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.
LG has already taken the wraps off of one new product at IFA — the company is showing off three new computer monitors, one measuring a hefty 38-inches. The 38-inch monitor, the LG 38UC99, is a curved 21:9 set that features IPS technology and a resolution of 3,480 x 1,600, which is the highest resolution we’ve seen from a curved monitor to date. The company also unveiled a 34-inch ultrawide monitor, the 34UC79G, aimed at gamers, featuring a 144Hz refresh rate and an IPS panel. Last but not least is the UM79G, which is designed for multimedia and has built in support for Google Cast. You can read more about the monitors here.
Last year, LG took IFA as an opportunity to debut a classier, pricier variant of its flagship LG Watch wearable: the 23-karat gold LG Watch Urbane Luxe (emphasis added). This year, we’re expecting more than a wearable: the rumored follow-up to the company’s V10 smartphone, the V20, might make an appearance.
The V20 reportedly inherits its predecessor’s ticker display, and top-of-the-line hardware besides. Leaks suggest the presence of a dual-camera module, Quad HD 2,560 x 1,440-pixel screen, quad-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 820 processor, and 4GB of RAM.
An IFA debut would be a bit unexpected, though. LG sent out invitations for a September 6 press event in San Francisco, a day before IFA officially ends, and the latest rumors peg the handset’s ship date at or around September 14, but stranger things have happened.
More likely to make an IFA debut is the LG’s G Flex 3, the rumored continuation of the company’s high-end Flex line of curved phones. It’s expected to pack hardware similar, if not nearly identical, to the V20, including a Quad HD screen, Snapdragon 820 chipset, and 4GB of RAM. But uniquely, it’ll reportedly sport a self-healing exterior similar to its predecessors — that is to say, one that absorbs light knicks and scratches.
Otherwise, LG might debut new virtual reality tech — the company is a Google Daydream partner, after all — and new products on the audio/visual front. Expect new televisions, at the very least — at last year’s IFA, the firm showed off four new 4K high dynamic range (HDR) panels and a paper-thin, curved OLED panel.
LG’s skipping a press conference in favor of an “Open House” press tour on Thursday. We’ll be reporting from the company’s booth.
Unsurprisingly enough, Asus has already unveiled its latest smartwatch, the ZenWatch 3. The device features a radically different design compared to its predecessor, the ZenWatch 2, shifting from a rectangular design to a circular one. The device also features Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 2100, and is powered by Android Wear, Google’s smartwatch-targeted operating system.
The company also took the wraps off of a new display, the ZenScreen, which is basically a portable 15.6-inch monitor. The screen is designed to offer a ton of extra screen space without taking up too much room in a bag, and is actually being pitched as the world’s lightest and thinnest display. It features both Type-A and Type-C USB ports, which can be used for charging, and can be bought alongside a foldable smart case.
Last but certainly not least is the new 9.7-inch ZenPad 3S, an Android-based tablet that was formally unveiled in Taiwan earlier in August. The device is pretty big compared to other Android tablets, and features a sandblasted aluminum body with diamond-cut chamfered sides. Pretty impressive. Even more impressive is the fact that its a miniscule 5.8mm thick. Under the hood the device features 4GB of RAM and 64GB of internal storage along with a MediaTek processor.
Although unlikely, it’s possible Asus isn’t done yet. The company partnered with Intel to launch the ZenFone 2 at last year’s IFA convention, and there’s a chance history will repeat itself: the chipmaker features heavily on Asus’ 2016 promotional website.
Huawei has been busy this year, no doubt. It debuted its flagship P9 and P9 Max handsets in April; launched the mid-range Mate 8 in China and later the U.S.; and unveiled the astoundingly cheap ($90) Honor 5 Play in August. But rumor has it the company is gearing up for yet another series of refreshes.
The Mate 9 is perhaps the likeliest to appear at IFA. It’s the rumored successor to Huawei’s bleeding-edge Mate 8, and leaks paint it as such. It reportedly packs the company’s newest silicon architecture, the octa-core Kirin 960, paired with a 5.9-inch screen of an unknown resolution and either 4GB or 6GB of RAM. It’ll reportedly be one of the first to launch with Android Nougat, the latest version of Google’s Android operating system, onboard.
