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4 trends in consumer electronics to watch

Jan. 6, 2014: Sony unveils the new 65-inch 4K LED TV during the Sony news conference at the International Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas.AP Photo/Jack Dempsey

The future of consumer electronics is looking curvy, wearable (as in smart watch), very high-definition, and slightly flexible. Here's a rundown of what's trending at CES 2014.

Trend 1: Ultra HD
We saw this coming a mile away, but still couldn’t help marveling at the sheer number of Ultra HD sets on display at CES. In fact, the booths of LG, Panasonic, Samsung, Sharp, Sony, and Toshiba were so silly with super-sharp Ultra HD sets that you’d think they had abandoned selling conventional HD televisions altogether. But who wants to buy an Ultra HD set without Ultra HD content? To persuade consumers that the future of UHD is nigh, TV makers announced that UHD content was on the way from streaming services such as Netflix and Amazon Instant Video, as well as cable and satellite providers such as Comcast Xfinity TV and DirectTV.

Trend 2: Curved screens
Electronics manufacturers were also working extra hard to sell the CES crowd on the supposed benefits of curved screens. TVs from Samsung, LG, and even some secondary brands were bending like bananas throughout the convention hall, and LG announced an arched phone called the Flex that will launch on three carriers this year (AT&T, T-Mobile, and Sprint). Just a few of the justifications for the curve: “It’s immersive like an IMAX screen” (TV and phone), “It brings the mic closer to your mouth” (phone), “It’s easier to hold in your hand” (obviously the phone), “It just looks cool” (TV and phone). We agree with at least the last assertion.

Trend 3: Flexible screens
So there was actually one more benefit touted for curvy screens. They flex and bend. So why would you want a flexible phone? The answer is that it could have genuine benefits when it comes to durability. The LG Flex, true to its name, bends when you push down on it, and also, more important, when you sit on it. As for TVs, the bending is still a bit more experimental. LG and Samsung showed off prototype sets that let you select a curve via remote control, or you can flatten them out if you’d rather. So what’s the benefit? Er, flexibility?

Trend 4: Wearable gadgets get even more wearable
The biggest news in wearable gadgets was just how fast this category is growing. Big companies are getting in on the action—Sony introduced its Core SmartBand activity tracker bracelet and Lifelog app. And new, smaller companies are coming out of the woodwork, some offering beautiful and promising devices, such as the Wellograph, an elegantly shaped fitness watch that has a sapphire crystal, integrated heart-rate monitor, and the promise of a two-week battery life per charge. The Pebble Steel also upped the ante on smart-watch design, encasing the Kickstarter darling device in a handsome new stainless-steel frame and dressed up metal wristband.

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