CTIA Wireless 2011 (March 21-24, 2011) was just as enthralled with tablet PCs as the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) was a couple months earlier. Several mobile device manufacturers including LG, Samsung, and HTC took the opportunity to announce new tablet products which conspicuously targeted the Apple iPad franchise. Apple, as always, was notably absent from CTIA just as for CES.
While Motorola used CES 2011 in January to announce and demo its Xoom tablet, Apple rolled out the iPad2 on March 2 and appears to have upstaged its rivals in the tablet space. Initial sales of the iPad2 have been so brisk that there is a reported several week delay in filling orders. Clearly, many consumers have not been withholding their tablet buying decision until they have a chance to see the latest offerings from Blackberry, Samsung, LG, HTC and others.
In general, tablet developers are trying hard to differentiate their designs even as most toe the Apple line on their tablet pricing, which for most, is remarkably uniform. Samsung at its "Unpacked" press event announced focused on it tablets which will be offered in a wide range of sizes. Samsung took pains to make the point that their studies have made it clear that different users desire different size tablets (and notably not the 9.7 inch diagonal screen size fielded by Apple in the iPad).
Samsung is offering tablets at nearly every conceivable screen size - The original Galaxy Tab 7 inch, and the new 8.9 and 10.1 inch display Galaxy Tab products. These screen dimensions apparently led to Samsung’s only slightly puzzling opening tag line for their "Unpacked" press event on Tuesday - "7 8 9 10."
J.K. Shin, President and Head of Samsung’s Mobile Communications Business said that the newly introduced tablets, "…show our dedication to designing premium tablets that fit the unique needs of consumers around the world." The videos presented at "Unpacked" delivered use cases supporting the range of tablet sizes offered. It will now be interesting to see how these various tablet sizes are adopted by users.
LG for its part is differentiating their tablet product introduction - the LG G-Slate previously shown at CES 2011 - with the inclusion of 3D image capture and display capability. The LG G-Slate has a 3D rear facing camera, like the LG Optimus 3D Android smartphone, soon to be offered by AT&T as the LG Thrill 4G. However, while the Optimus 3D that has an autostereoscopic display, the G-Slate relies on anaglyph 3D viewing on the tablet, but it does include an HDMI wired port for output to a 3D capable HDTV. LG has taken a clever step announced in February at Mobile World Congress by partnering with Google to allow users to upload and share 3D video content to YouTube.
Given that many current tablet developers also offer smartphones, essentially tablet like devices with smaller screens, making the rounds of exhibitor’s booths at CTIA is actually getting a bit boring as one sees tablet after tablet with displays ranging in size from 3, 4, 5, 7, 8.9, 10.1 inch and so on.
However, there were some interesting display developments in mobile devices at CTIA 2011. Kyocera for one, was showing an interesting Android smartphone with two equally sized displays that articulate so as to provide the user with a larger viewing area with only a small seam separating the two. The Kyocera hinged display mechanism worked solidly and the two displays can be used to extend the user’s desktop or alternatively to display complementary views. The Kyocera Echo will be available exclusively on the Sprint mobile network.
In addition to tablets and the Kyocera Echo and Optimus 3D smartphones, there were a number of interesting display applications shown in upcoming mobile phones. We will discuss these additional developments and our CTIA 2011 coverage in the upcoming issue of Insight Media’s Mobile Display Report.
One disappointment at CTIA was the absence of NTT DoCoMo of Japan and an empty booth space on the exhibit floor (see photo). DoCoMo is always one of my favorite booth tours at CTIA owing to their always unique and interesting product concepts. However, the Japanese earthquake and tsunami disaster required that NTT focus their efforts on the home front rather than exhibiting at CTIA. To our Japanese friends and colleagues, we wish you well with your recovery efforts and hope to see you again in the future. -Phil Wright