A new smartphone from Huawei’s sub-brand, Honor, is a good bet, too. At a press event earlier this year, Huawei handset chief Kevin Ho said that that company would debut a new, never-before-seen line of phones at IFA. Subsequent leaks have revealed a potential name, Nova, and a tidbit: they’re affordable phones targeting women. We’ll undoubtedly learn more soon.
That’s not all Huawei might show. The latest rumblings suggest the company’s prepping a new Mate S phone and Huawei Watch. And on the virtual reality front, Hauwei CEO Richard Yu told the Wall Street Journal in an interview that the company would release “at least” one handset compatible with Google’s Daydream platform. Might we see a headset from the company, too? Could be — Huawei’s last VR peripheral, the eponymous Huawei VR, hasn’t seen a refresh since April.
Huawei’s big event begins on September 1 at 4:30 a.m. ET.
It’s typically a mystery what devices Microsoft will bring IFA and this year is no different, but we can speculate.
There’s a slight chance the Redmond, Washington-based company will debut, or at the very least tease, the long-rumored rumored Surface Phone. Reportedly, said phone will launch with Microsoft’s newest iteration of Windows Phone, tentatively dubbed Redstone. The latest leaked specifications include a 5.5-inch AMOLED screen with a Quad HD 2,560 x 1,440-pixel resolution, an Intel Atom x3 64-bit processor, 4GB of RAM, and Zeiss-branded cameras.
Don’t get your hopes up for an IFA launch, though. Earlier this year, two reports from reputable Microsoft blog Windows Central pegged April 2017 as the earliest potential Surface Phone unveiling. Still, anything could happen.
In terms of other product categories, Microsoft might launch a new wearable at IFA. It’d certainly make sense from a development standpoint: the Band 2, the company’s flagship wearable, is the company’s only major hardware device that isn’t powered by Windows 10. The Band 3, presumably, would be in some fashion.
In terms of more conventional Windows-powered machines, Microsoft likely has new or updated tablets in store. The firm’s existing Surface Pro 4 could gain LTE connectivity, and there’s a chance a Surface-branded all-in-one PCs could make an appearance. The latest rumors paint the device as an “iMac killer” with a touchscreen and Intel’s upcoming Kaby Lake processors, and peg a release timeframe around the third quarter of this year.
As far as computers from Microsoft’s third-party partners go, Toshiba, Acer, Asus, Lenovo, Dell, and company will assuredly reveal Windows 10 laptops and computers.
Intel has jumped the gun and announced its 7th generation of Core desktop processors a little early. The new chips feature the company’s Kaby Lake architecture, and are aimed at bridging the gap between the 14nm Skylake chips and the 10nm Cannonlake chips, which are set to be released next year.
The chips feature a thermal design power that’s as low as 4.5 watts — perfect for both overly thin laptops and powerful desktops alike. Still, Intel is focusing largely on mobile with the new processors — according to Intel, the chips will first show up in updated laptops (ahem, new MacBooks anyone?), and will appear as early as September.Early slip-ups from online retailers indicate that these 7th-generation Core chips will show up in product laptops quickly. The Dell XPS 13 for example, is expected to receive an update, likely during this holiday shopping season. Aside from Kaby Lake, Intel may also highlight its new Optane hard drive line, which is slated to come out next year. Despite this, it’s unlikely that you’ll see many laptops with the new chips until early 2017, unless its a high-end laptop.
Of course, really not that much has changed in the new chips — the overall architecture in the chips is staying the same, it’s just tweaked a little. Intel quotes a 12 percent improvement over 6th-Gen Core chips.
Motorola and Lenovo
Lenovo and Motorola may have just unleashed a deluge of phones across the pricing spectrum — i.e., the Moto G4, Moto G4 Plus, Moto Z, and Moto Z Force — but the company and sub-brand had more to show off at IFA this year.
