CTIA 2013: our top 5 moments
28th May 2013 | 13:05
The last spring CTIA is a wrap
Top 5 moments
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?
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
News and reviews from CTIA 2013
Interested what we witnessed at this year's conference? Though it lacked in major thrills, CTIA 2013 had it's fair share of happenings.
Ashton Kutcher waxes mobile
Though at times we were reminded of his "That 70's Show" character, actor and tech investor Ashton Kutcher actually spoke quite eloquently on social media, mobile investments and apps.
He was a refreshing mix of knowledge and non-affected cool, with as many harsh words as compliments.
Digital Life by AT&T is just the beginning
Think "AT&T" and you jump to phones, wireless contracts and a blue-lined orb. But with Digital Life, it's home automation and security system, AT&T wants you to know there's much more to its services.
We sat down with Digital Life President Kevin Petersen for some insight into why AT&T wanted to get into the home security biz, how it differs from the competition, and what lays ahead for Life.
Exclusive: Still no HTC One for Verizon
Given that, minds reeled when images of the Japan and China's version of the One emerged sporting, you guessed it, a microSD slot. So when we met with HTC in Vegas, we had to say "what gives?" HTC answered straightaway.
We also prodded a bit about Verizon. Big Red isn't carrying the One, and doesn't seem to have any plans for it. HTC was more coy with this one, but we think our analysis is worth a read.
Jennifer Lopez launches Viva Movil with Verizon
Big Red's press conference was just about the most exciting thing to go down at CTIA, thanks in no small part to the star power lent by Jennifer Lopez.
Lopez is launching a mobile retail chain designed specifically towards Latinos called Viva Movil. Verizon is the exclusive wireless provider, though as no stake in the company.
What sets Viva apart from any another retailer? Try bilingual staff, kids play areas and a heavy helping of social media.
Nokia still betting on Windows Phone 8
Nokia's Lumia line is all-in on WIndows Phone 8. What's more, its Verizon exclusive Lumia 928 was on the show floor, and we took the opportunity to check it out.
This is easily the skinniest Lumia we've seen yet, with less than a half-inch of thickness. It's also more subdued, available in just black and white.
It's a good looking device, if a bit slippery with its all plastic body. Verizon customers may actually be jealous of the metal Lumia 925, coming soon to T-Mobile.
Wal-mart isn't threatened by mobile
It's an issue that's been around for a while now: brick-and-mortar retailers face the threat of the online world. Now that people can buy their goods from Amazon, why drive to a physical location?
On the flip side, some consumers bemoan the sense that online shopping lacks the personal touch of in-store shopping.
Gibu Thomas, Wal-mart's head of mobile, said during CTIA's Day 2 keynote that smartphones can actually give consumers the one-on-one buying experience the company's founder, Sam Walton, envisioned when he founded what has turned into a mega-retail corporation.
Through features found on the Wal-mart app like smart shopping lists and voice recognition, consumers can experience a smarter way to shop. The company is also developing a way to scan items as they wander the isles, and with a single scan can check out and pay before heading home.
There's real economic benefit for stores: Thomas said that in-store purchases influenced by mobile devices could eventually surpass the growth potential for e-commerce, reaching $700 billion.
Cars + 4G = ?
Connected cars are still in the early stages, but here at CTIA GM wanted to show was a vehicle with built-in 4G actually looks like.
The Cadillac ATS with AT&T 4G features here is only a prototype, but it gives a good look at to what high-speed connections mean for our rides.
Whether it's streaming videos to passengers or viewing what's going on outside your car thanks to streams sent from outside mounted cameras to your mobile device, the future of 4G and vehicles looks mighty bright.
CTIA transforming into 'super show'
The opening day's key note speech had some interesting insights into the future of CTIA Wireless.
It was announced that CTIA is moving away from having two separate shows, and will merge them both into one super show that will be held in the fall.
Read more about the future of the CTIA Wireless show.
Cat B15 makes US stand
On the first day of CTIA (OK, it's not officially underway yet) we got to rub elbows with the Cat B15; a rugged, rubberized handset from the people behind Caterpillar.
Hands on: Cat B15 review
If Android 4.1, a dual-core processor and $349 without a contract don't appeal to you, then perhaps the fact it can survive a 5.9-foot drop and survive for 30 minutes in 3.2-feet of water may play to your gritty side.
Here's what we were hoping to see before the show's kick off:
Sit-down with Sprint
Pull up a seat. It's time to talk Sprint.
There's a lot going on with America's third place carrier, least of which are bids by two parties to purchase the company outright.
We plan to get to get a read on which way Sprint is leaning - Dish or Softbank, as epic a decision as Jacob or Edward - plus how the company plans to compete in the 4G LTE space when we have some one-on-one time with the company in the Vegas desert (OK, it will be an air-conditioned hotel, but you get the idea).
