The Fitbit Flex is, so far, the most interesting product I've witnessed emerge from the seemingly bottomless depths of CES news.
Built atop an always-on Bluetooth 4.0 connection, the Flex is able to keep your phone seamlessly up-to-date with your current activity and information. Compared to the physical connection necessitated by the Jawbone Up and Nike's button pushing mechanism for the Fuelband, this is a subtle, yet wonderful improvement.
Moreover, boasting a minimal design, an adjustable strap, and interchangeable bands, the Flex offers a great many advantages over its existing competitors. Above all else, though, is Fitbit's well-documented friendliness toward third party services and apps. Rather than relegating your data to the confines of Fitbit's own apps — like Jawbone — Fitbit allows your content to proliferate across a variety of platforms.
2013 is going to be a year of bridging the tangible and digital worlds with intelligent accessories and the Flex stands at the forefront of this shift. Perhaps its intentions are not quite as audacious as those of Google Glass, but it's nevertheless a compelling, fun, and helpful product — one that I'll certainly be taking a serious look at when it arrives at market in Spring 2013.
You can pre-order the Flex from Fitbit now.
Nvidia's Project Shield has been deemed a "surprise" of CES, but the news caught me in a decidedly more mundane light. Each year, we're greeted with some sort of odd-form-factor pseudo-gaming device aimed toward the die-hard PC gaming sector. This year was clearly no exception.
Although I'm impressed by Nvidia's audacity in building its own device with some interesting interconnectivity features, I'd certainly not consider it a surprise. Nor would I consider it an extremely exciting project.
To me, Project Shield appears to be more of a conceptual experiment than an actual consumer product. I can't imagine seeing someone using one of these devices at home, let alone in a coffe shop. It lacks the panache and style of a well-designed mobile device, whilst boasting some late-nineties PC gaming designs that are unfortunate, at best.
Nevertheless, I'm pleased Nvidia is experimenting. If there's anything that's great about CES, it's the sense of unabated innovation and experimentation, and Project Shield summarizes that in one garish green package.
There's a growing undercurrent of positive news swirling around Android at CES. Most obviously, stock Android is undergoing a well-deserved resurgence. From the aforementioned Project Shield to Vizio's lightweight 7-inch tablet, manufacturers are increasingly opting to implement stock Android experiences for their product-lines.
Although this is an admittedly small sampling, it's nevertheless an encouraging trend for the new year — one that I believe will continue to characterize much of the future for Android devices. (Although some people strongly disagree with this assessment.)
Moreover, with the rise of smart appliances, cameras, and more, Android is moving quickly toward a role as a foundational technology across a variety of products. Regardless of whatever issues people may have with Android, it's role in the rise of so-called intelligent appliances is insurmountable.
Whilst some might read that in a negative light, I derive a great deal of optimism. As Google's design language improves, the OS stabilizes, and the potential continues to grow, Android is becoming an ever-increasingly attractive option across a variety of hardware — not just phones and tablets. And that's something worth being — at the very least — interested in.
More than any other year in recent memory, negativity regarding CES has reached a fever pitch. Centering around the Apple community, writers have expressed their traditional disinterest in the product announcements, news, and prototypes emerging from Las Vegas.
But, this year, the negativity has graduated from funny to obnoxious. Yes, we get it, you don't care about conceptual products and designs from the likes of Samsung and Asus. Yes, we get it, you don't like Windows 8 and Android. That's lovely and all, but is there really a need to subject broad swathes of readers to mind-numbing reasoning why 4k televisions bore you. Publications like BuzzFeed even went as far as to write an extensive articles explaining why they have no interest in attending CES.
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In my eyes, CES remains an important event for the technology industry. Innovation, regardless of the quality or quantity, is an exciting and compelling thing to behold. And, despite what you might be told, it certainly has a bearing over where other companies — like Amazon, Apple, Google, and Microsoft — might be headed in the coming year.
Sticking your fingers in your ears and ignoring technology news because you might not buy it is utterly boring. There's exciting movements in the industry, fun products being built, and innovative design being dabbled with in a variety of areas.
Playing the role of the technical stickler and decrying such news is profoundly boring. Moreover, it casts you in precisely the role of the anti-Apple commentator that we're all quite so sick of.
So, you know, maybe we can collectively move on? Maybe we can appreciate innovation for what it is, rather than mundanely writing about why we're so far above the work and efforts of companies outside of our respective spectrums. Maybe we can stop pointing at the worst of the worst as evidence of the irrelevance of CES and start talking about some of the lesser appreciated trends occurring in those halls.
There's plenty to look at, consider, and write about beyond our forced senses of dissatisfaction.