In fact, Lenovo chose IFA as the stage for the new Moto Z Play, which has a similar look to the Moto Z, however it has a headphone jack. Under the hood things go south, and quick. Despite the hefty price tag, the device features a Qualcomm Snapdragon 625 processor, not the Snapdragon 820 expected from most flagship devices for the year. The phone also has 3GB of RAM and 32GB of storage, but thankfully there’s also a MicroSD card slot to expand upon that storage. Check out our hands-on with the new device here.
Lenovo also released a new hardware peripheral for the Moto Z, its (mostly) successful take on the modular phone concept. The new Moto Mod is the Hasselblad’s “True Zoom Camera,” which features a 10x optical zoom, Xenon flash, a physical shutter and zoom button, automatic backup, and a RAW format option.
Lenovo makes more than phones and smartwatches, of course, and we were also treated to a new Yoga convertible tablet, the Yoga Book. The Yoga Book features a 10.1-inch display with a 1,920-by-1,200-pixel resolution. The tablet also comes with a stylus that doubles as a real pen, and comes with a choice of either Android or Windows. The Book comes with 4GB of RAM and 64GB of storage, which can be expanded using a MicroSD card slot. Perhaps the most interesting feature, however, is the touch-sensitive keyboard which also doubles as a drawing slate — perfect for the artists looking for a nice all-around device.
That keyboard can also be bought as a stand-alone device, called the Halo Keyboard. The device comes with an Intel Atom 5X processor and a sleek aluminum chassis.
Next up is the Miix 510 detachable, which is aimed at being a tablet first, yet has a keyboard for the times in which you need one. The device comes with up to a sixth-gen Intel Core i7 process, 7.5 hours of battery life, and will be available starting in October for $600.
Lenovo also unveiled what it deems to be the thinnest Intel Core convertible laptop, measuring 14.3mm thick. The device is based on Windows 10 and packs a 13.9-inch display with a tiny 5mm bezel. You can get the device in either 4K or Full HD, depending on the model you get. The device will be on sale in October for $1,300.
Last but not least is the Yoga Tab 3, an Android-based Yoga tablet aimed specifically at media consumption. The Tab 3 has a 10.1-inch display and a 2K resolution; however, it still keeps a pretty massive battery life — Lenovo says the device will last over 18 hours on a single charge of its huge 9,300mAh battery. The Yoga Tab 3 will be available in October starting at $300.
Last year, Philips surprised industry watchers by jumping on the wearable bandwagon. It debuted the Health Watch, an activity tracker that pairs with the company’s HealthSuite app to measure the calories you’ve burned, the steps you’ve taken, and your historical heart rate. Intriguingly, it’s one of the few activity trackers on the market certified for medical use, and it’s scheduled to hit store shelves shortly: Philips said it’ll debut in September for €250 (about $280).
The company announced a few computer monitors, too, ahead of the convention. It”ll be showing 40-inch curved model with 4K resolution in addition to a new series, the C7, which sport the “slimmest bezel of any Philips monitor today.” Separately, the firm’s launching new “UltraColor” peripherals that support a wider-than-average color gamut and color calibration.
TVs are a likely shoe-in. Philips confirmed to press earlier this year that it’ll debut an OLED TV this year, potentially as part of its 9 series. And 4K-compatible Blu-ray player’s a possibility — the company launched a UHD player in Japan earlier in August, but has yet to announce broader availability.
Fitbit also showed off a few new products before the show officially started, including the new Charge 2 fitness tracker and Flex 2 “swim-proof” band.
The Flex 2, as mentioned, is the company’s first “swim-proof” device, and is able to go as far as 50 meters underwater. Safe to say, unless you’re scuba diving getting the Flex 2 shouldn’t be a problem. The device also automatically tracks sleep, calories burned, distance, and so on. One of the great things about the Flex 2 is that the sensor is removable, meaning you can wear it in a range of different ways, whether it be on your wrist or as a pendant.
