CES: Don't forget the smartphones, carriers

With the Consumer Electronics Show going all tablets all the time, it's easy to overlook the humble smartphone. Don't.

CES 2011

With the Consumer Electronics Show going all tablets all the time, it's easy to overlook the humble smartphone. But it's silly to downplay the smartphone given all of the moving parts.

Oppenheimer analyst Ittai Kidron said:

While not new trends, smartphones, OS updates, and mobile apps are all likely to get prominent media attention at CES. We expect smartphones to be the strongest contributor to wireless vendor growth in 2011 (+40%E YoY) and we expect a steady stream of new device announcements at CES.

Here's a quick crib sheet on what we're expecting.

All eyes are on Verizon. Verizon is widely expected to unveil a slew of 4G Android devices. And these devices can't come soon enough. Any Verizon customer with a contract that has expired is holding out for a 4G capable device. According to various observers, Verizon's mission at CES boils down to the following:

  • Show Google remains a key partner despite all the chatter about the arrival of Apple's iPhone.
  • Set Verizon up to take the lead in the 4G conversation, which has been the domain of Sprint/Clearwire and increasingly T-Mobile, which is marketing its HSPA network as offering "4G speeds."
  • Stoke smartphone demand for its faster network.
  • On the device front, it's safe to assume that Verizon's trio of Android partners---Motorola, HTC and Samsung---will show off the latest greatest devices. The more 4G devices the merrier.

Motorola Mobility, one half of what used to be a united Motorola, will use CES to define its product focus, markets, customer targeting and diversification plans. In theory, we should all have a clear definition of Motorola Mobility after CES. Expect a lot of Verizon Droid talk, but key partnerships with the likes of AT&T.

Speaking of AT&T, the messaging will revolve around new devices and diversification. The demise of AT&T once it loses iPhone exclusivity is vastly overblown---for now. AT&T's goal at CES is to show that it's more than just the iPhone. Expect Android and Windows Phone 7 devices to be showcased from AT&T.

T-Mobile and "4G". The carrier has a 4G press conference scheduled. T-Mobile has been marketing its network as delivering 4G speeds. T-Mobile is likely to tout Android devices and its network build out plans.

Some evidence of the WebOS plan from Hewlett-Packard. What does HP's smartphone line-up look like? Can Palm deliver another Pre-like surprise at CES?