Where MWC Barcelona is known as the foremost mobile tradeshow in the world, IFA has a broader focus that includes home appliances and other decidedly not-sexy products.
Despite this, mobile manufacturers can’t resist IFA’s allure, for one simple reason: the German show marks the beginning of the crucial holiday season, the most competitive part of the industry calendar.
Here are our top products and technologies picks from IFA 2017.
LG V30: Star of the show
This year, LG took advantage of Samsung’s absence to claim IFA as the launch venue for the new V30.
The LG V30 was the talk of the show, for all the right reasons. It’s been years since we’ve seen this level of enthusiasm for an LG smartphone, from consumers, industry insiders, and journalists alike. The LG V30 shapes up to be one of the best smartphones of the season, and even the mighty Note 8 might be threatened.
After more than a few failed gambles, LG took no chances with the V30. The result is safe, if a little unoriginal, design. That won’t matter much, if customers like it, and there’s a lot to like about the V30: a beautiful OLED screen, smooth design, the latest hardware components, an excellent dual camera, water and shock resistance, and several unique features like voice unlock and Cine Video.
LG V30 looks like a complete package, with hardly any major flaws to mention. That’s why it gets our Best of IFA 2017 award. We can’t wait to put it through its paces!
- LG V30 hands on – a mobile photography powerhouse
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- LG V30 price, release date, and carrier deals (Updated)
Sony LF-S50G: Sony audio meets Google Assistant
It seems like everyone’s making a smart speaker these days. Amazon started the trend with Echo, and Google followed with Home, featuring Assistant. Apple will launch the HomePod later this year, and you can bet that Samsung will unleash its own contender in the category sooner or later.
This smart speaker marries Sony’s strengths – audio and product design – with the fast-evolving capabilities of Google Assistant, probably the best virtual assistant right now. You can talk to it, the way you would with any Assistant-enabled device, but you can also control it hands-free by making certain gestures on top of it. With solid, 360-degree sound, a nice LCD display hidden behind the textile mesh, and a price tag of around $200, the Sony LF-S50G is poised to give Home, Echo, and HomePod a run for their money.
Huawei Kirin 970: AI-on-a-Chip
Huawei is nothing if not ambitious. The Chinese giant is currently on the third place in the smartphone market, behind Samsung and Apple, but it can realistically take a shot at gold within the next few years. But in order to do so, Huawei needs to be on the vanguard of new technologies, of which AI is probably the most important.
It’s no surprise, therefore, that Huawei’s latest system-on-a-chip, the Kirin 970, is all about AI. The chip features an on-board AI processing core called Neural Processing Unit (NPU), that can make short work of the complex and iterative calculations required by artificial intelligence algorithms. For AI tasks, the NPU is up to 25 times faster and 50 times more efficient than the CPU. As developers create more apps that leverage on-device AI, its importance might skyrocket.
AI is the central feature of Kirin 970 – which will debut on the Mate 10 next month – but its other features are extremely competitive as well. These include an octa-core 10nm CPU, the new Mali G-72 GPU, 4X LPDDR4, LTE Cat. 18, and a powerful media processing stack.
The biggest downside? Like other Kirin chips before it, Kirin 970 will likely be exclusive to Huawei’s own high-end phones.
3D Creator on Xperia XZ1: It’s the small things
Wait, what? Another Sony product among our top picks of IFA 2017? A Sony phone?
We wouldn’t blame you if you reacted like that, but here’s the thing – we’re not giving the actual phone an award, we’re giving an award to a specific feature of the Xperia XZ1 and XZ1 Compact – 3D Creator.
While Sony’s industrial design is as stale as it’s ever been, we must applaud Sony’s camera team for creating a truly impressive 3D scanning app, using just typical smartphone components. What used to take expensive gear and hours or days of painstaking work can now be done with a basic smartphone.
3D Creator lets you scan someone’s face or head (it also works with other objects) and turn it into a high-quality 3D avatar with incredible detail. For now, the avatar can be used in the fun little AR apps that Sony preloaded on the Xperia XZ1 and XZ1 Compact, but we can envision some more compelling applications in the future.
Should you buy the Xperia XZ1 or XZ1 Compact just for 3D Creator? Probably not. But if you already like these phones, the 3D avatars could be the icing on the cake.
Tempow on the Moto X4: Branching out Bluetooth
In spite of what audiophiles will tell you, wireless audio is already good enough for most people. There’s a catch though: Bluetooth audio isn’t quite good enough when it comes to customization and accessibility.
French startup Tempow is pushing the limits of what can be done within the boundaries of the Bluetooth audio protocol. At IFA 2017, we got to play with one of their customizations on the new Moto X4: audio Bluetooth multi streaming.
Bluetooth connections normally let you stream audio to a maximum of two devices at a time. With Tempow’s customizations, a device can stream audio to up to four devices at once, without limitations in terms of device type or brand. The best part is you can individually control volume and balance for each device.
Read: Best of IFA – Audio
With this feature, you could create a make-shift surround system by placing multiple Bluetooth speakers around the room. Or you could move around the house and have the sound follow you, without having to switch speakers. You could also beam sound to several headphones at once – useful for group workouts or for watching a movie on an airplane with your friends.
For now, Tempow four-way streaming is only available on the Moto X4, but there’s hope we’ll see this feature on more devices in the close future.
There you have it for our top picks of IFA 2017. Let us know what you think about our Best of IFA choices – what is your favorite announcement from the show?