apple will do just that.
The company said Wednesday that China will be among 22 countries that soon will get the newest iPhone, one of Apple's hottest-selling yet. The iPhone now accounts for nearly half of Apple's annual revenue, and some analysts believe it earns the company more than 60% of its profits.
China is one of the world's largest mobile device markets, with close to a billion cellphone users by some estimates. Apple currently partners with China Unicom, one of the larger carriers with close to 200 million cellular subscribers.
Apple said Wednesday it had no current plans to announce a partnership with China Mobile, the country's largest carrier with more than 630 million subscribers (a user base that, somewhat amazingly, is more than twice the size of the U.S. population). But for months now Apple has been rumored to be nailing down a deal with China Mobile, and millions of the carriers' customers are already using the iPhone by modifying the device to work on their network.
Will Siri actually be able to speak and understand Mandarin? Eventually, yes. An Apple spokesman said the company plans to add official language support in 2012 — and that will include Chinese. But Siri won't yet be multilingual when the phone hits Chinese stores this month.
— David Sarno
Photo: A couple look at an iPhone in Beijing in November. Credit: Diego Azubel / EPA
LG Electronics is set to debut an 84-inch "ultra definition" 4K television at next month's Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas.
And yes, the new TV set will be a 3-D TV as well. LG is calling the new 4K display "ultra definition" or "UD," to signal that this set can output a higher resolution image than current high-definition televisions.
So what is 4K exactly? It's the resolution that many believe will be the next step in high-definition standards for TVs and Web video. Today's current HD TV sets are either 1080p or 720p — each number indicating the amount of vertical pixel lines of resolution the HD sets can handle.
As the name suggests, 4K resolution images have 4,000 lines of resolution, but this time the name refrences horizontal resolution. Many of today's top digital cameras used by filmmakers are shooting in 4K.
"LG is pushing the limits of home entertainment innovation with this 3D UD TV," said Havis Kwon, the president and CEO of LG's home entertainment division, in a statement.
LG 84-inch 3-D TV will actually offer a resolution of 3,840 x 2,160 pixels, which by some standards is considered worthy of being called 4K.
The huge TV will also run apps using LG's Smart TV software, which offers more than 1,200 apps, such as Netflix, Hulu and Major League Baseball, and it will make use of LG's motion-sensing TV Magic Remote, which allows users to operate the TV using voice recognition or motion gestures.
The so-called UD TV will debut alongside two other massive LG sets at CES: a 55-inch organic-LED TV and a 72-inch LED-backlit 3-D TV. LG hasn't yet offered prices or details on when these TV will make it to store shelves.
– Nathan Olivarez-Giles
Photo: A model next to LG Electronic's 84-inch "ultra definition" 4K television. Credit: LG Electronics
LG is bringing some big TVs to January's Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas. Specifically, the world's largest Organic-LED TV, at 55 inches, and the world's largest 3D LED TV with a screen size of 72 inches.
The new television sets may or may not be considered affordable, but they surely will be large and probably will attract attention at the show to Korea's second-largest electronics maker, behind rival Samsung.
"Our objective has always been to actively define and lead emerging display technology markets," Sang Beom Han, chief executive and executive vice president of LG Display, told the Times of India newspaper about the massive new Organic-LED, or OLED, TV set that will debut at CES.
"Although OLED technology is seen as the future of TV display, the technology has been limited to smaller display sizes and by high costs, until now. LG Display's 55-inch OLED TV panel has overcome these barriers," Han told the newspaper.
The website Engadget reported that a prototype of LG's new OLED set came in at just 5-millimeters thick. LG hasn't yet said how much its new large-screen TVs will cost, but big screens don't come cheap, especially when they make use of OLED technology. As noted by the website Gizmodo, in 2009, LG introduced a a 15-inch OLED TV priced at $3,000.
Sony is also currently selling a wearable TV headset that contains two OLED displays that are just 0.7 inch big for $800.
[Updated, Dec. 28, 8:59 a.m.: An earlier version of this post incorecctly stated that LG released a 15-inch OLED TV for $2,500. That TV was priced at 3,000, as reported by the website Gizmodo. This post has been updated to correct this error.]
– Nathan Olivarez-Giles
Image: LG's 72-inch LZ9700 3D LED-backlit television. Credit: LG
Microsoft Corp., a 20-year stalwart of the annual Consumer Electronics Show, has decided to fold up its booth and move on after the 2012 show in January.
The company, which for years highlighted its own products and broader tech trends at the show's main keynote, said it felt that it would be better to make announcements on its own time. The company will no longer give the keynote or host a booth on the trade show floor.
"Our industry moves fast and changes faster," the company said in a statement. "And so the way we communicate with our customers must change in equally speedy ways."
The company said its decision had come after it asked itself, "Are we doing something because it’s the right thing to do, or because 'it’s the way we’ve always done it'?"
CES is one of the world's largest trade shows and annually attracts more than 100,000 visitors from far flung parts of the electronics industry. This year the show will have close to 2,700 exhibitors and more than 1.8 million square feet of floor space.
But the show, once a marquee launchpad for some of the biggest new technologies, has struggled to stay in the headlines as big companies increasingly announce new products on their own timeline. In 2011, no eye-openingly new products were announced at the Las Vegas show, and most companies chose to introduce televisions, tablets and smartphones that largely resembled existing products.
Apple Inc., arguably the industry's most popular and innovative company, does not participate in the show.
Microsoft Chief Executive Steve Ballmer will give the final keynote Jan. 9.
– David Sarno
Steve Ballmer speaks about the Xbox 360 system during his 2011 CES keynote. Credit: Andrew Harrer / Bloomberg