Next up is the Charge 2, which is actually the third device in the Charge series, following the original Charge and the Charge HR. The Charge 2 includes the same heart tracking technology as the Charge HR, however it looks a little more like a smartwatch than its predecessors.
Check out our hands-on reviews with both the Flex 2 and Charge 2 here.
TomTom, perhaps better known by its navigational apps and heads-up units than its mobile devices, has pivoted its development efforts to wearables in recent years. It unveiled Spark last year, a series of fitness-tracking smartwatches that sport GPS, guided workouts, music playback, and heart rate monitoring. This year, we expect more of the same.
“We’re announcing something on September first,” the company’s social media team Tweeted earlier this month. “And there exists a little teaser for you personally. Have a guess. #beepbeep.”
TomTom’s press conference is scheduled for September 1 at 2:30 ET.
At last year’s IFA, Panasonic’s presentation ran the gamut. It announced a 4G-connected home monitoring camera, a new OLED TV, and even an experimental DJ turntable. This year, Panasonic is also making some pretty big announcements.
For example, the company has taken the wraps off of the DMP-UB700 ultra-HD Blu-Ray player, which has support for 4K video. Not only that, but while billed as a Blu-ray player, it also has support for services like Netflix, YouTube, and more.
Panasonic also talked about the future of the smart living room, showing off a new smart living environment built around smart and connected electronics. For example, smart sensors will let you know things like how many bottles of win you have in your wine cellar, and smart wine cellars will have displays telling you what foods to pair with different types of wine. An all-in-one laundry system will be able to wash, dry, fold, and put away your clothes, all in one easy process. It’s all a little futuristic, but it does show where Panasonic wants to go. Check out more about Panasonic’s vision for the smart home here.
If there’s one word that captures ZTE’s product portfolio perfectly, it’s “diverse.” At last year’s IFA conference, the firm debuted new phones in its Axon, Blad, Spro, and nubia lines, plus an Android-powered “smart projector” — the Spro 2. There’s no indication that this year will be any different.
In fact, so far we’ve been treated to a Boost Mobile-only ZTE phone, the Warp 7, which starts at a cheap $99 and features a 5.2-inch display, a Qualcomm Snapdragon 410 processor, 2GB of RAM, a 13MP rear-facing camera, and a 2MP front-facing camera. The device ships with 16GB of storage, however there is a MicroSD card slot to increase that a little.
Perhaps not a release, but we were also treated to more info about the ZTE Nubia Z11, which will be heading to the U.S. at some point in the near future. The device was previously announced for China and Europe.
Of course, ZTE still hasn’t held its official press conference, so we could still see more from the company. Something a bit more audio-centric may be in store. ZTE’s press invitation — stylized in the form of a music visualizer — teased a “brand new device.” Here’s hoping the firm brings a prototype.
ZTE’s press conference starts September 1 at 8:30 a.m. ET.
Google and Apple
Google and Apple don’t actually do tradeshows (they’re too cool for school), but Google’s partners will undoubtedly have a number of phones and Android Wear devices on display. Apple will loom large over the show, as its huge September 7 event will happen on the last day of IFA, though it isn’t affiliated with the show at all. Naturally, the iPhone 7 is expected, as is a finalized version of iOS 10, and perhaps a few surprises. You can read all about the iPhone 7 rumors here. A number of HomeKit devices should also arrive at that time, and we could see some of those in Berlin at IFA from Apple’s partners.
TVs, HDR, UHD, and a ton of pixels
TVs are always a big deal at IFA, so we’re like to see many on the showfloor from all the major players, such as Sony, Samsung, LG, Panasonic, Phillips, VIZIO, and others. Expect a lot of pixels, HDR, UHD, 4K, and other TV jargon to be the talk of the town.
Smart home appliances galore
IFA used to be more or less dominated by appliances, with hall after hall of fridges, stoves, vacuum cleaners, and so on. Smart home appliances are likely to populate the Messe, and we could see some new Hue bulbs from Phillips, or a new gadget or two from Tado.
Updated on 08-31-2016 by Christian de Looper: Added details on everything announced so far at IFA 2016.
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