There's much more to come, but know we have it out to sniff what's up with Sprint.
This Digital Life
The carrier plans to bring D.L. up to 50 markets by the end of the year, and we expect to hear a good amount about how these plans are progressing at CTIA.
Kevin Petersen, senior vice president at Digital Life, is giving a keynote speech during "Connections," a connected home conference within the larger CTIA umbrella. We also have some sit down time scheduled with Petersen during the conference, where we'll pick his brain on where Digital Life is going on how AT&T plans to take it there.
Though it's not a flashy new phone, as connected homes become a greater part of the digital conversation (just look at CES 2013), we envision many more companies jumping on the bandwagon and offering service's such as this. We'll look for insights on the march towards a more connected life at CTIA, so stay tuned for more.
Verizon wants us to save the date
What's this in our inbox? A save the date invite from Verizon for May 22?
"Join Verizon Wireless for a Special Announcement at CTIA," it read. Intriguing.
During MobileCon, Verizon reveled in it's 4G LTE dominance, and we wouldn't be surprised if the company took yet another opportunity to talk up just how many American's its high-speed network covers.
Another take is that we'll get word on a new product, with our hearts hoping it's Verizon's own version of the HTC One.
TechRadar will be there live, so tune in at 11 a.m. May 22 for more.
Deutsche Telekom talks T-Mobile
Thomas Kiessling, chief product and innovation officer at Deutsche Telekom - T-Mobile's parent company - is scheduled to deliver a keynote speech during CTIA 2013.
Kiessling's job description alone is reason enough to want to hear what the PhD has to say: According to his bio blurb on the CTIA website, Kiessling is in charge of Group-wide innovation strategy, product development and corporate R&D. He controls DT's product portfolio and defines the amorphous Group's product roadmap.
Inviting enough, but we expect Kiessling to give us a little taste of T-Mo-related news during his speech.
The carrier only recently completely re-invented itself, doing away with annual contracts and offering premium phones at up-front affordable prices. Handsets like the iPhone 5 recently landed on its door step, and more - such as the Galaxy S4 and HTC One - are on the horizon.
As if it wasn't busy enough, T-Mo is also pushing 4G LTE out a steady clip and plans to blanket 100 million U.S. customers by mid-year, so we expect Kiessling to have many topics to talk about.
Sprint, AT&T and U.S. Cellular spill on consumer goods
Based on our MobileCon experience, carriers are more keen on talking up the enterprise side of things than the consumer side, but that's only on surface.
Once they get chatting, carriers are quite willing to spill the goods on things that matter to the Average Joe.
We'll pin Sprint, AT&T and U.S. Cellular down to talk coverage, competition and upcoming devices at CTIA. In fact, Mary Dillon, president and CEO of U.S. Cellular, will be in the house, so we fully expect to get the low down on the smaller carrier's plans for growth. It intends to sell Samsung's S4, so you know this "little guy" has some big offerings.
We expect news from all of the above on how many Americans each is covering with 4G LTE, whether anyone is working on LTE Advanced, and insight into newly announced and still unrevealed devices.
Sony elaborates on contactless ecostyem
Sony, which made a splash at CES and MWC, is heading to Sin City for CTIA, but plans to show a slightly different side of its business than mobile phones specifically.
At the Sony booth, there will be plenty of near-field communications (NFC)/FeliCa enabled devices and products that fit into the lattice work of what it calles the "contactless ecosystem." FeliCa, by the way, is a contactless IC card that Sony developed for transactions that can be completed in approx. 0.1 seconds.
We'll see the company's NFC Dynamic Tag tech and the uses it has in both healthcare and wellness through a variety of OEM partner products.
We're anxious to see what Sony has in mind for this tech. Are we talking connected home, advanced transactions at various retail locations, improved healthcare and fitness, or a everything under the contactless sun?
Sony is sure to have plenty of answers.
American Express, Visa vent on NFC
Speaking of NFC, both Visa and American Express (through its Open proxy) will hit the Strip for some convention love, and we're gearing up to hear how we can knock down our credit card payments.
With the States' preeminent credit card companies occupying a chunk of exhibit space at a mobile-focused show, we can only expect some NFC and other mobile commerce-related announcements and products to rear their head.
At MobileCon we got an earful from industry leaders in the mobile commerce space on challenges facing mobile wallets, but what solutions do traditional credit card companies have to offer for a world that is increasingly mobile?
How can we keep sensitive information secure while also bringing greater convenience to our lives, particularly as a growing number of mobile devices adopt NFC tech?
We expect to find out all at CTIA.
Is your phone App-solutely secure?
As more and more of our personal and professional lives gets tucked away onto phones, tablets and laptops, mobile security is an inescapable concern. So how secure would you say your phone is? Or that app you used to pay your friend back for lunch?
