Companies Eager to Show Off New Phones, Tablets Ahead of Shopping Season

Expect bigger phones and bigger tablets—along with accessories for those devices—to be some of the, well, biggest products this holiday season.

Christmas may still be months away, but tech companies were showing off their new devices this week in New York City at the Pepcom Holiday Spectacular, which drew dozens of big names.

Among them was HP, which was showing off a new 17-inch Android-powered tablet. The touch-screen HP Slate 17 device is intended for watching streaming video and playing games, says Kevin Wentzel, HP’s technical marketing manager. It comes with a stand to prop up the deice or can lay flat, which Wentzel says makes it a good device for things like board games.

But the company wasn’t just going big. It was also launching 11.6-inch and a 13.3-inch laptops. The brightly coloured Windows computers are cloud-focused with only 32 gigabytes on on-board storage but both come with a year-long subscription to Microsoft’s Office 365, which includes a terabyte of online storage.

The computers use solid-state flash memory and don’t have any fans or vents.

They’re both budget priced (in the US they’ll both retail for around $200) and appear to be going after the market that’s currently dominated by Chromebook computers.

“This is a real Windows PC at an incredible price,” says Wentzel.

HP also rolled-out two smaller Windows tablets, at seven and eight inches. At that size, those tablets aren’t much bigger than some of the phones that were being launched at the same event.

The new Alcatel OneTouch Hero 2 comes in at over six inches long. The phone, made by Chinese company TCL, which acquired the Alcatel brand for smartphones, is so big it comes bundled with a smaller phone. Called the Sidekick 2, the device, which is reminiscent of early-2000s phone, can be used to take calls and text while the larger device is docked or even being used for things like email.

But it’s not just new phones and tablets that will be coming to stores this season. There will also be innovative new accessories coming out for existing devices.

Texas-based startup Vysk launched a new iPhone case in late September. But it doesn’t just protect phones if they fall, it also claims to protect users privacy. The case uses a combination of hardware and software to encrypt photos and videos when they’re sent to the cloud as well as text messages.

The case, which is currently only available for the iPhone 5 and 5s, also includes its own battery which not only powers the case’s electronics but can also charge the phone—effectively increasing battery life by 120 per cent, Vysk says.

Vysk isn’t the only company making products to keep people’s devices charged on the go. Cobra, an electronics company with a long history in two-way and CB radios, is launching a portable power pack that can charge a phone or other USB device on-the-go. But the JumPack, which is about the size of an external hard drive, and is little more powerful than that: it can also jumpstart a car.

But some of the new tablet accessories are downright simple.

TangiblePlay’s Osmo is just a mirror that attaches to iPad’s camera. But, combined with the company’s apps, it turns physical objects, like the puzzle game Tangrams, into a multimedia experience. The product is aimed at children and is intended to bridge the gap between tangible and digital play.

That wasn’t the only iPad accessory on display.

Drop has launched a kitchen scale that connects to an iPad. The device allows cooks to put their mixing bowl directly on the scale and add ingredients without the need for measuring cups. It can also automatically adjust recipes based on how much of an ingredient has been added and since it knows what stage of a recipe a user is on, it can give them specific, timely advice.