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CES 2021 will be digital-only, and you already know why

Don't expect much in the way of hands-on experience with new tech.

Published onJuly 28, 2020

CES 2020 CTA logo aa
  • The Consumer Technology Association has canceled the in-person CES 2021 event due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • The trade show will be a digital-only event this year.
  • You likely won’t see much hands-on with the latest tech as a result.

The COVID-19 pandemic has claimed another trade show victim. The Consumer Technology Association has canceled the in-person component of CES 2021, instead switching to an “all-digital” event.

Unsurprisingly, the Association cited safety as the driving factor.  It’s “just not possible” to safely gather nearly 200,000 attendees in Las Vegas in January while the virus is still a threat, CTA chief Gary Shapiro said. The organization had still been committed to a physical event as recently as early June, but that was also before a surge in COVID-19 cases across parts of the US. While a vaccine could be available in the fall, it likely won’t be widely available by the time CES takes place.

CES 2021: What will it be like?

The CTA didn’t outline just how its online-only CES will work. However, it’s safe to say this will have a dramatic impact on the coverage you can expect from Android Authority, not to mention your chances to experience CES first-hand.

To start: this will likely rule out most hands-on coverage, at least as you’ve come to know it at CES. While some companies might mail products for hands-on time, you shouldn’t expect to see as much first-hand experience with prototypes or other pre-release devices. That, in turn, could make it difficult to spot hidden gems or appreciate the weird tech that often pops up at side events.

See also: The very best products at CES 2020

This also rules out any in-person press events. However, that might not be a bad thing for you. As with other tech events, that could make the presentations more accessible than ever before. You should see more keynotes and product launches streamed online, not to mention more demonstration videos to make up for the lack of booths.

And if you still miss the atmosphere of a conventional CES, there’s still hope for the following year. The CTA is planning for an in-person CES 2022 that melds the “best elements of a physical and digital show.” The hands-on time might well return in a year and a half, and it could be shaped by the lessons learned from the 2021 exhibition.

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