CTIA Wireless 2011 Preview: 5 Trends to Watch

The biggest wireless show in the U.S. starts March 22nd, and 40,000 people are expected to flock to CTIA Wireless 2011 to see what’s next in mobile. As per usual, all the major carriers will have a presence at this year’s show, which is taking place in Orlando. In fact, we’ll be able to hear the CEOs  for AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile, and Verizon Wireless during the opening keynote. No doubt 4G will be a big topic during that roundtable discussion and over the course of the three-day show. We also expect tablets to share–if not steal–the spotlight from souped up smart phones.

Here are five trends to watch at CTIA Wireless 2011. And stay tuned for our live coverage.

1. “Significant” New Tablet (Maybe Samsung’s)

There’s no question that the launch of the iPad 2 has put everyone else who is making a slate on the defensive. Well, expect at least one “significant” new tablet to launch at CTIA Wireless 2011. That’s what CTIA’s vice president Rob Mesirow told PCMag. What could this tablet be?

Well, Sony hasn’t announced its tablet yet, but the rumored S1 with Playstation integration isn’t expected to debut until the summer or fall. Amazon would be an outside shot, because the company prefers to launch products at its own events, but there are rumors that the Amazon’s Android marketplace will be launching Monday or Tuesday (March 21st or 22nd.) One thing’s for sure: Samsung is launching a tablet.

An invitation we received from Samsung for March 22nd asks “What’s your Tab life” with the numbers 7, 8, 9, and 10 underneath. Since the 7-inch Tab has been on sale for months, and the 10-inch model became official a few weeks ago, it’s safe to assume an 8.9-inch model is next. We’ll have to see what makes this Tab different other than its size. We just hope Samsung doesn’t consider this model inadequate compared to the iPad 2, like the Galaxy Tab 10.1.

2. Sprint Bonanza

Anyone who attends CTIA–or any other tech trade show–knows that two and a half hours is a lot of time to ask the media to block off for a single event. So when Sprint promises to “pull back the curtain with the latest in wireless innovation” on March 22nd they had better mean it. Boy Genius Report says that the carrier will make a big statement by launching multiple devices: the HTC Evo View tablet (the U.S. variant of the Flyer), the Evo 3D phone, and the Samsung Galaxy S 4G. Last but not least is a Sprint 4G version of the Motorola Xoom.

3. Glasses-Free 3D Phones

We already know about the LG G-Slate, but this 8.9-inch tablet coming to T-Mobile requires both an external 3D display and glasses for you to enjoy the 3D video you capture. The next big thing for mobile, presumably, is glasses-free 3D. We hope to hear about a U.S. carrier and pricing for the LG Optimus 3D phone, which we went hands-on with at Mobile World Congress.

As you saw in trend No. 2, HTC will likely be throwing its hat in the 3D ring with a new phone for Sprint. That device is reported to feature a 4.3-inch qHD (960 x 540-pixel) Autostereoscopic 3D display, a 1.2-GHz dual-core Snapdragon CPU, dual rear 5-megapixel cameras with dedicated camera button, and 1730mAh battery. Boy Genius Report says this Android 2.3 phone will also boast a Blockbuster 3D on demand app as well as YouTube 3D.

We wouldn’t be surprised to see other companies trying to add that extra dimension to mobile entertainment, but we’re not yet convinced that all the hype is worth it.

4. Verizon’s LTE Thunderbolt Kicks 4G Wars into High Gear

Now that we’ve reviewed the HTC Thunderbolt for Verizon Wireless, it’s safe to say that the carrier has the fastest 4G phone–by far. We saw blazing download and upload speeds in our tests (14 Mbps down and 5 Mbps up in hotspot mode), which blows away the data rates offered by competing 4G phones from other providers. On the other hand, the battery life on this phone wasn’t great, so we hope to hear about release dates at CTIA about Verizon’s other upcoming 4G phones from Motorola (the Bionic), LG, and Samsung.

Now other carriers will have to figure out a way to make their 4G offerings stand out. The heat is especially on AT&T, which is selling smart phones with 4G in the name but has yet to deliver more than 3G speeds in our tests. That’s why they flunked our recent 4G report card.

5. Dual Core Galore (and Not Just Tegra)

At CES and MWC we saw a parade of smart phones and tablets equipped with dual-core processors, from the Atrix 4G to the LG Optimus 2X. Well, get ready for more. T-Mobile is expected to make some waves at CTIA 2011, and we could see the rumored HTC Pyramid get official. This 4.3-inch handset reportedly boasts a 1.2-GHz dual-core Qualcomm MSM8260 processor, a 4.3-inch qHD screen (960 x 540 pixels) and, of course, access to T-Mobile’s rapidly improving 4G network. We also hear that the Optimus 2X will get re-branded from T-Mobile as the G2X and possibly land April 20th. Add the dual-core Snapdragon Evo 3G into the mix and pretty soon dual-core phones will become the norm on the high end.

Mark Spoonauer
Mark Spoonauer
Responsible for the editorial vision for Laptop Mag and Tom's Guide, Mark Spoonauer has been Editor in Chief of LAPTOP since 2003 and has covered technology for nearly 15 years. Mark speaks at key tech industry events and makes regular media appearances on CNBC, Fox and CNN. Mark was previously reviews editor at Mobile Computing, and his work has appeared in Wired, Popular Science and Inc.
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