(Pocket-lint) - Ah, C-E-S. It's those three letters that bring excitement and fear in equal measure to any technology reporter. Every January, just after the holiday period, the world's largest technology show kicks off in Las Vegas, bringing huge industry crowds and boat loads of announcements. We've been covering CES in some form for as long as Pocket-lint has been running; it's a critical show for consumer tech.
It's also a show that's expanded around the world, with CES Asia 2019 - which is set in China at Shanghai's New International Expo Centre (SNIEC) - now running its fifth year. That in itself is an accolade. But, in the same breath, here we are on the show floor on day two of this three-day exhibition, where even large Chinese companies - such as Huawei, which occupies a fairly modest stand - haven't utilised the show as a launch platform, rather more as a showcase.
So what is CES Asia really all about? Automotive is king here, with two of the five main halls taken up by car manufacturers. Add two major keynotes from Audi and Hyundai - talking about future in-car tech, apps and automation - and the tone of the show was set from the off.
Here are our takeaways and trends from CES Asia 2019.
Where car tech is king
It's probably no surprise that automakers are rushing to a show such as this. After all, CES - which used to stand for Consumer Electronics Show, but the CTA (Consumer Technology Association) simply cut it back to 'CES' some years ago - is a platform to show off not only cars, but concepts, future visions, automation, electrification and all the technology around that.
China is a huge market for cars too. It's the single largest consumer of them, buying more in 2018 than any other territory. However, the level of car ownership is far lower than many countries (it's in the region of 15 per cent), so it's a huge opportunity to penetrate the market in the belief that uptake will continue in the coming years.
Home grown: Electrification is king
Which is all well and good, but with such a low proportion of owners and such high levels of pollution - especially in the cities, with Beijing having particularly poor air quality - the move towards electrification is clear to see.
Chinese brands - such as Hozon (see above), Aiwave and Enovate - are prime examples of this, showcasing their electric cars on the show floor, albeit nothing brand new.
However, if anything it was the absence of some other majors that could be felt. There was no Nio (the Beijing competitor to Tesla). Sure, China offers far more than just this, but it's a particularly prominent one.
Showcasing future user interface and automation
A notable flux of other Asian makers was present on the show floor - Hyundai and Kia, both Korean; Honda and Nissan, both Japanese - showing their hunger for a slice of this market.
These makers weren't showcasing vehicles, per se, more ideas. Honda presented its user interface with augmented reality; Nissan its Invisible to Visible concept, where VR headsets are worn and used to present the interface and controls; Hyundai its Mobis automated concept.
Elsewhere the European march was led by the Germans: Audi with a grand stand that offered a bit of fun, including Audi Immersive In-Car Entertainment (while watching a movie, the car would use its hydraulic suspension to add physical motion based on the on-screen action), alongside its AI:ME concept; while Mercedes-Benz went all-in for showing off its brand new EQC electric SUV (a typical Germanic po-faced sales pitch).
Augmented & Virtual Reality: Glasses, glasses everywhere
You'd think that, following the flop of Microsoft's Hololens on the commercial market, that augmented reality glasses and goggles would have had their day in a consumer context. But apparently not.
CES Asia 2019 had a lot of AR glasses scattered around its floor. From HiAR's G200, to MadGaze, to Guangli Lightin1, Shadow Creator - and we could go on.
We find this a really odd pitch. Sure, it's a trend, as these glasses are everywhere. But with some big companies already behind successful technology - Microsoft has Hololens 2 on the way, which is vastly superior to the first; meanwhile Lenovo is already in talks to sell its AR setups to various commercial companies - we just can't see the future success of this.
We would say the AR presence is like VR from years gone by. But CES Asia continues to showcase oh-so-many budget VR headsets too: from Huawei VR 2, to Pico Neo VR and more.
5G a moot point
Everyone seems to be talking about 5G in some capacity at the moment. But it was a back burner in regards to CES Asia 2019 and what was actually on display.
As 5G is dependent on infrastructure implementation it's already well in the works in many countries. Indeed, it's been part the source of the fight between the USA and China, with US President, Donald Trump, putting the Chinese giant on a black list, forcing many US-based companies to cease trade.
Point being: 5G wasn't the huge trend that CES Asia 2019 had told us it would be. Chinese carriers weren't showing off their networks, few companies made it the focus of their presentation.
Summary: A showcase not a launchpad
We attended the inaugural CES Asia, back in 2015, and the 2019 show has a couple of clear things going for it: one, it's far larger than in year one, showing there's growth; two, automakers are seemingly flocking to the show floor, which makes it feel more like a car show than a consumer tech show. It has a unique balance in that regard.
But the biggest takeaway from CES Asia is that it's not being used as a launch platform. Especially as Chinese companies are innovating hard - we've been to China a dozen times in a couple of years to see major launches from Vivo, Xiaomi, and more - investing billions into research and development. Yet these companies are independently launching, not depending on a show as the platform to do so.
Therefore CES Asia 2019 was a showcase rather than a reveal. An interesting showcase of all kinds of tech - mainly cars - but if you follow tech with avid interest then 99 per cent of the show floor has been presented elsewhere in recent months.