The annual IFA (Internationale Funkausstellung Berlin, which translates to “International Radio Exhibition”) conference in Berlin, Germany, is one of the oldest consumer electronics exhibitions in the world. The first took place in 1924, became an annual event in 1939, entered stasis during World War II, and picked up again in 1950. Now, the 1.6 million-square-foot Messe Berlin expo hall attracts more than 1,600 exhibitors, 245,000 visitors, and a deluge of press coverage each year in September.
The festivities may officially begin on September 2, but manufacturers like Samsung, LG, and others fight aggressively for the limelight by hosting spin-off events and pop-up conferences off the show floor. Many press conferences have already taken place with more set for September 1, so you can expect to see major announcements before the show officially opens.
So what can we expect from the top dogs in the smartphone, wearable, and broader electronics industry? We’ve compiled a list of what we’re expecting and what we’ve already seen.
Sure, Samsung debuted the Note 7 and a new Gear VR headset nearly a month ahead of its Berlin showing, but that doesn’t mean the company won’t have more to show at IFA. In fact, the company has already held a press event specifically for the Gear S3 smartwatch, the follow-up to last year’s Gear S2. The new device features a classic, Swiss-inspired design, as well as GPS and a rotating bezel. The device actually comes in two models — the Gear S3 Classic and the Gear S3 Frontier, with the Classic being a little more for the businessman and the Frontier being designed for the outdoors type. You can check out our hands-on with the device here.
Of course, Samsung’s Gear S3 event isn’t the only press conference the company is holding at IFA this year. The Galaxy Tab S3 is another candidate for an IFA launch. The rumored Tab S3, which briefly appeared on the company’s Colombian website and reportedly passed through Chinese governing body TENAA earlier this year, purportedly packs a Qualcomm Snapdragon 652 processor; an 8-inch, 1,536-by-2,048-pixel AMOLED screen; 3GB of RAM; and a 4,000mAh battery — in sum, hardware nearly identical to last year’s model. A larger, 9.7-inch option is expected alongside it.
Samsung could also be looking to unveil a new series of TVs at the show. Earlier this year, Samsung confirmed that it’s actively pursuing QLED, or “electroluminescent quantum dot light” technology, for consumer televisions. That’s a mouthful of a term, but it’s a new type of display tech, in essence, that leverages many-sized molecules to produce a rainbow of colors. Thanks to the ability of QLED screens to “switch off” individual pixels, they’re expected to deliver massive improvements in contrast ratio, power efficiency, and color. Most analysts estimate the first QLED consumer products are at least “three to five years” away, but a protoype at IFA isn’t out of the question.
There’s a chance less conventional projects may get stage time. Samsung’s C-Lab skunkworks launched two innovations this past summer potentially due to debut: the Iofit, a pair of “smart shoes” for golfers designed to track your activity level improve golf swing posture; and Welt, a “smart belt” intended to help prevent overeating and obesity. And Samsung’s bound to showcase bleeding-edge tech from its myriad of other divisions. We’re expecting new set-top boxes, monitors, and new developments from its SmartThings and smart home appliance divisions.
Samsung is hosting two press conferences around IFA: one has already been held, and the second on Thursday, September 1, at 5 a.m. ET.
Sony took last year’s IFA as an opportunity to debut the Xperia Z5, then the crown jewel in its long-running Xperia smartphone line, and this year may be no different. The latest rumors suggest the Japan-based company’s got a new, top-of-the-line Xperia — potentially dubbed the Xperia XZ — in tow, one reportedly packing a 1,920 x 1,080-pixel screen, Qualcomm Snapdragon 820 processor, 3GB of RAM, and impressive cameras — a 21-megapixel rear-facing sensor and 12-megapixel front-facing shooter. The design is noteworthy, too: It’s reportedly a sharp-corner body with a curved rear shell unlike any Xperia before it. A second, potentially more affordable handset — the Xperia X Compact — might make an appearance at Sony’s press event, too. Leaks suggest it sports a 4.6-inch screen, but details have otherwise been hard to come by.
Sony’s likely to have more in store than smartphones, of course. A successor to the company’s long-in-the-tooth Android Wear device, the SmartWatch 3, is certainly possible. The firm’s promised Xperia Ear Bluetooth voice assistant, which the company initially said would launch “this summer,” could be on hand, too. And there’s a chance, albeit slim, that Sony could launch its Xperia N “neck wearable,” a crazy shoulder-mounted device that packs four noise-canceling speakers, open ear buds, and a camera, commercially. We’ll have to wait and see.
Just as likely as new wearables and smartwatches from the Sony are new TVs, cameras, and audio accessories. And the electronics maker is likely to jump aboard the Ultra HD Blu-ray train, too — the company has yet to debut a player to compete against the likes of Samsung.
Sony’s press conference begins Wednesday, September 1, at 7 p.m. ET.