Travel Tips

Standout Gadgets & Gear to Come out in 2013

Last week the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) came and went. We’ve already told you about the products that miss the mark (as well as the smarter alternatives). Now gadget expert Phil Baker shares the standout products of CES 2013.

A visit to CES is an opportunity to confront the reality of the consumer electronics business, a $200 billion-plus industry in the United States alone.

There are thousands of products that will not be here next year. Why? Because there are dozens and even hundreds of companies all selling essentially the same stuff, and only a few will get distribution and find enough customers.

The products that have few barriers to entry and are easy to replicate, such as iPhone cases, power adapters, and other accessories, are the hardest ones to break out. Too bad they make up about half of this year’s exhibitors.

Cases & Chargers

The pavilion of Apple-related products called iLounge (managed by the website of the same name) could just as easily be called iCase for the hundreds of case companies. Among the them were a few standouts:

  • Element Cases showed a line of high-end cases, some made of metal, which wrap around the phone’s perimeter, priced at about $100.
  • Incipio, an Irvine-based company, showed a broad range of attractive cases, including some with extended batteries for both iPhones and the Samsung Galaxy III.
  • Mophie, the early leader in the battery case category, notably had no product for the iPhone 5.

There were the hundreds of companies showing car and home chargers, Ventev’s Wallport and Dashport models stood out for their beautiful industrial design and functionality. They can rapid-charge two mobile devices regardless of make or model, singly or two at a time. Their Eco Charger uses one-hundredth the standby power compared to ordinary chargers.

Cellular Plans

At the show, T-Mobile announced an attractive new pricing plan. Its Unlimited Nationwide 4G Data plan offers no-contract, unlimited 4G data for $70 per month.

Republic Wireless introduced its Wi-Fi smartphones nationwide plan that offers unlimited data, text and voice service for $19 per month. Republic keeps rates low by using a hybrid Wi-Fi cellular calling network that uses a combination of home, office and public hot spot Wi-Fi as its main network and the nationwide network of Sprint when Wi-Fi is not available. I’ll be doing a follow up column on this service when I have a chance to try it out.

Portable Audio

Another category with lots of activity is portable audio. Numerous companies introduced headphones with a focus on style, trying to ride on the phenomenal success of the Beats By Dre Series. Bose feeble attempt to be hip is to add color to its staid headphones. Portable speakers were everywhere, trying to compete with the Jambox and the Beats Pill.

It’s not just headphones, but cars. Harman Kardon introduced a system that lets you play Internet radio stations in your car as easily as regular stations. Its Aha system is being marketed to automobile companies to be installed as part of their entertainment system. Connection to the Internet is made via your cell phone.