If we've gotten you a bit nervous, perhaps a trip to App-solutely Security: The State of Mobile Security, will make you feel better. Or maybe it won't. It all depends on the conclusions drawn at this half-day educational event. It kicks off at 1pm on May 20, with a cocktail reception to calm worried nerves to follow.
Qualcomm calms down while giving us an earful
Qualcomm and Vegas seem to go together like a bachelor party and bottle service - not well.
The chip maker had a press conference it would probably like to forget at CES 2013, and thankfully its CTIA presence will be more subdued....we think.
Mass production of its 2.3GHz Snapdragon 800 processor is supposed to get underway in May, and we don't think Qualcomm will miss the chance to quack about its chips in Vegas. Perhaps we'll even catch a whiff of when the 800 will start making it out to phones and tablets, and which ones will house it.
During MWC 2013, the company spoke at length about how its chips can help solve 4G LTE fragmentation in the U.S. and Europe, and we expect much of that dialogue to carry over into CTIA as well.
We just hope we don't see Big Bird running around.
Enter the iZone
Apple is ever the host, never the guest. It either puts on an event, or doesn't show up at all. So while you'd never catch an official iPhone presence at a CTIA show, there's always a plethora of booths hawking the latest case or accessory for the MacBook, iPhone, iPad or whatever iThing is coming down the pipes.
This year, CTIA has officially acknowledged the abundance of Apple accessories in attendance by granting them their own section of the show. They'll all be corralled in the iZone, a 17,000 square foot shrine to some of the world's most popular mobile devices. CTIA already published a list of iZone denizens, which includes noted case maker Incase, maker of stylish phone and laptop skins DecalGirl, and screen protection mogul iShieldz, to name a few.
Obviously, these manufacturers aren't limiting themselves to just iPhone and iPad accessories. Maybe they'll already be selling straps for the rumored Apple iWatch?
The wonderful World of Tablets
Tablets have quickly become a common device for everyday life. They're a great way to read, game, browse the web or occasionally get some work done. But for as much as they already do for us, there are those that are looking ahead to see how tablets can do more, and remain secure while doing so.
The World of Tablets will take place on May 22 from 11:30am - 5:30pm. Host Open Path products has already published a laundry list of subjects it plans to broach. Here are the ones we find most intriguing:
- Tablet strategies to increase productivity
Will that mean blocking games like The Walking Dead and Infinity Blade II? We hope not.
- The rise of phablets
Can we address renaming/eliminating that awkward term?
- Tablets and interactive television: The second screen revolution
SmartGlass and HBO GO are a match made in heaven, unless you'd like to actually concentrate on your show.
- Consumer usage habits- What will they pay for?
A very good question, since being free and charging a mere ninety-nine cents can mean a huge difference in downloads. A lot of companies are still trying to crack this one.
Ashton Kutcher and J. Lo?
CTIA's suit and tie crowd may be surprised to learn that Ashton Kutcher, of "That 70's Show" fame, will be featured as a keynote speaker. Kutcher made waves in the early days of Twitter, beating CNN in a race to one million Twitter followers. More recently, he's taken on the meaty role of playing Apple founder Steve Jobs in an upcoming biopic, not to be confused with the one Aaron Sorkin is currently writing.
So Kutcher is obviously a modern dude who loves tech, but what does he have to offer the CTIA crowd? Perhaps a cautionary tale about thinking before you tweet? Kutcher had an awkward moment in November of 2011 when he tweeted "How do you fire Jo Pa? #insult #noclass as a hawkeye fan I find it in poor taste," unaware that a Penn State sex abuse scandal was breaking. Obviously, he's apologized, and has since handed the keys to his Twitter account over to his PR team. We wonder what the man would suggest for those without PR hacks to give our tweets a once over.
Jennifer Lopez is best known for her role in 'Selena,' as a judge on "American Idol" and for that Grammy dress, but Jenny from the Block is also the chairman and CEO of Nuyorican Productions Inc., a film and television company.
OK, that may still be too "Hollywood" for the subject matter of CTIA, but Ms. Lopez is participating in a panel on the growth of Latino mobile use. She'll be joined by Verizon COO and Executive VP Marni Walden as well as Brightstar chairman and CEO Marcelo Claure. We expect some fascinating insights and ideas about new innovations - and how those can be shared by more people - to come out of the discussion.
A three-day AppWeek
Love apps? Of course you do. So make a visit to the Mobile Apps Pavilion in the middle of the CTIA show floor. For three days it'll be home to specialty app designers and their products. While that's a few ticks short of a week, we'll let them get away with it. They're promising a place to sit down, kick up your feet and watch demos of new and upcoming apps on big screen televisions.
These aren't the typical apps you'll find on Google Play or iTunes, either. This is mobile software designed for internal use with government, medical, financial, entertainment and other industries. Pay a visit and you just might find the mobile designer your business needs, or get inspired for a new way to be productive on your device of choice.