IFA 2018, Europe’s most famous consumer electronics show, is starting this Friday in Berlin, bringing together hundreds of manufacturers which will present their latest products. Mobile devices, wearables, computers, home appliances and electronics are just a few of the areas of interest. Here are the most important tech trends of this year's edition.
Home entertainment remains one of the major trends at IFA. Since its beginning in 1924, IFA was the place where influential electronic products were first introduced, like the color TV in 1937. Nowadays, Smart TVs, OLED, UHD, and HDR are the main buzzwords. In 2017, flat-screen OLED TVs dominated the show - every major player in the home entertainment market showcased OLED TVs with deep black levels and extremely high contrast ratios. Before 2017, LG was the only producer of OLED TVs. At this year’s show, we expect a wide range of OLED TVs but no major changes in terms of technology - an evolution instead of a revolution.
The major producer of OLED panels for TVs, LG, is bringing the latest generation of TVs to the market. As their product portfolio becomes more and more varied, other manufacturers also get access to newer types of OLED panels from LG. The technology is now mature. The durability of OLED panels is quite long, so customers don’t have to worry about repairing or replacing their TVs. At the same time, the latest developments of OLED technology solve the dreaded problem of screen burn-in or permanent discoloration. Due to the fact that OLED panels use organic materials, after a certain time, intensely used organic LEDs tend to lose their luminance. With technologies such as LG’s “Screen Shift” or Sony’s “Pixel Shift”, the burn-in effect is prevented for long periods of time, especially if the TVs also have screen savers. The only thing that remains a problem is the high price of the products, which are still considered to be part of the premium market segment.
But prices are dropping as well. This year, LG launched an extremely large TV with a screen measuring 77 inches - the LG OLED C8 - at a price below $23,000, which is a premiere for the company. Now, the prices for C8 TVs are well below $8,000. At the same time, major manufacturers like Panasonic, Philips, and Sony are expanding their offers of OLED TVs.
In addition to OLED TVs, LED TVs remain an alternative. For LED technology, the development is continuing. Samsung plans on conquering the market with their QLED TVs that use Quantum Dots. This technology is using photo-sensitive nanoparticles that create a brighter image and increase the peak brightness of the display to more than 1000 nits. Other manufacturers call this technology Nano Cell. The prices of these devices are way cheaper compared to OLED TVs.
Samsung launched Quantum Dot last year at IFA and is committed to developing this technology. Its potential was proven this spring with the launch of the Q9F flagship TV.
Samsung has also patented Direct Full Array Elite backlighting system and plans to bring back the direct backlighting in its TVs. Another cutting-edge technology Samsung is currently employing is local dimming or Precision Black Ultimate as Samsung calls it. The Q9F TV is using local dimming to provide better black levels. Hundreds of zones can be shut down completely, generating extremely deep blacks. At the same time, thanks to the brightness of 2000 nits, very bright images can be generated. The result: crisp, high-contrast images, and an outstanding viewing experience. Even if the costs of QLED devices are lower compared to OLED, you can still expect a price of around $3,300 for a 65-inch TV.
Just like in the case of LG’s OLED devices, Samsung is not the only producer of Quantum Dot devices, even though they are the pioneers of this technology. Hisense is also trying to attract new customers with high-end tech and a good price-quality ratio. During the 2018 World Cup, the Chinese company showcased the Hisense H75U9A, a limited edition TV meant to show what this technology is capable of. The 75-inch special edition promises a peak brightness of 2,500 nits, outstanding contrast, and deep black level by using local dimming. The current price is approximately $5,600.
The trend is clear for the TVs which will be showcased at IFA this year: bigger TVs, higher resolutions, and excellent image quality. The type of display and the price are things you need to decide, but you can be sure there will be a wide range of TVs available. Although, if you are a fan of 3D, you will be disappointed because there aren’t any 3D TVs expected at IFA 2018.
Even last year, voice assistants and AI were important topics and everybody got to hear about them. Following the smart speakers powered by voice assistants like Amazon’s Alexa and the Google Assistant, many manufacturers decided to integrate these voice assistants into their own products. This trend will surely continue at IFA 2018, especially for speakers, which are very popular among consumers.
More and more devices integrate smart voice assistants. There are hundreds of headphones, speakers, TVs, and cars that integrate voice assistants. Samsung added its own assistant, Bixby, to the Family Hub series of home appliances. This year, Samsung’s assistant should become available in more languages, including German, taking the Bixby and Samsung’s product ecosystem to a whole new level.
LG is relying on its own ThinQ smart system. LG’s Assistant powers the company’s smartphones, TVs and entertainment systems, as well as home appliances, making the communication between these products easier and making users’ lives more comfortable. It’s great to be able to turn on your washing machine from your phone while you’re at work and find the laundry ready when you get home. In addition, Amazon’s Alexa is also integrated, expanding the functionalities of the products.
The number of devices with voice assistants is expected to grow. At the same time, voice assistants will probably be integrated into devices produced by various manufacturers, especially manufacturers of smart home products. Amazon and Google are dominating the market at the moment, but other tech giants are entering the game, for example, Apple with its HomePod. IFA 2018 will show us who is leading the competition.
We all value good health and keeping fit but we usually don’t do anything about it until we start having problems. Nevertheless, health has always been an important topic at IFA. From nutrition to personal care products and fitness trackers, which are becoming increasingly popular, the range of showcased products has been extremely rich.
Philips is coming to Berlin with probably the most innovative device for health. The Dutch company isn’t only known for its consumer electronics, but also for developing professional medical equipment for hospitals and clinics worldwide. Their expertise in this field is impressive and it’s relevant also for the devices they produce for regular consumers.
Philips Smart Sleep is the result of years of deep sleep research by industry leading experts and doctors. It’s a smart headband that improves sleep quality and increases energy. The built-in sensors are able to detect sleep phases. During the deep phase of your sleep, the headband emits sound waves using a small sensor behind the ear, thus stimulating the brain and helping prolong your deep sleep. You or the person sleeping next to you won’t hear anything.
The target group is formed from people with ages between 18 and 50 who sleep less than 7 hours per night. Philips SmartSleep is ideal for parents with young kids and people with a busy lifestyle. The device can’t solve problems caused by medical conditions such as insomnia or sleep apnea and doesn’t help you fall asleep faster. It’s a sleep enhancement technology that has effects during the REM sleep and can prolong the deep sleep phase.
Philips is not the only company developing sleep enhancement wearable devices. The French start-up Rythum has already launched a headband called Dreem which is supposed to help you get a deeper and better sleep. With a price $500, Dreem is slightly more expensive than the Philips SmartSleep, which is expected to cost approximately $400. However, the sensor used by Philips SmartSleep needs to be replaced after three uses and a pack of 30 sensors costs $50.
Overall, such devices are quite expensive, but isn’t a good sleep priceless? Whether such devices actually improve sleep quality and help you get up refreshed remains to be seen. We’re looking forward to the reviews and hands-on tests.
Translated from German by Diana Plutis | German version available on schnaeppchenfuchs.com