Just a month after we returned from Mobile World Congress, the wireless trade show marathon continues with CTIA 2011. As the larger of two annual events held by the industry's trade group, CTIA always delivers a batch of new handsets and a welcome focus on the U.S. market. After a few sessions in Las Vegas, the spring jamboree returns to Orlando, Fla., this year where it last made camp in 2007. CNET's entire team of wireless reporters and reviewers will be on the ground in Orlando to bring you the hottest news including a keynote address by the CEOs of the big four U.S. carriers (T-Mobile's CEO pulled out of the event after AT&T announced plans to acquire the carrier on March 21). The fun begins March 22 and runs through March 24.
For a review of last year's show, check out Jessica Dolcourt's feature on "CNET's Best of CTIA 2010: Where are they now?"
So what does CTIA have in store for us? Admittedly, in past years the show has been a bit quieter than CES and Mobile World Congress--we know that we're a little tired by this point, so we don't doubt that manufacturers feel the same way--but we guarantee that there will be lots to see at the shiny Orange County Convention Center. Android, tablets, and smartphones with dual-core processors should continue as popular themes, of course, but wireless news will come from all corners of the industry. Here's what we see developing.
HTC doesn't have a press conference scheduled for CTIA, but that doesn't mean we won't be hearing from the handset manufacturer. The company will most likely leave it up to its carrier partners to announce any news it has and already, there are rumors that Sprint will unveil the HTC Evo 3D and the HTC Evo View (the CDMA version of the HTC Flyer tablet) at the show. Indeed, Sprint has scheduled a 2.5-hour media event for Tuesday afternoon. We can't imagine what the company could talk about for that long, but we'll be there to find out.
The HTC Droid Incredible 2 for Verizon also has been snapped in the wild, so perhaps it will make its official debut at CTIA. Hopefully, we'll also get some updates (read: availability date and pricing) on the HTC ChaCha and Salsa Facebook phones, which are due out with AT&T later this year.
Samsung has already let it be known via its Facebook page that it will have some sort of tablet news at CTIA. The popular thought is that Sammy will reveal an 8.9-inch tablet to sit in between its 7-inch Galaxy Tab and recently announced Galaxy Tab 10.1, but we'll have to wait till March 22 to find out. Samsung's press conference is scheduled to start at 8 a.m. PT.
It's unclear right now if the company will also debut new phones, but CTIA will be our first opportunity to take a hands-on look at the T-Mobile Sidekick 4G. Designed by Samsung, the Sidekick 4G keeps some aspects of the old messaging handheld but also adds a touch screen, a front-facing camera, Android 2.2, and 4G support, among other things.
Nokia made a big splash right before Mobile World Congress by announcing its partnership with Microsoft, but we still have a little while to go before we see any Nokia handsets running Windows Phone 7. In the meantime, the Finnish handset manufacturer has restated its commitment to Symbian, and it looks like Nokia will focus on this at CTIA. The company has sent out invites for an event on Monday evening, which reads, "We promised to sell millions more Symbian devices. Join us as we spotlight our latest solution for U.S. consumers." OK, we're intrigued, Nokia. We hope it's worth it.
LG and T-Mobile should become even closer friends at CTIA. As we see it, the Optimus 2X, which the company announced at CES, will make an appearance as the LG G2X for T-Mobile. Like its sibling, the G2X also should offer a 4-inch WVGA display, Wi-Fi with portable hot-spot capability, full HD video playback and recording, a gyro sensor, DLNA support, an 8-megapixel rear camera and a 1.3-megapixel front-facing camera, and HDMI mirroring.
Unlike in Barcelona, Spain, where Sony Ericsson kicked off Mobile World Congress with a high-profile press conference, the company is assuming a lower profile in Florida. We'll be meeting with the company on Wednesday and we'll check out any new offerings it may have. If anything, we hope to get a Verizon Wireless release date for the Xperia Play. And if we're really lucky, we'll get the scoop on when the Xperia Neo, Xperia Pro, and Xperia Arc might come to North America.
All the rest
Most of the other big manufacturers remain a mystery at the moment. Motorola, for one, hasn't scheduled any press conferences, which strikes us a little odd. Though its low-key presence at Mobile World Congress was understandable after it took CES by storm, Moto needs to give us a little something next week. At the very least, why not a release date for the Droid Bionic?
On the same note, we'd love to hear more availability details for the RIM BlackBerry PlayBook and the HP Pre 3. We don't expect much news from PCD, Pantech, ZTE, and Huawei. No doubt we'll get a chance to revisit some of their recently announced products, but that should be it. And lastly, don't count on any iPhone 5 news. Apple never comes to trade shows, and it's not about to start now.
As we said, our full coverage of CTIA will begin in earnest on Tuesday. Check back then for blogs, photos, and videos. See you in Orlando!