CTIA 2013 will go down as one of the most unconventional wireless conventions we’ve ever attended. Jennifer Lopez announced her own retail brand catering to Latino customers. Kyocera invited us to an ice bar to check out its new waterproof phones. And we saw dozens of wireless accessories and apps that go above and beyond the ordinary to help users maximize their handsets. With more than 35,000 attendees and more than 1,000 exhibitors, there was a lot to see this week in Las Vegas. But these products rose above the rest. Here are our top picks for the Best of CTIA 2013 Awards.
Best Smartphone: Kyocera Hydro XTRM
First off, we have to give style points to Kyocera for showing us how the Kyocera Hydro XTRM can survive being immersed in 3.3 feet of water for up to 30 minutes. The company literally encased the phone in a block of ice at its unveiling. Coming to U.S. Cellular May 24th for just $29.99 (after instant rebate), the device is also Mil Spec 810G certified for withstanding shocks and drops. Still not impressed? This Android 4.1 Jelly Bean phone sports Smart Sonic Receiver technology for pumping audio directly into your eardrum without the need for a speaker.
Best App: AVG Image Shrinker
There’s nothing worse than trying to share a photo on Facebook that you took with your smartphone, only to receive an error message telling you your image is too large. That’s where AVG’s new Image Shrinker app comes in. The free app, currently available through the Google Play store, allows you to resize photos with a few quick taps. Image Shrinker also gives you the option to delete the original file to save space on your handset. You can then choose to upload the photo directly to Facebook, Twitter or the social network of your liking.
Best Mobile Security Service: Bitdefender Clueful
Are your apps spying on you? Bitdefender wants to make sure they’re not with its new Clueful app. The free Android software scans your device to determine whether any apps you’ve downloaded require unnecessary privilege uses. Clueful then categorizes offending apps as high, medium or low-risk. If you download a wallpaper app that wants to view your contacts, for example, Clueful will recognize it as a high-risk app and advise you to remove it. Clueful will also scan any new apps you download to determine if they are risky as well.
Best Enabling Technology: Nvidia Tegra 4i
The future of smartphones is more speed. Lots of it. And Nvidia’s Tegra 4i platform delivers it in spades, offering up to 150 Mbps throughput in lab tests. Thanks to its software-defined radio technology, Tegra 4i is also ready for LTE Advanced, the next generation of 4G. When you consider that Nvidia’s latest chip is 40 percent smaller than the competition (read: Qualcomm), you have a platform that’s powerful, but also very efficient. Look for Tegra 4i phones to hit the market early in 2014.
Best Phone Accessory: Tech21 Impact Shield
Go to Apple’s online store right now and you’ll find that Tech 21’s Impact Mesh Case for the iPhone 5 is the No. 1 case for the device. The military-grade D30 material offers unmatched protection. Now Tech21 has set its sights on your screen with its Impact Shield, which offers a triple layer of defense against scratches, cracks and other damage. This is bulletproof-level tech that we’re talking about for your iPhone 5, Galaxy phone or iPad mini. Just watch the wire brush demo video and you’ll understand why this self-healing screen protector might be the best $30 you ever spent.
Best Tablet Accessory: ZaggKeys Cover
Zagg is looking to change the way you use your iPad mini with its new ZaggKeys Cover. The keyboard cover, which will be available for $99.99 starting next month, features a new hinge design that gives users the ability to view their iPad mini at angles of up to 135 degrees. In addition to being the thinnest iPad mini cover around, the ZaggKeys Cover also includes a backlit keyboard with seven different color options and three different light intensities. We’re sold.
Best Enterprise Product: MoGo Chimera
Any retailer worth its weight in salt is using tablets to provide its customers with a better shopping experience, and Mobelisk is seeking to further improve that with its new MoGo Chimera tablet case. In addition to fitting nearly any 7- to 8-inch tablet, the MoGo Chimera offers a sturdy case, a large battery that can double your slate’s battery life and the ability to add optional features, including credit card readers and barcode scanners. Mobelisk says the MoGo Chimera is a great fit for not only retail stores, but for sports venues as well. And while the company hasn’t announced any partners, it did hint that you can expect to see its product in use in stores and stadiums in the coming months.
Best Audio Product: SuperTooth Freedom
Most consumers have shunned Bluetooth stereo headphones up until now because of short battery life or the high price. The SuperTooth Freedom tackles both of those caveats head-on with a rated 15 hours of playback and a very friendly $149 price tag — or $130 less than the Beats Wireless Headphones. Despite the low cost, the Freedoms offer 40-mm drivers for powerful audio, a built-in mic for voice calls and touch playback controls. Plus, there’s NFC on board for easy pairing with compatible smartphones.