IFA (Internationale Funkausstellung Berlin), also known as the Berlin Radio Show, one of the world's most important shows for consumer electronics and home appliances, lies only one day ahead of us, taking place between September 1-6. The latest products and innovations of key retailers, as well as tech industry's major trends will be presented throughout the event. Versus attended IFA's preceding event in June, and can give you an overview of what you can expect of this year’s IFA.
Yes, it may seem surprising for some, since the end of the TV has been predicted so many times, but according to a trend analysis by the gfu Consumer & Electronics – organizers of IFA – the TV will continue to play a big role in people’s lives.
It's true that, nowadays, computers are used a bit more than TVs, especially for video streaming, but things are changing, thanks to Smart TVs and streaming services, such as Netflix and Amazon Video. People can now watch their favourite movies and series at home, whenever they want, and the best way to enjoy them is with a Ultra HD resolution TV and a big screen.
Manufacturers like Sony and LG are now focusing on devices with Ultra HD resolution. OLED displays will play a big role this year, due to the deep black and the bright colors they provide. Sony and Panasonic are now following LG and other smaller manufacturer in this direction and started producing them as well, while Samsung is going on a different path with its QLED technology.
Due to the great resolution provided by current TV models, it’s possible to have much bigger TVs in smaller spaces without compromising the viewing quality. The average TV screen size is 55 inches, but the trend towards larger displays is clearly visible – which we bet to see with new devices presented during IFA. Curved-screen TVs are becoming niche products, while the 3D feature is only implemented in a few models.
An ongoing trend is clearly the networking of devices, with topics like smart home, the Internet of Things and smart health being especially relevant – we also expect that manufacturers will bring many new interesting products to IFA 2017.
Being able to link all your devices sounds like a convincing vision which can potentially make your life easier, especially when facing physical limitations. For instance, it can come in quite handy to be able to control your washing machine via smartphone, to control lights or the surveillance systems in your home, or even to take a look inside your fridge while at the supermarket. It is said that intelligent devices can help you save electricity and even help you to stay healthier. Smart health devices have already shown great benefits – a great example are hearing devices, which can even be connected to smartphone apps that allow you to watch TV and videos with better hearing quality. For smart home devices, saving electricity is actually only possible when connecting several smart devices to one another, so they can save money and time with efficient communication – thus one smart washing machine isn't going to make a big difference.
Some questions remain: how much can you actually save, considering the amount of money that you have to spend first when purchasing smart home devices, and when do connected devices make sense?
High prices may be the major reason why smart home devices are only found in 8% of German households, as well as the fact that many devices are incompatible with each other, and each manufacturer has a different app. Such problems make using smart home devices rather a disadvantage for the user, and solutions must be found. At the moment, these devices are still more a topic for very tech-friendly users than for the great mass.
Considering that young people are the ones mostly bringing smart home devices to their homes, this will probably remain a relevant topic in the future, especially if more user-friendly solutions are found.
Virtual reality has always been a major topic at IFA, as the game industry has consistently presented improved technologies that make immersive gaming experiences possible. In the past years, IFA visitors were able to try out the HTC Vive and the Oculus Rift, and in 2016 Sony showed its PlayStation VR along with their PlayStation gaming console. This year, VR technologies will probably not generate as much industry buzz, and the gfu study showed that VR is still a niche topic in Germany: only 4% of households actually have a VR headset, and 63% have no interest in VR, the research pointed out. This industry's potential is still considered very high, since significant hardware improvements are still expected (and much necessary). The main reasons why VR doesn't currently appeal to the mass are most probably high prices, the lack of high performance image technologies and the still-too-uncomfortable headsets. The image quality provided by VR technologies is not yet the same seen on TVs, smartphones and computer monitors, and the cable – required for high-end devices such as the Oculus Rift – might also be a drawback. This year's IFA won't bring new VR headsets, keeping us curious about next year’s releases.
Now that we know the main trends for IFA 2017, we'll take a closer look at what can be expected from Samsung, Sony, LG, and other leading companies.
Samsung has been one of IFA's biggest exhibitors for years, providing a first look at its latest TVs, entertainment technologies, smartphones, wearables, monitors and home appliances at the tech show.
In terms of smartphone releases, the recently released Galaxy Note 8 will have its European debut. The new phablet, which aims at making people forget about the problems of its predecessor, clearly has remarkable specs. For instance, it has dual optical image stabilization for its two main cameras, a massive 6.3-inch Infinity Display and an improved S Pen. Featuring 3300 mAh of battery power, the Note 8 offers less than its predecessor. Contrary to the Samsung Galaxy 8 and Galaxy 8 Plus, it is possible to have a look at the Note 8 and test it before its release on September 15, which will be a great attraction to many tech-fans.
