5G, Hype & Vaporware: Why CES 2019 Was Boring


CES 2019 is pretty much over now, with all of the major announcements having taken place already, and the show floor is now open to the public. The world's largest tech show brings a lot of interesting things to Las Vegas, but a lot of it falls into three main categories. Products were in reference to 5G – with plenty of demoes. There were plenty of announcements meant to build hype around something, likely because the product isn't ready to be shown off. Or, it's just plain vaporware, meaning it's something that we will likely never get to see outside of CES. Trade-shows like this are full of "concepts" essentially companies showing off what they can do, even if it is not at a massive scale just yet. Though there were a lot of products announced at CES that are actually available for pre-order right now and ship either this month or next. So it's not all vaporware, but the majority of it is.

As expected, 5G was a big talking point this year

At CES this year, you really couldn't talk to any company at the show without hearing about 5G. It's, to take a phrase from Samsung "the next big thing", not just in mobile but in tech. Over the last few years, we've been seeing more and more talk around 5G. And now we are actually seeing some 5G networks pop up around the US in a few markets. Though that is still early 5G technology, which is "slow" compared to where it will be in a year or two – as well as what carriers are promising. Many companies spent the show talking about how 5G will enable different things, like being able to control self-driving cars over a 5G connection due to the much lower latency. There was also a ton of 5G demoes going on at CES 2019 this year, mostly from Intel, who didn't have a whole lot to talk about in regards to the new technology. Though Intel has also been left behind in mobile, so that could be why.


Though the biggest talk of the show, in regards to 5G was AT&T's update that started rolling out, updating some phones to show "5G E" instead of a "4G LTE" icon in its status bar. Immediately following the announcement that these updates were rolling out – to phones like the LG V40 ThinQ and Samsung Galaxy S8 Active – its competitors came out to shame them. T-Mobile shared a short video of them "upgrading" an iPhone to 9G using a small Post-It Note. Verizon shared a press release saying that they will not call their 4G network a 5G network, and urging the rest of the industry to do the same. While Sprint came out and said that AT&T was "blatantly misleading consumers". In response to this, AT&T said that all of the attention makes "us smile". Which means that AT&T likely won't be rolling back that update to those phones, and will continue to update its other Android smartphones with that new network indicator.

Plenty of hype around 5G, Self-Driving vehicles, AI and moreĀ 

Trade-shows are generally full of hype, but this year, the subjects that were being hyped are the same things we've been hearing about for years. As mentioned already, 5G is still in the "hype" stage. Companies are promising these great speeds that are going to change things like being able to stream VR in real-time, but there's still no real 5G network available. AT&T and Verizon do have some markets with 5G now, but it's not the full 5G experience – mostly because these standards have not yet been approved. There's also still plenty of hype around self-driving vehicles this year. Daimler actually showed off its self-driving semi-truck. Now this semi-truck is not fully autonomous, but it will help truck drivers drive safer, which is important seeing as these drivers are typically driving 12+ hours a day, and most accidents are due to truckers. AI is another space where hype has really taken over, though we are actually seeing artificial intelligence in action already, so it's not quite as bad as 5G and self-driving vehicles. Eventually, companies are expecting AI to do virtually everything for us, and for some, that's a bit scary.


Announcing products that will never hit market is nothing new at CES

Companies typically come to CES with concepts that are either never going to be available for purchase, or won't be available for a few years. People typically refer to these products as vaporware, and there was plenty of that at CES 2019 as well. PC makers are notorious for doing this actually. Last year, Razer announced Project Linda, which was a concept and we all knew this. But it was still something we all wanted to see come to market. In 2019, not a single word about it. Razer and a few other companies also debuted new laptops with OLED displays this year, though these are also just "concepts". In fact, Razer's new Blade with OLED isn't even a working concept, it only shows you images to show off that display. Though that will be a real product in the future, Razer is just in the early stages of the product development cycle.

It's not just PC manufacturers though, Hyundai also announced a concept. It's essentially a car that has legs. It's the Hyundai Elevate, and it is a pretty cool concept, but it just that, a concept. It has legs that will allow it to traverse terrain that a normal car wouldn't be able to traverse. It's aimed at helping first responders to get into areas that they normally wouldn't be able to reach. These are just a few of the many concepts and vaporware announced at the Consumer Electronics Show in 2019.


Wrap Up

The theme of CES is so broad, that you are going to have a lot weird stuff being announced, and tons of vaporware. That's what we expect from CES, even though it is supposed to be a show that shows us what to expect in the future. CES was a bit boring this year, because many of the products announced are products that we may never be able to actually hold in our hands, or spend our hard-earned money on to buy. Seeing products we won't be able to buy for five or even ten years, is not as exciting.