Nothing's happening at CES, and that's great for phones

Nothing's happening at CES, and that's great for phones
We're here, so where are all the phones?

The big brands have nothing big to announce in Vegas this year – which means we're gearing up for huge smartphone news

I've just been to two press conferences from two brands that usually try to win CES each year. But this year both Sony and Samsung essentially talked at a roomful of people without saying very much.

OK, Samsung unleashed Phase II of its Chef range of home appliances, and Sony announced a new 4K Action Cam. Last year it was curved TVs, PlayStation Now, a new line of smartphone and hyper powerful tablets from the two. So where's the big news?

The reason is pretty clear: they don't want anything to diminish the impact of what's coming in just under two months at MWC 2015. Samsung knows it needs a massive smash hit with the Galaxy S6, and it certainly doesn't want to repeat the insanity of 2014, where it showed off the Tab Pro range in January and then made it obsolete with the superior Tab S line just five months later.

Sony's also going for impact. Last year was the Sony Xperia Z1 Compact's time to shine, where now that model will be launched alongside big brother. If, as expected, the Sony Xperia Z4 lands at MWC, it will probably be accompanied by the Z4 Tablet Ultra and the Z4 Compact, which will have a very good shot at being the most impressive and complete line up in Barcelona.

That's a great thing to be able to say when you're competing for coverage with nearly every other smartphone brand on the planet, and would be a very good reason as to why, at Sony's CES press conference, we watched the comapny's Chief Operating Officer hobnob with Tony Hawk for 10 minutes about his recent holiday.

Samsung is in the same boat: it wants the world to get so excited about the Galaxy S6 (and likely accompanying smartwatch) that it devoted its presser to explaining how much time it had spent talking to chefs to be told it needed to release an oven and a fridge. Oh, and that it had solved the age-old problem of having to move wet clothes from a sink to a washing machine by putting a sink in the machine itself.


Where are all the phones?

I'm not saying this stuff was useless, but this is CES, the place where the CD player, LaserDisc, Camcorder and NES all made their debuts. The trade show that you refused to miss in case you weren't there when the hover car was first shown off.

But this year it's all about TVs, crazy wearables and Netflix pottering around all the big TV brands and promising to improve their pixels. The fact Asus and Acer both launched (not half bad) smartphones at CES and got decent coverage shows there was space there for one of the brands to come in and steal the headlines – LG's upgraded slightly flexible phone (the LG G Flex 2) wasn't going to be enough.

So it's been a flat CES, but this just means that at the next trade show we'll get something really good – and given that's MWC and a boatload of phones, arguably the most popular technology at the moment, it's going to be great.

It means HTC will have to come out swinging with something great to out-do the marketing might of Samsung and Sony, hopefully improving the One M9 even further than the concepts we've seen recently.

OK, I'll be honest here. The reason I'm so annoyed about 2015 is there was no hoverboard. Given that Back To The Future promised me the tech was going to be here this year, surely CES 2015 would be the place to launch it.

Perhaps that's why no big phones were launched – you're never going to get interest from consumers if Marty McFly's escape vehicle of choice is unleashed at the same time.

Gareth Beavis
Formerly Global Editor in Chief

Gareth has been part of the consumer technology world in a career spanning three decades. He started life as a staff writer on the fledgling TechRadar, and has grown with the site (primarily as phones, tablets and wearables editor) until becoming Global Editor in Chief in 2018. Gareth has written over 4,000 articles for TechRadar, has contributed expert insight to a number of other publications, chaired panels on zeitgeist technologies, presented at the Gadget Show Live as well as representing the brand on TV and radio for multiple channels including Sky, BBC, ITV and Al-Jazeera. Passionate about fitness, he can bore anyone rigid about stress management, sleep tracking, heart rate variance as well as bemoaning something about the latest iPhone, Galaxy or OLED TV.