CTIA 2013: our top 5 moments

CTIA 2013
See you in Las Vegas!

The book is closed on the final spring CTIA ever. Starting in 2014, this show and the fall's MobileCon will be combined into one super show, and we must say, thank goodness.

While this conference wasn't completely lacking in new tech to check out and brains to pick, it was by and large a lackluster affair.

There were a few gems in the sands of this Expo center, however, and we've compiled our list of the top 5 moments from CTIA 2013 right here. Read on for the products and people that made the last Vegas stand worthwhile.

1. HTC comes clean on microSD issue

We've said it before and we'll say it again; the HTC One is a great phone. It's currently our favorite Android on the market, sitting atop our best smartphones list. But its detractors decry the lack of microSD, and it's not a complaint without merit.

So imagine the Android community's shock when pictures of the Japanese and Chinese versions of the phone surfaced, both sporting a removable back and microSD slot. What. The. Heck?

Chinese HTC

I'm different, yeah I'm different

HTC had been mum on its reasoning for this alternate Asian market version until we sat down with them at CTIA. A representative from the Taiwanese manufacturer explained the situation, and also commented on the fact that Verizon doesn't carry the phone. Apparently it came down to extra space available in Japan and China's version.

2. Ashton Kutcher gives a surprisingly good fireside chat

When it was first announced that Ashton Kutcher would be speaking on the last day of CTIA, eyes rolled. Sure the actor is something of a tech investment mogul, but would he really have anything interesting to say to room full of wireless professionals?

It turned out that the answer was yes. The "Two and a Half Men" star was joined by CNBC's Julie Boorstin for a fireside chat – a term that either needs to start actually involving fires or just go away entirely – for an illuminating and entertaining discussion.

Ashton Kutcher

Kelso pulls out his phone

With no major product announcements, this year's CTIA was awfully dry, and not just because it was in Las Vegas. Kutcher's observations about Twitter, Facebook, digital media distribution and his personal investments gave the show a lively shot in the arm. The actor was actor casual, comfortable, and just a little bit weird and profane. We were surprised by how much we enjoyed hearing him speak.

3. Hands on with the Lumia 928

For a wireless show, there weren't a whole a lot of phones at this year's CTIA. However, we did get some hands on time with the Lumia 928, the latest Windows Phone 8 device from Nokia.

Like the Lumia 925, which is T-Mobile only, this handsome little rectangle is also a carrier exclusive; you'll only find it on Verizon. However, just because it's on Big Red doesn't mean it comes in red: the 928 is black and white only. That's a change up for Nokia, who usually sells Lumias in every color under the sun.

Lumia 928

We think if you say the name three times fast, it will stick

We're just guessing here, but we have the feeling this may be the last plastic Lumia we see. The 925 is getting a lot of praise for its aluminum exterior. We wouldn't be surprised to see Nokia starting moving towards metal.

925, 928, if you're having a hard time keeping the two straight, you're not alone. We've even mixed them up on occasion. Nokia's naming conventions are getting a little bit arbitrary. We're wondering how they expect anyone to keep them all straight.

4. Viva Movil: too niche or totally needed?

Besides Kelso, Verizon's May 22 press conference was the most tizzy-inducing moment of CTIA. No one knew what Big Red had in store: its own HTC One? More 4G LTE markets? What???

When the time came, COO Marni Walden welcomed none other than Jennifer Lopez to the stage. Reading largely from a teleprompter, J. Lo walked us through her new venture - a mobile retail chain aimed specifically at Latinos called Viva Movil.

Jennifer Lopez

Can J. Lo sell this service?

With dedicated child play areas, all bilingual staff and ways to shop through social media, Lopez said Viva Movil will cater to the specific needs of first, second and third generations Latinos. It all sounded massively appealing, so we were left wondering: Why not bring this to all Verizon stores?

Walden didn't rule that out as a possibility, but will Latinos really flock to separate retail outlets to buy their phones? How will "everyone else" feel about not having a catered shopping experience?

Viva Movil is up and running online already, but we'll find out how this partnership really pans out when Viva's first store opens June 15.

5. Rugged and cheap phones rule the show

Perhaps they fit with the rocky hills that encapsulate the oasis that is Las Vegas, but there were an inordinate amount of ruggedized handsets at this year's CTIA. Not that that's a bad thing, but we couldn't help notice the theme popping up at every turn.

First we saw the Cat B15, a handset made under the banner of the Caterpillar equipment company. Though not your top of the line device, the promise of a phone that can survive a face plant and water submersion is mighty tempting.

Cat B15 next to shattered phone

You can't argue with results

Hopefully, the B15 and other CTIA attendees like the Kyocero Hydro Edge and Hydro XTRM enter a two-way street with the handsets we're used to seeing: The former might gain a little refinement while the latter some elegance and more powerful specifications.

As time goes by, we expect to see a blending of these two worlds take place, and we can always look back at CTIA 2013 as a watershed moment.