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Was Google the best of CES 2015 without actually being there?

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When January rolls around, thousands of people flock to Las Vegas, Nevada for the Consumer Electronics Show. The trade show allows the press (and the world from afar) to observe what new technology will arrive throughout the year and launch in the future. Even though many companies host their own events for major announcements, CES provides good exposure. It can be a make-or-break time for some while being another platform with the spotlight for others.

There were phones, tablets, televisions, set-top boxes, speakers, and much more all showcased at CES. Something has to power these things, right? Enter Google and more importantly Android. The company did not have a formal presence at this year’s CES; however, devices powered by or connected to Android in some way were seen everywhere. Google might have been the best of CES 2015 and they didn’t have to show up.

Android Devices

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Phones and tablets running Android are a lock to appear each year at CES. The flashy names (Samsung, HTC) do not announce flagships or any major devices, but plenty of other companies take full advantage of the massive amount of media coverage. Throughout the week, we saw so many devices that all push something of their own. And that is what Android is all about: variety. Screen sizes, processors, cameras, and software enhancements differences make an Android device unique from any other.

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Both high-end and low-end Android phones impressed. The LG G Flex 2 was touted as the first device with the Qualcomm Snapdragon 810 processor. The specifications of the G Flex 2 trump its predecessor and pushes us to think just how mainstream a phone with a curved display can be. There was also ASUS who introduced the ZenFone 2 and ZenFone Zoom to the world. The latter has true 3x optical zoom to capture incredible photographs. Instead of wheeling out a predictable phone, ASUS is gambling. On the low-end and mid-range portion of the market, BLU Products covered consumers of all tastes and budgets with seven new phones. CES 2015 had an Android phone for everyone this year.

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Things were a bit more hushed for Android tablets. Still, there was noteworthy hardware to be seen. Polaroid is delivering budget tablets with Android 5.0 Lollipop. You heard that right! Polaroid is already on the Lollipop bandwagon. An extremely thin tablet with a crisp display and Intel’s RealSense technology from Dell impressed. For those awaiting Android to reach a place where productivity is seamless, the Remix tablet is coming. Think of it as the Android equivalent of the Microsoft Surface. Of all the tablets at CES, nothing compared to the massive Fuhu nabi tablets. Android is suitable for sizes big and small.

Android TV

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The launch of Android TV has not been particularly smooth. We are six months removed from the platform’s launch at Google I/O 2014 and just one device is on the market. And that one device, the Nexus Player, is available through one retailer which is online. Also, the hardware is a bit underwhelming. All signs have pointed to Android TV facing the same fate as Google TV. Support from hardware manufacturers was announced, but nothing materialized for months. Everything turned around last week in Las Vegas.

A multitude of television manufacturers stepped forward with plans for Android TV in 2015. Sony, Sharp, and Philips and others committed to the platform with their upcoming lineups. Most of them will be 4K Ultra HD televisions. The next step for televisions is met with Google’s vision for Android in the living room. The prices of 4K Ultra HD televisions are starting to fall and that means more consumers will be purchasing them to replace current living room setups. Android TV will be adopted at a pace very similar to 4K Ultra HD. Google TV was introduced with little innovation on both the software and hardware side. Now, the two are being matched perfectly.

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Then there is the only set-top box that debuted at the trade show. Razer unveiled the Forge TV micro-console. The Nexus Player is completely blown out of the water by it because the Forge TV is exactly what Google should have released: a set-top box that serves entertainment and gaming content without a hitch. The specifications are leaps and bounds better than the Nexus Player. Furthermore, the Forge TV is able to stream PC-level gaming. All of this is packed into a device that costs just $99, the same price as the inferior Nexus Player.

Android Auto

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Another area that Google did not have Android supplanted in prior to I/O 2014 was the car. The platform for automobiles was also launched in June with an impressive amount of partners. Considering how much planning is involved in the automobile industry, it was highly unlikely that Android Auto would gain any traction in 2014. Now is the time for Google to step on the gas pedal and get Android Auto moving.

Volkswagen announced that upcoming cars in 2015 would support Android Auto (and Apple’s CarPlay). The first vehicle to have Android Auto support from the company is the Volkswagen Golf, a more affordable option. The Golf is one of Volkswagen’s top-selling models and that means access to Android Auto is way easier than, say, a vehicle from Mercedes-Benz. Volkswagen is a valuable partner for Google because it allows a larger group of consumers to drive with their software.

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The real stars for Android Auto at CES 2015 were the aftermarket head units from Parrot, Pioneer, and Kenwood. These products are what will jump-start the platform this year because of the low cost. Consumers will be able to purchase a head unit with Android Auto to install themselves for far less than it would be to purchase a new vehicle. Shopping for a new vehicle is completely different than shopping for a head unit.

Google Cast for Audio

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Google Cast, the technology that is the backbone for Chromecast, has expanded to a new range of equipment. Cast for Audio enables music streaming for speakers, sound bars, televisions, and set-top boxes. Google revealed Cast for Audio a few hours before compatible hardware arrived from LG, Sony, and Denon. Google and its usual partners are together once again and this time the target is Sonos. Almost all of the hardware compatible with Cast for Audio has a Sonos counterpart. The difference is that Cast for Audio extends to entire televisions and set-top boxes rather than strictly audio equipment.

Who do you think had the best CES 2015? Let us know in the comments. Click here to see everything that was part of CES 2015.

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