Phil Nickinson

A few (more) thoughts on the boss' favorites

We survived another one. Another week in Las Vegas. Another week at CES and forced narratives and crazy awesome tech that many of us won't ever be able to afford, right alongside crazy (crazy) tech that will never see the light of day once it's shipped back from the Las Vegas Convention Center.

That, friends, is CES, at least from the tech side.

For those of us on my end of the business, it's also one of the few times a year we see our work friends, folks spread out all over the world. We compete, sure, but that just makes us all better. And on occasion we sit and we eat and we drink and we talk about how lucky we are to get to do this in the first place, one-upping each other as we go.

And we get to put faces to readers. It's cliche, and it's absolutely an ego stroke, but I still love it when strangers come up just to say hi. It's important to remember that we do this for people and not just for readers. And seeing faces flips that switch. You remember that people care not just what you say, but that it's you saying it. When we forget that is when we tend to get in trouble and lose our way. So please don't ever be too shy to introduce yourself.

A few other thoughts on the CES that was ...

  • The Android Central Report Card: Grade: A-. This might have been my favorite CES (in recent memory, anyway — those early ones are kinda fuzzy) in terms of coverage. I think we covered just about everything we intended to cover, as well as we could with the limited number of folks we have. (Not that six is small, and not that any of us in Vegas was a lightweight, but in terms of sheer numbers we're hardly among the largest.)
  • Fancy Feast: I was particularly happy with the LG G Flex 2 preview, the work of Alex, Myriam and myself. And that we had a good 20 hours or so to work it up meant we could try it out on one of our fancy review templates — the first time we've done that for a traditional hands-on.
  • The show's big surprise: How crazy is it that the big scoop of the show was a beautiful LG watch running not Android but webOS? Alex did a great job actually tracking one down to take a closer look at, a day after we'd all gotten a cursory look and a cryptic "it runs an Android Wear variant" statement, which turned out to not be the case. The watch is gorgeous. I can't wait to see what LG does next for Android Wear.
  • Surprisingly good: I'll be perfectly honest, I hadn't expected much from the YotaPhone 2. This, of course, is the phone with an AMOLED display on one side and e-ink on the other. But you know what? It works. And it works pretty well. Yeah, the e-ink refresh rate isn't great. That's just the way it is. But if you're the sort who loves to customize home screens, you're going to want to play with it. Cost is going to be the big question — it runs around $700 in Europe. But seeing as how it's coming to a U.S. carrier, that should help. It's a weird phone, but it's absolutely worth a look.
  • Up and Atom: I'll have the Dell Venue 8 7000 tablet — see our hands-on — first thing Monday morning, and I'm very much looking forward to spending some time with it, and its Atom processor. The tablet itself is so thin, and I like the size and aspect ratio. As for Atom? I don't really know what to expect. Chances are it'll work great. At this point almost anything is a better overall experience than the slogfest that is the Nexus 9. Oh, and the price is right at $399.
  • The Eyes Have It: I love that little LG AKA. So much fun.
  • AAA: That stands for Aftermarket Android Auto. (Y'all can use that if you want.) And I'm stoked that it's coming. And I'm scared about the price. I get that I generally tend to lowball things in my head, but I'm going to have a hard time rationalizing spending $1,000 (at minimum) for one of the new low-end head units for a 2005 civic that only gets 20 miles or so a day.
  • Factory Job: The factory head units that also included Android Auto (and Apple's CarPlay, and I can't stress enough how great it is that manufacturers are supporting both) tended to go like this: "Hi, I'm Hyundai, and this is my head unit. I can do Android Auto, but that's an ancillary thing and I really want you to use my own stuff." Maybe I'm looking a gift horse in the mouth, though.
  • The Internet of Crap: The narrative that companies thrust on us this year is "The Internet of Things," which is great because it simultaneously means everything, and nothing. Right now the challenge is to figure out what's worth buying and then whether it'll work with the other stuff that's worth buying. Do I settle on "Works with Nest"? Or Samsung's Smart Things? Or any other other systems? Can I mix and match? We've got a lot of work ahead of us to make this mess easier for consumers and readers (and people, remember!) to understand.
  • The year of the forced narrative: Another lazy one that emerged early in the show. "It's the year of the selfie stick." Except it's not. They're not new. They're not everywhere, at least not like, say, smartphones or tablets or shoes and socks. That's editors looking around in the opening days and saying "What is this show about?" and demanding someone come up with something. It's lazy and it's superficial and completely misses what the show was "about."
  • What the show was about: "OK, Phil. You're so smart, tell us what the show was "about." Actually, I do think it was very much about IoT, as the companies would also like you to refer to it. But it's really about the beginning of IoT. There's so much to work out still. Unless you're an early adopter with cash to burn, I think it's a smart play to hold off for a while still. But that's not to say it's not exciting.
  • And CES was about backup plans: If there's one more thing we learned about last week, it's that Samsung and LG love their backup plans. Samsung's is Tizen, of course, an "openy" OS it plays a large part in developing. That's not new — it's been on its smartwatches for a while, but now it's going to be on Samsung televisions as well. But LG's very much using webOS as its in-house OS. And that also means that it's going to be a viable backup plan for smartphones and watches and everything else.
  • Backup plan? Or just an alternative? Why not both? It's going to be interesting to watch.

And that, for me, was CES 2015. Such a great job from all the folks there — Alex and Andrew and Richard and Russell and Justin and Myriam and Rene and Georgia and Anthony and Serenity and Dan and Mark and James and Derek and Adam and John P and Cali Lewis and all the incredible awesome GeekBeat friends we get to see a couple times a year.

Let's do it again. But not for another year.