CES 2015 – Life beyond Smartphones

Samsung Corp’s disappointing quarter financial results, especially from its Mobile division, were a wake-up call for all manufacturers to be less dependent on smartphones. Euromonitor International looks at some interesting products from the Consumer Electronics Show 2015 (CES 2015).

CES

Source: Misfit, LG and Dell

Misfit Swarovski Shine – passive wearable electronics

Our earlier global briefing on wearable electronics published identified battery life and habit forming as issues to be solved by manufacturers.  Swarovski, a company synonymous with cut crystal and fashion jewellery, has collaborated with a tech-company, Misfit, possibly solving these problems. The violet Swarovski Shine uses a patented “energy crystal” technology to power itself by exposing the violet Swarovski Shine to light to keep it charged.

In addition, fashion accessories are a key element of a lady’s wardrobe and eliminate the “techie” and inelegant look of a smartwatch (autonomous wearable electronics) like Galaxy Gear. However, the product by Misfit and Swarovski addresses a small section of a market projected to grow more than two-fold from 2015 to US$20 billion in 2016.

Autonomous wearable electronics like Apple Watch and Galaxy Gear are a lot more power-hungry than passive wearable electronics like the violet Swarovski Shine, due to excessive functionality like heart rate monitors and notifications. There will be added pressure on manufacturers like Apple and Samsung to improve on the battery life on current and future products.

LG EG9900 – OLED TVs

LG is playing catch up with its more illustrious Korean chaebol, Samsung, and is embarking on a different path by pushing OLED TVs, with a flexible TV that can be made to curve slightly via voice command. The OLED TV also runs off LG’s WebOS in addition to the now-mandatory ultra-high definition resolution of any flagship models.

While OLED TV is technologically superior to current LCD panels, the cost of large-sized panels for TV will prove to be prohibitive and restrict actual sales of OLED TVs. Nonetheless, LG will continue to forge ahead on its OLED production as the new panel technology could propel LG to overtake Samsung as the market leader in TVs. At worse, LG involvement in OLED can be used to show that the Seoul-based manufacturer is an innovator and not just a fast follower in the technology domain.

Quantum dots – LCD TVs

While OLED panels are touted as the future of display technology, there is a lot more to improve on existing LCD panels, with Ultra HD and curved displays at the forefront of technological development. Most TV manufacturers are dependent on LG and Samsung for display panels and thus, do not have the financial resources and technical knowledge to develop OLED TVs. Quantum dots is another technology that manufacturers are developing for LCD TVs. Quantum dots are added as a layer on top of an LCD TV LED backlighting to fine tune the light that makes it through. Quantum dots can improve the colour gamut and at a fraction of cost compared to OLED displays. Sony’s Triluminos TV, which was launched in early 2014, utitlised quantum dots and all TV manufacturers – LG included – will be pushing quantum dots on their LCD TVs too.

Dell XPS 13 – laptops

Pundits were writing the obituaries of laptops when the first generation iPad was launched in 2010. Euromonitor International has always stressed that tablets and laptops can coexist and consumers are not necessarily choosing one over the other. Dell showcased the Dell XPS 13, which the company claims to have the longest battery life (up to 15 hours) and a thin 5.2mm bezel around the display panel. With the thin bezel, the Dell XPS 13 has a form factor of a conventional 11-inch laptop with a long battery life.

With Intel’s new generation processors (Broadwell), this enables computer manufacturers to develop laptops and tablets with long battery life and fanless design and thus, slimmer and lighter laptops. We should see a lot more laptops, like Lenovo’s LaVie Z and netbook, that are beautifully designed and competitively priced in 2015.

Renewed focus on innovations

It is heartening to see manufacturers looking at products beyond just smartphones and wearable electronics. The renewed focus also shows that manufacturers are willing to reimagine existing technologies and improve on them, rather than blindly chasing the next big thing. With developed markets like the US and Western Europe slowing down in the forecast period, manufacturers are wary and reluctant to invest in new technologies without any guarantee of success. Improving on current technologies like quantum dots, and making slimmer laptops are safe bets. On the other hand, manufacturers like LG, which are willing to invest in new technologies like OLED will be richly rewarded, as the technology matures and cost to mass produce is reduced significantly.

 

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