Regarding tablets, we've already seen Samsung’s latest Galaxy Tab S3 earlier this year at the Mobile World Congress, and most likely there won’t be another big releasethis year. However, if you're interested in buying a tablet and will be attending IFA, you may get the chance to test the Samsung Galaxy Tab S3 at the event.
Concerning TVs, Samsung is going its own path by choosing to produce QLED screens instead of OLED, unlike most of its competitors. The particularity here is the quantum dot technology, used in LCD TVs; the difference is the quantum dot layer between the LCD panel and its illumination, leading to better images than those shown on LED displays, due to the special physical properties of quantum dot particles. It has its advantages and disadvantages compared to OLEDs. For instance, QLED can’t reach the same blackness that OLEDs provide, but the images are brighter and the colors are more vivid. In the end it is a matter of taste, and you should form your own opinion. More info on the different types of TV screens can be found here.
Samsung created a particular QLED TV called “The Frame”, which is as thick as a painting and looks like a screen in a frame. The “artistic look” is emphasized with a special painting mode, displaying paintings on the screen. The Frame is meant to be easily integratable in the living area and not look too much like a TV, especially considering its large size.
Samsung also announced its new Gear Sport, Gear Fit2 Pro and Gear IconX, which are meant to improve smart living, fitness and health. The Gear Sport is specially designed for swimmers, since it is water-resistant to a depth of 50 meters and automatically recognizes different swimming styles, while the Gear Fit2 Pro is focused on smart features, like GPS tracking.
Sony is of course once again one of the leading manufacturers present at IFA. Sony will give visitors the chance to test its new flagship smartphones, the Xperia XZ1 and Xperia XZ1 Compact. In the last years Sony has proven to be innovative with its phones, especially in terms of design. With their angular shape, Sony phones usually look very different from the rest. Sony imposed itself as one of the leaders of the smartphone market when it presented the first 4K phone, the Z5 Premium, at the IFA 2015. Sony Xperia XZ1 and Xperia XZ1 Compact are the first phones powered by Google's latest operation system, Android 8.0 Oreo.
Sony will also showcase the Bravia A1 TV, which has already been presented at CES earlier this year, but it's definitely an important part of the show as it's one of Sony’s top products. The large, 77-inch version will be made available for the European market.
Bravia A1 provides a bright and clear picture in addition to deep black levels and it's powered by Sony’s X1 Extreme image processor. Since Sony switched to OLED screens, the back-illuminated sensors used on LCDs are no longer needed, so Sony was able to come up with a whole new feature. The A1 has no speakers, but instead produces the sound through the screen by letting it resonate through actuators in the back. The TV has only one subwoofer, located externally at the back of the stator.
For its TVs, Sony also presents its soundbars with the Dolby Atmos technology and its UHD Blu-ray player with Dolby Atmos support. The soundbars will be supporting smart speakers and can be controlled through voice commands, showing that Sony is also following the smart home trend.
LG is announced its new flagship, LG V30, today. Smartphones are usually the biggest attractions at tech shows, simply because it is the technology that we are using the most. Since Samsung decided to announce its Note 8 before IFA, and Huawei and HTC are not planning a lot this year, Sony Xperia XZ1 and LG V30 are the most important releases. LG V30 has a 6-inch Full Vision OLED display that covers 82% of its front, and an improved dual-camera. The camera has a 16-megapixel sensor with optical image stabilization and a 13-megapixel sensor with a super-wide angle lens that offers a field of view of 120 degrees. The phone is powered by Qualcomm's Snapdragon 835 chipset and rummours say that the same hardware will be used by Google for its next Pixel flagship, expected this October.
Acer will be the point to go to for all gaming fans, but also for everyone interested in computing technology. At the press conference preceding IFA, Acer revealed its latest products which will be showcased at the show: PCs for the mass-market, powerful gaming PCs, monitors and other accessories needed for the perfect gaming experience. Last year, Acer announced the Swift 7 ultrabook. This year, we'll be able to see its follower, the new Swift 5. Swift 5 is compact and ultra light, with a weight of less than one kilogramm, thanks to the magnesium alloy used for its body. It's powered by the latest Intel processors, the 8th generation Core i5 and Core i7. It supports up to 16GB of RAM and up to 512GB of internal storage. The display has full-HD resolution, but this helps increase battery life, which is pretty good (up to eight hours).
Besides Samsung, Sony, LG, and Acer, there will be more than 1,800 exhibitors at this year's edition. The exhibition spreads over 159,000 square meters and more than 245,000 visitors are expected this year. IFA 2017 will bring lots of innovative and interesting devices, so stay tuned to find out about the latest tech innovations.
Translated from German by Manuela Wendt