Android at CES: 5 things you should know about now

CES 2014 Android

What better way to ring in the new year than with a truckload of pipin' hot Android news? That's the joy of CES -- the Consumer Electronics Show -- and it's happening right now in Vegas.

While CES technically lasts all week, the biggest Android news events tend to happen in the first 24 hours. As usual, the show's start has been a doozy -- tons of hype-filled presentations and promises of technological revolution -- and as usual, much of the hype is little more than hot air (vapor, one might even say).

So what really matters for you as an Android fan right now? Here are the five most significant takeaways from a U.S. perspective so far:

1. Samsung is finally ditching the old Android Menu button

I honestly think this is the biggest -- and most overlooked -- Android story out of the CES convention: With its new Galaxy Tab Pro and Galaxy Note Pro devices, Samsung has at long last relented and stopped clinging to the outdated legacy Menu button from Android 2.3. Hallelujah! More than any single product or service, this move has major platform-wide implications.

2. Samsung is finally updating its Android user interface

Samsung Galaxy Tab Pro 12.2

It's too soon to say if the TouchWiz we know and loathe is being killed off for good, but Sammy's new tablets give us our first glimpse at a reimagined Samsung Android UI. Only time will tell what it's actually like to use -- the UI relies on a Windows 8-like tile interface, which is a bit unusual -- but from a visual standpoint, at least, it's some sort of progress.

Combine that with recent rumors of a revamped Samsung smartphone UI, and it certainly appears that Samsung is finally putting some effort into post-2010 design.

3. LG's G Flex is coming to America

LG G Flex

The intriguing flexible phone will land on AT&T, Sprint, and T-Mobile sometime within the first quarter of the year, LG has confirmed. (Yup -- no-go for Verizon. Is anyone really surprised?)

No word yet on specific launch dates or pricing, but this'll definitely be one worth watching.

4. Asus's new PadFone X is coming to AT&T

Asus has always done interesting things with Android device forms, and for the first time, one of its transformable smartphone products will be sold in America. The new PadFone X, a 5-in. phone that fits inside and powers a 9-in. tablet, will launch on AT&T, the company announced.

This probably isn't the type of product that'll appeal to the masses, but it is a novel and innovative idea. Now let's see if/when Asus and AT&T actually settle on a firm launch date; as of now, there's not so much as even a vague hint as to when the thing could arrive.

5. Sony has a sweet-looking new U.S. flagship phone

Sony Xperia Z1S

Sony's long struggled to achieve relevancy in the U.S. mobile market. With its new Xperia Z1S, the company is renewing its efforts to make a lasting impression.

The Xperia Z1S is a revamped version of the international Xperia Z1 phone -- and with a 5-in. 1080p display and Sony's trademark waterproof glass construction, it's got some seriously eye-catching qualities.

The biggest problem with the phone may be its availability -- the ol' carrier exclusive that kills many-a-manufacturer's best efforts. The Z1S will be available only on T-Mobile, beginning later this month.

I'll be spending some time with the Xperia Z1S over the coming days and will share some hands-on impressions with you soon.

[UPDATE: Hands on: The first things you notice about the Xperia Z1S]

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There's plenty more CES news to be digested, of course -- including about 97,000 new wearable gadgets and a move by Google to get Android in your car -- but these are the five stories that stand out as being the most meaningful for Android fans right now.

Stick around, gang: It's a new year -- and we're just getting started.

Copyright © 2014 IDG Communications, Inc.

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