CES - or the Computer Electronic Show - is the annual tech show in Las Vegas at which (almost) every major hardware company in the world shows off their latest innovations. Samsung is there. Panasonic is there. So are Sony, LG, and about a million knock-off smartwatch companies. No, Apple, Microsoft, Amazon and Google aren't there. Ssh.
The point is that every year at CES, these companies try to unveil something to make you drop your mouth, open your wallet and upgrade stuff you own that really, in all honesty, doesn't need upgrading. And it's insanely annoying, because the tech journalism industry still feels the need to declare a 'winner' of CES, even though everyone has basically unveiled the same 4K TVs and E-readers they did last time.
Well ahead of CES, from which we'll be reporting live this year, we've designed three gadgets that we think would actually stand a shot of winning the show if they were ever actually (a) announced and (b) possible.
Let us know what you think in the comments. We won't read them though. When your genius is operating at this red-hot temperature, you don't need feedback. You just need felt-tip pens.*
The strange thing about smartphones is not that they are so incredibly boring at the moment. They are, but that's not the problem. It's not even that literally everyone you know goes to pieces if they're away from their phone for five minutes. Again, true, but not exactly inexplicable.
No, the strange thing about smartphones is that everyone on Earth knows how to make a market-leading, blockbuster, print-your-own-cash device, except for the people in charge of the companies.
Battery life. That's it. Just battery life.
Announce a phone with a battery that lasts more than two days at CES and you win CES. It doesn't have to be thin. It doesn't have to look at that great. But make it last a week, and go straight to the yacht shop -- you just earned a bajillion dollars.
Other features we've come up with are equally obvious to us. An airbag in case you drop it is a no-brainer. So is an antenna (it looks cool and it might mean you actually get reception in a major metropolitan area). The addition of every charging port ever means you'll never be without juice.
We've also chucked in a bezel-less screen, but only because we hate using the word 'bezel' in reviews. Oh, and you can snap it in half and still use the whole phone, which is handy for when you go on a run or don't want to lug around a five-inch phone.
But really all of those are optional extras.
Battery life. Seriously.
TV manufacturers are obsessed with selling you a curved, 4K, anti-glare, Super Smart, WiFi-connected, high-art, see-through telly partly because it lets them pretend they've reinvented what is, essentially, a dumb screen with an Xbox One plugged into the back, and partly because it lets them charge £3999 for the top-end model despite promising every year that TV prices are coming back down to the mainstream market.
So we've got a better idea.
First, don't print the resolution on the box. If you do, make it vague enough that we aren't really sure if it's 4K or not. It doesn't matter -- we'll never check, and after an hour of using it we'll never notice.
Second, make it a rectangle shape.
Third, make it inflatable so that we can use it in 45-, 55-, 65-, 75- and 85-inch modes. This might be tricky technically, but we think you can do it. And it would solve that problem of wanting to watch Blade Runner as Ridley Scott intended, but being forced to watch The Great British Bake-Off on a stupidly big screen as a consequence. We put a little blow-up valve in the side, to make this idea more clear.
Fourth, put the new Star Wars on it by default a year early. And fifth, put 500 HDMI inputs on the back.
You just won CES.
Wearable tech is a good idea. Tracking your fitness has value. So do notifications. Shouting into your wrist just to get a weather update when you're already standing outside? That's not so great. But everything else makes a twisted sort of sense.
The issue at the moment is that neither screen or battery tech -- or rather the combination of the two -- are currently able to create a smartwatch that any sane person would want to wear for very long.
Most tech prediction pieces for 2015 argue that the solution is essentially the Apple Watch: let fashion companies design the products. Which is great, because everyone knows how accessible, functional and comfortable brands like Gucci typically make their goods.
We have a better solution: make a smartwatch that literally cannot be seen. Make it invisible, make it tiny, make it out of light-refracting graphene, whatever. Make it so we can't see it, and we'd wear it.
True, it might not display notifications as effectively as a visible gadget, but it can still vibrate, which is all you need really. Pop in a (presumably also invisible) kinetic battery (no screen means less power drain), and a life-and-death tracker (like a fitness tracker, but more vital) and you've got a winning idea.
Sadly, we'd bet that none of these three products will turn up at CES 2015. But if they do? Well then you'll know why we put those little 'TM' signs in our drawings. Take us to the dune buggy store, baby, we just invented the future.
*Or a Surface Pro 3, on which these drawings were actually made.