Consumer electronics: The gadgets that Canadians want

The annual techno-circus in Las Vegas, otherwise known as the Consumer Electronics Show, is often a showcase for the ultra-new technologies of tomorrow. Heading into the show, asked a Toronto-based electronics tracking firm to provide a snapshot of what Canadians will be watching for.

The annual techno-circus in Las Vegas, otherwise known as the Consumer Electronics Show, is often a showcase for the ultra-new technologies of tomorrow.

Got a question about something at CES?

The annual Consumer Electronics Show is happening in Las Vegas, and the biggest electronics companies will be showing off the new gadgets and devices they hope will become the big hits of 2012. Reporter Peter Nowak will be covering CES from the show floor for CBC News, and we want to know you, the members of our CBC Community, are most interested in.

What new gadgets are you most excited about? What new trends in consumer electronics sound most promising? And perhaps most importantly, will any of these products give you a reason to replace your tried-and-true devices at home?

Post your questions here. We'll forward them to Peter Nowak in Las Vegas, and he'll answer via text, photo and video.

But while these next-generation possibilities are fascinating to geeks and early adopters, the vast majority of consumers are really only interested in the mainstream gadgets that the event — which kicks off Monday — and the ensuing year will bring.

For many consumers, these ready-to-rollout products can be boiled down to four main areas: phones, tablets, televisions and cars.

Heading into the show, asked Toronto-based electronics tracking firm Solutions Research Group to provide a snapshot of just what Canadians will be watching for.


Smartphone ownership has accelerated quickly over the past few years. In late 2011, about 41 per cent of mobile phones in Canada were an iPhone, Android, BlackBerry or other smartphone, up from 16 per cent two years earlier.

In real numbers, SRG estimates that about 10 million of the 25 million or so mobile phones in Canada were of the "smart" variety.

About one in five will be upgraded in 2012, while three million more Canadians will get their first smartphone this year.

Several smartphone makers are expected to show off new models at CES, which means many people will be watching to see if one catches their fancy.

Smartphones that pack in all kinds of other technologies, such as cameras and GPS, are also sucking away interest from other devices.

"You can see the flat lines for things like MP3 players and digital cameras as smartphones pick up the momentum," said SRG president Kaan Yigit.


The other side of the mobile equation is equally as hot as smartphones.

More than a million tablets have been sold in Canada so far, but that is still only early days. The number is expected to more than double to 2.5 million in 2012, according to SRG.

Apple's iPad dominates the category, taking up about 78 per cent of the share.

Canadians have been relatively patriotic so far in anointing the runner-up: Waterloo, Ont.-based Research In Motion's much-maligned Playbook is tied with HP's Touchpad, each with about five per cent of sales. Android tablets, meanwhile, are distantly behind.

Still, about 40 per cent of consumers polled said they were interested in getting a tablet this year, so the race is far from decided.

With nine per cent already owning one, that suggests that half the country is interested in tablets, which are also expected to be one of the big categories at this year's CES.

Tablets are also proving to be an unusual category of gadget in that they are popular with women and older buyers. About 44 per cent of existing tablet owners are female, while the average age was 39 years, according to the survey.

This also suggests that the future for traditional computers is changing. "People won't give up laptops yet, but the desktop market is a sunset market for sure," Yigit said.


While Canadians love their high-definition TVs, a good portion don't seem to enjoy paying the premium associated with similar high-quality broadcast content.

About eight million households — or two-thirds of the country — have an HD television, yet almost a third of those don't have the necessary box to get HD signals.

That may partially explain why Canadians seem to be gravitating toward so-called smart TVs, the ones that connect to the internet.

At the past few CES events, manufacturers tried to sell consumers on two new flavours of TV technology – 3D and internet connectivity.

But according to the SRG survey, about 50 per cent of people polled feel that 3D is a fad, while 70 per cent believe internet-connected smart TVs are the future.

About 44 per cent of respondents to the poll said they are interested in buying a smart TV, which can do things like access YouTube and Facebook through a Wi-Fi connection.

Some manufacturers are expected to further enhance smart TVs this year with better interfaces that incorporate motion and voice controls, a step that many observers feel is necessary given their increased complexity.

"The future belongs to smart screens and we are phasing out those which are passive and not-so-smart," said Yigit. "My young daughter used to be perplexed when she touched the flatscreen TV and nothing happened versus the iPad or the iPhone she's used to."


Expectations for car electronics are also rising dramatically, according to SRG.

For example, 47 per cent of car owners have GPS in their vehicle, compared to only 12 per cent four years ago.

Interest in satellite radio is also growing. About 16 per cent of car owners currently have it, compared to 10 per cent over the same period.

Car companies have been steadily increasing their presence at CES and a number of them will be showing off new in-vehicle technology at this year's show.

"In focus groups we are hearing that expectation for young consumers is a fully-loaded digital experience in the car," said Yigit. "What a car is able to deliver or how customizable [it is] in terms of digital [options] is becoming a choice factor."