The fall season in the technology world starts with IFA Berlin.
IFA, or Internationale Funkausstellung, is Europe’s largest show dedicated to consumer electronics and one of the biggest and oldest in the world. While MWC in Barcelona is all about mobile, IFA is the showcase of a staggering variety of devices, gadgets, and equipment, from smartwatches, to smartphones, laptops, and connected cars. In short, it’s a geek’s dream.
In past years, IFA has been almost synonymous with the launch of the Note series, but this year we have lots of other cool stuff on tap. Here’s a brief preview of the news we expect to come out of Berlin next week.
Samsung: new Note, meeting the Alpha, and going VR
The Note 4 will be the star of the show, even if it’s actually going to launch before IFA officially opens to the public. Samsung’s traditional Unpacked event is set for Wednesday, September 3 at 3PM, and soon after you will be able to read the first posts about the new Note.
The Note 4 is expected to bring refinements to a well-known and successful recipe that has arguably made Samsung the number one player in smartphones worldwide. We have a full rumor roundup for you here, but if you just want a briefing, here it goes: the Note 4 will bring powerful specs, the same screen size like last year (5.7 inches), an improved S Pen and accompanying software features, a better 16MP camera, a fingerprint scanner, and a large battery. If the alleged leaked images are genuine, the Note 4 will feature a metallic frame and a faux leather plastic back – think about it as a cross between the Galaxy Alpha and the Note 3. In software, expect more productivity features, with a major focus on the S Pen.
There’s been talk about a second variant of the Note 4 with a futuristic wraparound display, but we think that’s unlikely to materialize at IFA.
It won’t be all about the Note 4 however. The metallic Galaxy Alpha was launched a couple of weeks ago, but IFA will probably be the first occasion media gets to play with it. Expect extensive hands-on coverage.
Last year, Samsung launched the Note 3 together with the Galaxy Gear smartwatch. Rumor has it that at least one new Gear is coming with the Note 4, possibly one that features a SIM card for a truly untethered experience. The stylus-equipped Note 10.1 is also due for a refresh and there’s a good chance will see it at IFA, although we haven’t heard any rumors about it so far.
The wildcard in Samsung’s deck is the Gear VR, a virtual reality headset in the vein of Oculus Rift. Samsung is reportedly throwing its weight around the concept, and we’re very curious to see what it’s doing with it.
LG: G Watch goes round
LG has been on a roll lately, and it will definitely try to maintain the momentum with a breakout IFA. Unlike Samsung, LG doesn’t have a flagship phone to anchor its show. But that doesn’t mean there isn’t anything exciting coming from LG next week.
As one of the first Google partners to put out an Android Wear smartwatch, LG had a head start in a race that’s about to become very crowded. The rectangular G Watch is nice in its simplicity, but LG realized that people clamor for a round device a la Moto 360. Dubbed G Watch R, this device will be LG’s star at IFA next week.
For the budget crowd, LG has the L Bello and L Fino, a pair of 3G smartphones that we hope will be competitively priced. We also look forward to playing with the G3 Stylus, a cheaper G3 version with a stylus. It’s not the Note 4 threat we hoped it would be, but it could be very intriguing if it’s priced right.
LG typically teases its devices before announcing them, so if anything else big is coming next week at IFA, we will be very surprised.
Motorola: stealing the spotlight?
Motorola doesn’t have an IFA presence, and, for some reason, the company (still owned by Google pending its sale to Lenovo) has scheduled the launch event for the Moto X+1, Moto G2, and Moto 360 on September 4, smack dab in the middle of IFA week. Our guess is we’ll see these devices at the show in some form, so we’ll include them in this preview.
The Moto X+1 is a larger, beefed-up successor to the critically acclaimed, but only mildly successful Moto X. We have a full roundup detailing the leaks and rumors swirling around the device here. There’s talk about new materials for the back plate, but judging from the first generation, Motorola will focus on features and user experience rather than flashy specifications.
The Moto G2 also looks to be a thorough update of the OG, one that – provided rumors are right – would nudge the device towards the middle of the range, price-wise, with the Moto E remaining as the super cheap option.
The Moto 360 will finally become a real thing next week, after a summer of relentless teasing. We wonder if it’s not a bit late, now that LG has jumped on the round watch bandwagon. Motorola’s has also teased an accessory announcement for September 4, but we have no specifics about it at this point.
Sony: refined Xperia and a new tablet
Sony is the only major manufacturer that has embarked on a bi-annual upgrade cycle. The Xperia Z1 launched at IFA 2013, the Z2 landed at MWC 2014, and roughly six months later, it’s now time for the Xperia Z3. As you’d expect from the product of a fast iteration cycle, the Xperia Z3 isn’t such a big departure from its predecessor. Still, fans will probably love to see another refinement of Sony’s iconic smartphone design and presumably some interesting new features.
Sony is also putting out a new Compact edition of its flagship, packing true high-end specs in an under 5-inch package. Sony is pretty much alone in making Mini phones with top specs, so we look forward to see the Xperia Z3 Compact in action.
Read more about the Xperia Z3 and Z3 Compact in our rumor roundup here.
There’s a new product as well, the Xperia Z3 Tablet Compact. Think of it as a mini Tablet Z. At 8-inch, with waterproofing, super-slim design, and powerful specs, we are very excited for this device.
HTC: 64-bit, but what else?
HTC has been pretty quiet these past few weeks, but that may be because it’s doing some brilliant work behind the curtains.
There was talk about an HTC Android Wear smartwatch coming this summer, and IFA looks like a good opportunity for it to debut. But we haven’t really heard anything substantial about it, and HTC hasn’t put out any teasers so far.
A bit more substantive is the Desire 820, which could be the first Android device powered by a 64-bit Snapdragon 615 processor. An announcement of this mid-range device seems imminent and we’re almost sure we’ll see it on the IFA floor.
To return to speculation, there were rumblings about several tablets that HTC is preparing for this end of the year. We will be surprised if they show up at IFA, but we can’t rule out the possibility.
Asus: Android Wear meets budget
Asus launched its Zenfones at CES in January, and its huge tablet collection at Computex in May. We don’t expect much on that front at IFA therefore, but we know that Asus won’t be coming empty handed.
The company has transparently teased a smartwatch announcement for the show, and we’re pretty anxious to see what Asus can do with the Android Wear concept. Word on the street is that Asus will try to differentiate through price, so perhaps IFA will bring us the first $100-$150 Android Wear smartwatch? Who knows?
Huawei: the Mate 7 ascends
Huawei is not on the radar of most Western consumers, but the Chinese giant is working to change that. It recently launched the Ascend Mate 2 for a very attractive price in the US and now a successor (or sibling?) to the device is coming in the form of Ascend Mate 7, a six-inch (how about that?) beast packing top specifications.
Android Authority at IFA 2014
Just like last year, Android Authority will be represented at IFA Berlin by Josh Vergara and, yours truly, Bogdan Petrovan, with ample support from the rest of the team back home. Josh will be doing most of the videography and photo work, so expect all the sweet hands-on impressions, comparisons, and versus you’ve come to know him for. Meanwhile, I will be on the floor, doing whatever needs doing so you get the best possible coverage.
Stay tuned for more IFA news starting early next week – the show technically starts on Friday, but from the experience of past editions, hot news will begin streaming from Monday and Tuesday. Then we have Samsung’s and Sony’s events on Wednesday, and then news from LG, Huawei, HTC, and Motorola should come on Thursday.