CES 2020 trends: AirPower alternatives, rise of 5G, tasty TVs

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CES-2020-trends
It's shaping up to be an exciting year for tech.
Image: Killian Bell/Cult of Mac

CES 2020The post-holiday tech fest that is CES shutters its doors today for another year. This week’s event has been as weird and as wonderful as any other, giving us a glimpse of all kinds of innovative gadgets on the way in 2020.

Better AirPods alternatives. Wireless chargers that achieve what Apple couldn’t. iPhone cases you can throw on the compost heap when they’re no longer needed. Here are the biggest trends from CES 2020.

JBL earbuds
JBL’s new buds are much more colorful than AirPods.
Photo: JBL

More AirPods rivals

You won’t be surprised to find that AirPods rivals dominated the CES show floor again this year. Wireless buds have been a huge success for Apple, and everyone wants a piece of the pie.

New alternatives from the likes of Audio-Technica, Ausounds, JBL, JLab, and many others were unveiled this week. They’re all tiny buds in tiny cases that help you forget about 3.5mm headphone jacks.

Some go after AirPods by matching them with features like active noise cancellation. Others compete with their differences, like longer battery life, colorful designs, and significantly cheaper price tags.

None of these will steal AirPods’ crown, of course. Apple’s buds are now the world’s best-selling headphones. But it’s great to have alternatives — and stiff competition is good for everyone.

Nomad-wireless-charger
Nomad hopes to succeed where Apple couldn’t.
Photo: Nomad

More AirPower alternatives

We’re still pretty upset that Apple gave up on AirPower. But there’s an increasing number of alternative do-it-all charging pads from third-party companies on the way.

Nomad’s upcoming Base Station Pro has the ability to charge three devices simultaneously. And its clever design means you don’t have to worry about finding the right charging position — it just works.

Satechi’s Trio Wireless Charging Pad also tops up three devices — iPhone, Apple Watch, and AirPods. But unlike AirPower, it uses a more traditional Apple Watch charging puck.

Zagg, which owns Mophie, also confirmed it is working on an AirPower alternative of its own. But it doesn’t yet have a product to show off, and it’s not completely clear when (or if) we will see one.

It will be interesting to see if this trend continues throughout 2020. These aren’t the first wireless chargers that promise to make your AirPower dreams a reality, but they need to be the best.

Previous solutions have, in almost all cases, shipped with limitations or failed to meet expectations.

Where charging mats go from here – and how well they go over with consumers – remains the big question. If Apple ever resurrects AirPower from the dead is an even better one.

Satechi has introduced a new 108W Pro USB-C PD desktop charger
Satechi’s new hub charges everything — and fast!
Photo: Satechi

Super-fast charging gadgets

For those who still prefer wired charging, there were plenty of next-generation plugs and adapters at CES this week. Many are smaller, lighter, and faster than ever before.

Aukey’s Omnia and Griffin’s PowerBlock use new gallium nitride (GaN) technology that promises up to 70% faster charging. They’re good for phones, tablets, and even laptops like the MacBook Pro.

Belkin is also using GaN technology in its newest wall chargers, which max out at 68W. And again, they sport smaller, more compact designs that are easier to take anywhere.

Satechi’s exciting dual USB-C desktop charger delivers up to 108W of power through four USB ports, enough you to charge all your favorite gadgets — including your laptop — simultaneously.

These accessories remind us that while wireless charging is a nice taste of what could be later on, cables aren’t going anywhere anytime soon. But at least the technology around them is better than ever.

Samsung-TV-CES-2020
Samsung finally gives TV bezels the boot.
Photo: Samsung

TVs of the future

If you plan to upgrade your TV in 2020, and you have plenty to spend, you’ll be pleased to know that manufacturers are still working hard to make their sets more spectacular than ever before.

A bunch of brands big and small showcased new 8K displays this week, using even better OLED, QLED, and even microLED technology. Samsung also proved it’s possible to eliminate TV bezels entirely.

Dolby introduced its new Vision IQ technology, which promises to eliminate one of the biggest complaints we have with today’s HDR (that it’s just too dark). It uses built-in light sensors to calibrate on-screen images based on the lighting conditions around your TV.

One interesting TV trend from CES 2020 — aside from the price tags, which rise to as much as $60,000 — is the growth of smaller sets. Sony and LG packed their newest technology into 48-inch models that are a better fit for more compact living rooms.

Netgear-5G-router
Netgear’s new router brings 5G to almost everything.
Photo: Netgear

The rise of 5G

We started seeing the first 5G smartphones last year, but 2020 is shaping up to be the year that ultra-fast network technology really takes off. And not just because it’s coming to iPhone.

Dell, HP, and Lenovo this week debuted upcoming notebooks with built-in 5G connectivity. Netgear revealed a tiny 5G router that lets you enjoy faster data at home and on the road with almost anything.

MediaTek unveiled its new Dimensity 1000, a chipset family that will allow 5G to grace midrange devices. Samsung showcased the world’s first telematics control unit that brings 5G to vehicles.

There was never a doubt that the entire industry would embrace 5G. And while adoption has been somewhat slow so far, these advancements hint at an imminent 5G explosion.

incipio
Incipio’s Organicore cases decompose within 6 months.
Photo: Incipio

Compostable iPhone cases

If there’s one thing we all expect from the technology industry today — aside from innovative new products — it’s the push toward a more environmentally-friendly future.

Incipio, a leading accessory manufacturer, is leading the way in compostable smartphone cases. Its Organicore lineup is available now for iPhone 11, and coming soon to other devices.

Organicore cases are slim, lightweight, and protective — like any good iPhone case should be. But more importantly, they decompose in just six months when you throw them on the compact heap.

This might not be a trend just yet, since Incipio was the only company to unveil compostable cases at CES this week. But we’re hoping it will be as we move through 2020.