The International Consumer Electronics Show is about to begin in Las Vegas -- Jan. 6 -- but before companies start promoting their wares, we thought we'd give you an early look at the hottest gadgets for 2011. Just don't expect great deals on these products. As we reported last year, being an early adopter of new technology can be costly, and if you want to save money it's better to wait for sales or for prices to drop as the kinks are worked out of the new gadgets.
Not everything is new. At CES last year, Microsoft and other companies set 2010 as the year of the tablet, but only Apple took the lead with its iPad, as the New York Times pointed out.
WalletPop talked with Anthony Scarsella, chief gadget officer at Gazelle, a website that buys and sells used electronics. Here are some of the top gadgets coming out this year:1. Tablet Frenzy.
Thanks to the success of the iPad, tablets will be the highest-selling consumer electronic devices of the year, Scarsella said, with 40 to 80 new models being introduced at CES. "Apple has had so much success with the original iPad, and consumers want electronics," he said.
The new Apple iPad 2 is expected to be released between the end of February and early April, and should have two cameras, an SD card slot, HDMI, and will be smaller, he said. Samsung's Galaxy tablet is the only early competition for the iPad, but others such as Motorola, Asus, Blackberry, HP, HTC, Dell and LG are coming and many will offer new features such as high resolution displays, USB ports and carrier subsidies. Even the bargain TV manufacturer Vizeo is getting into the tablet game, Scarsella said.
2. Windows 7 Phone.
These phones came out in 2010, but more models are coming out, especially if sales of current versions are good, Scarsella said. Success will depend on size and quality of apps in their new app market and new hardware across carriers in the U.S., he said.
3. Android Phones.
This will be the biggest shaker for 2011, Scarsella said, with the new dual-core powered phones and Android 3.0 Gingerbread for tablets. Such phones are making portable gaming systems such as the Sony PSP obsolete.
4. Cloud Gaming.
While smartphones make gaming cheap -- a few dollars instead of $30 for a game -- the new trend of cloud gaming is picking up fast among gamers, Scarsella said. You don't have to buy expensive hardware or software because the games are hosted on servers and will give you instant access to tons of titles. Services such as OnLive and Gaikai will steal some spotlight from the new Kinect and PS Move in 2011. It's like having Netflix for video games.
Again, Apple's iPhone is grabbing headlines. The white iPhone 4 is scheduled to be released in the spring, and Verizon is expected to add the iPhone to its network with CDMA technology to improve call quality and give iPhone owners a better option than AT&T. To add to that, the iPhone 5 is expected to be released in June, Scarsella said.
6. Internet TV/Streaming Media.
Either via TV or set top box the Internet is coming back to the living room, according to Scarsella. TVs will have fully-integrated apps, features, and Web. "Pretty much TVs are going to have all of the capabilities of a smartphone, but on your wall," he said. Expect new set-top boxes with Google TV, and other boxes with Android to hit the market in 2011.
Remember 3-D TV? It was a hot topic at CES last year, but paying more than $100 for a pair of clunky glasses didn't really catch on. Manufacturers got the message and this year are coming out with glasses-free 3-D TVs and computer monitors, Scarsella said.
For the latest CES coverage, be sure to check out Engadget, the official blog of CES.
Aaron Crowe is a freelance journalist in the San Francisco Bay Area.
Hottest Gadgets for 2011