There were big announcements for cordcutters by streaming and OTT companies this week at CES®, the annual Las Vegas trade show where the latest technology is introduced to the marketplace. It’s a spectacle, even for a place as glitzy as Vegas, with more than 180,000 attendees attending lectures and exhibits on all facets of tech, including robots, vehicle technology, virtual reality, drones, gaming, music, and more.
One big topic was the expected impact of 5G and how faster speeds will affect technology solutions across the board. Companies are testing delivery of 5G via WiFi before expanding to providing Internet wirelessly to your home without laying any wire or fiber. That would open up the market to multiple Internet providers in every area, spurring competition and dropping prices.
Experts suggest that 5G will deliver gigabit speeds so fast that consumers can download a feature-length movie in seconds. The new technology transmits higher frequency signals that move faster and carry greater amounts of data. Predictions are that 5G speeds could reach 100 times faster than today’s average LTE performance of 50 megabits per second.
Telecom companies are upgrading infrastructure equipment and launching small-scale tests that enable lightning-fast data connections beginning this week.
But don’t expect to see any of that in 2019. Hardware manufacturing and infrastructure build-out are in their infancy so most consumers will start to see faster speeds evolve slowly. A reasonable expectation is that 5G will be widespread in about ten years
Samsung announced that 2019 model smart TVs will feature a built-in Apple iTunes Movie & TV shows app and older models will receive the iTunes app in a firmware update. The partnership comes as a surprise because it’s the first time Apple has enabled content on devices that don’t bear their logo. It also builds upon their recent decision to make Apple Music available on Android and Amazon Echo devices.
The iTunes app allows consumers to watch existing content from their iTunes account on Samsung TVs, as well as buy or rent new content from the iTunes store. Samsung, LG, and Vizio TVs will also support Apple's AirPlay 2, allowing users to stream movies and music from an iOS device to a Samsung TV. The agreements mark a huge departure for the company that historically limited big screen viewing through an Apple TV device.
The announcements are a big departure for the Cupertino-based company. In the past, iTunes content was only available on Apple hardware, including the company's streaming box, Apple TV.
The new agreements set Apple up to provide a new streaming service this spring to a much wider audience, as they invest in original content to compete against industry powerhouses Netflix and Hulu. Rumors so far have held that Apple’s new Netflix-like streaming service would only be compatible with Apple products. But with iTunes and Apple Music coming to other devices, it begs the question of whether Apple will stream the new service to non-Apple devices.
By all rights, Google should have a dominant presence in the streaming world. The Android platform, combined with Google Assistant, could be as powerful as Amazon in the market. Ignored in favor of the flashy Chromecast, Android TV is woefully underpowered and undeveloped.
The familiar interface provides the “smart” in smart TVs and set-top boxes, making it easier to navigate entertainment apps and get to the Google Play store. It offers voice controls and gives you control from other Android devices.
According to information released at CES, the company will deliver a completely new Android TV experience for consumers in 2019. The redesign includes plans to reduce memory requirements so that it can work on smaller, cheaper devices. Google plans to enforce minimum hardware performance standards for Android TV to counter complaints that some devices have dramatically lower performance than others. Capitalizing on the power of the search engine and AI capabilities, Android TV will focus on helping customers search and discover the best content with personalized recommendations.
The redesign appears to blur the line between Chromecast and Android TV since both technologies enable video launching from a phone or tablet, so it’s possible that they might merge. No matter what it’s called, the company appears to be finally throwing full support behind Android TV. Their commitment to the platform that boasts tens of millions of users will be more apparent if Android TV breaks from past behavior and hosts their own apps like Google Photos and YouTube Music.
Look for new TVs with Android TV capabilities to launch this year.
Sinclair announced a new chip at CES to power Next Gen TV. Broadcasters have spent a good chunk of time and money preparing on their end for the next iteration of broadcast TV, and the new chip allows TVs and other devices to receive the new signal. The new standard supports fancy interactive features like video-on-demand and advanced emergency alerts.
Cord cutters are looking forward to the promise of 4K HDR picture with better sound and better in-home reception via antenna. If you didn’t give in to the temptation to buy a new TV this winter, you might want to hang on until the new hardware makes its way into new models. If you already bought a new TV, don’t worry, there will soon be converters available that will connect between your HDMI port and antenna. There’s no rush to move to the new standard, as broadcasters are required by the FCC to offer current digital TV standards for at least the next five years.
As cordcutting grows rapidly, the technology supporting it is becoming more mainstream and user-friendly. TiVo announced at CES that they are rolling out an app to stream content to Roku, Fire TV, and Apple TV without the need for a second TiVo device. Tablo announced a new over-the-air DVR and plans to release a feature that auto-skips commercials in recordings. HDHomeRun showed an all-in-one device that will also provide over-the-air DVR service. See our DVR comparison page here.
CES is the event of the year for consumer technology launches. Streaming and OTT companies made some big announcements, adding features, hardware, and services to assist the growing population of cord cutters. Even though a lot of attention was on 5G, it’s unlikely we’ll see the widespread impact for years, I think the Next Gen Broadcast TV chip is big news even though it’s getting less attention. Either way, expect a lot of change as the world continues to cut the cable cord and technology transforms entertainment.
Megan Southard is a writer, mom, technology enthusiast, and movie junkie. She dreads the day her kids have to explain gadgets to her and is old enough to say, "I was the remote for our TV growing up."
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