PCR visited the Birmingham NEC yesterday for the 2015 Gadget Show Live trade day - here's some of the highlights.
The show is taking place every day for the rest of the week targeting consumers, but on Tuesday we had a chance to walk around the stands during the trade-only day. Here are our top ten things we took away from this year's show:
1. Physical retail sales are a big deal for Ebuyer (and other etailers)
As revealed by PCR last week, tech etailer Ebuyer.com is using the Gadget Show Live to sell products to consumers over the counter. If this trial is a success, Ebuyer could open its first High Street stores.
The etailer was also showing off its own-brand Sond Bluetooth speakers at the show, which are also being stocked by the likes of Argos.
Plus, Ebuyer had an Optoma 3D projector demo room and several other vendors presenting their wares on its stand, including Nvidia, Seagate, Razer and more. System builders YoYoTech and PC Specialist had their own sections on the Ebuyer stand, presenting their systems to consumers (which are available to purchase through the Ebuyer website).
Elsewhere at the show, Box, Misco and Eclipse Computers also had large separate stands targeting consumers, with customers able to purchase goods from them direct. Box had several vendors looking after their own areas within the stand, including MSI, Cooler Master and more.
2. PC World was nowhere to be seen
PCR understands that Currys/PC World was due to exhibit at the Gadget Show Live 2015 but pulled out at a late stage. Its parent company Dixons Carphone (or Dixons Retail as it was known this time last year) had previously sponsored the show in prior years.
However, that didn't stop some Dixons Carphone execs apparently snooping around the Ebuyer stand...
3. Vendors still think smart home products will be big
Panasonic had a mock living room on its stand at the show, complete with a smart light bulb, door lock, security system, CCTV camera and smart home hub device in use and on display. It's aiming for a spring/summer launch for these, with an entry-level kit costing under £100.
There were several talks at the event looking at the market for the connected home and the Internet of Things, including discussion from Dixons Carphone director Steve Moore.
Other vendors were also pushing the home automation devices, with a handful of stands featuring the products.
4. Is 3D printing losing its wow factor?
While there were a handful of 3D printer firms at the show, including Roblox and 3D Replex (pictured above - Replex allows customers to send in a picture of themselves and pay £70 for the firm to turn it into a figure using an industrial 3D printer), the sector arguably isn't as fresh and exciting as it once was a year or two ago.
Until the speed and quality of 3D printers ramps up, and prices come down, we can't help but feel the market may be somewhat overlooked by other developing sectors in the tech industry.
5. Gadget cases just won't stop coming
There were probably more smartphone and tablet cases than anything else at this year's show. But while this market is perhaps becoming oversaturated, you can't say that innovation is drying up.
Toast (pictured above) had a beautiful line of premium wooden and leather cases on show, while Mous had an interesting £19.99 smartphone case that also holds a pair of headphones within its shell, which can be winded up or loosened as the user is walking. The start-up firm (backed by Virgin and Richard Branson) told PCR it secured editorial coverage from The Daily Mail by running into its office and storming past journalists while using the device.
6. The Bluetooth boom isn't over yet
Another abundant product found at the event was the Bluetooth speaker. We spotted hundreds of different audio devices on the day from portable speakers in all shapes, sizes and colours.
From Hartman.com Bluetooth speakers to the aforementioned Sond speakers from Ebuyer, and Otone Audio (who arguably had the best stand - an outdoor garden look complete with a tree and fake grass), Panasonic, Sennheiser and Fugoo outdoor Bluetooth speakers to name a few, there were tons around.
We were most impressed by the Fugoo units, which have already launched in US Apple Stores and are arriving in the UK shortly, having just signed with distributor Kondor. The devices have a 40-hour battery life, can work underwater and are extremely portable (if a little pricey, with products in the new range priced from £149 to £189).
7. PC gaming had a bigger focus this year
There was certainly more space given to gaming than previous years, with a large GAME/Multiplay area at the back (complete with a GAME store area selling products, and a LAN tournament section).
Gaming was also a big focus for Box (with MSI and Cooler Master) and Eclipse Computers, which had a large selection of accessories, components and systems available to buy, plus a LAN gaming area. YoYoTech and PC Specialist were showing off systems, plus there were a handful of games merchandise stands selling licensed T-shirts and collectables.
PCR also spotted members of eSports organisation Choke Gaming (sponsored by Eclipse) at the show.
8. Cheap alternatives to the Apple Watch have arrived
While there were apparently fake Apple Watches on show at CES earlier this year, a £69.99 alternative was also on display at the Gadget Show Live.
The device from Adspec is a smartwatch compatible with both iOS and android, and bears a striking resemblance to Apple's version, which arrives on April 24th.
Adspec also had a number of budget tablets available too, priced from £29.99.
9. An independent PC retailer had its own stand
PC World's loss is an indie's gain, it seems.
PCR bumped into Paul Betteridge from The Laptop Fixers (a recent PCR Store of the Month), who had a stand at the show, promoting the firm's online gadget repairs and system building service.
10. This device lets you turn any wall into a whiteboard
Billed as 'the world's most portable interactive whiteboard', the Equil Smartmarker sticks to a wall and can capture up to five metres of writing. Simply cover a section of a wall with paper, stick the Equil next to it and write using a market. The device captures what is being written, sends it to a nearby computer and converts the writing into text.
It's an impressive product - Google seems to think so anyway, as the tech giant is already using it as a creative tool in their offices. The £499 device is targeting resellers (and schools, universities and offices) at the moment but a spokesperson didn't rule out a bigger push at retail at a later date.
The Equil Smartmarket is available from distributor TNS Online, which also had its own large stand at the Gadget Show Live 2015. Trade-only distie TNS also had a number of new devices on show, including Littlebits connected electronics chips, a Go Gear accessory pack for action cams, FlirFX security cameras, the aforementioned Mous smartphone cases, and more.