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IFA 2013 preview: the start of a great Android season
In about a week, hordes of tech enthusiasts will congregate in Berlin for Internationale Funkausstellung (IFA), one of the oldest electronics events in the world and Europe’s largest trade show.
For mobile enthusiasts, IFA is a must-follow event, comparable to mainstays such as MWC Barcelona and CES Las Vegas. Phone makers regularly launch and show off hot new products at IFA, and this year’s edition will be no different. In fact, with major launches expected from Samsung, Sony, LG, and other players, the 2013 IFA edition shapes up to be the hottest in recent memory.
Android Authority will be present at IFA, so expect to see great videos, compelling coverage, and a taste of the behind the scenes experience throughout next week. To whet your appetite, let’s go through some of the highlights of IFA 2013, scheduled to take place on September 6-11.
In 2011, Samsung used IFA to showcase a brand new concept, the Galaxy Note. In 2012, the Note 2 landed with a bang just ahead of IFA, and this year Samsung wants to impress us with the Galaxy Note 3 and the Galaxy Gear smartwatch.
Samsung officially acknowledged that the Note 3 and the Gear will be the highlights of the Unpacked Episode 2 press event, scheduled for September 4, just ahead of IFA’s official opening.
Rumored to feature a 5.68-inch display, a Snapdragon 800 processor (at least at launch), 3GB of RAM, and a 13MP camera (no OIS however), we expect the Note 3 to build on the glorious tradition of its predecessors.
But while the Note 3 is definitely interesting, the Galaxy Gear may end up being the talk of the show at IFA this year. The Gear is Samsung’s first modern smartwatch, a daring effort to get a head start in the race that could define computing for the rest of the decade. Samsung’s competitors include a who’s who of the tech industry, ranging from bitter rival Apple to close Android partner Google.
Will Samsung manage to wow us with the Galaxy Gear? Or will it be just a lackluster effort for Samsung to check off a to-do list? We’ll see in about a week.
What else? Samsung is the jack-of-all-trades in the tech industry, so surely the Korean conglomerate will find a few more gadgets to peddle at IFA. The successor to the Galaxy Camera seems a safe bet for now, but surprises cannot be ruled out.
Sony is in the midst of a comeback, both in consumer sentiment and in the number of phones it sells. But the moderately successful Xperia Z, Tablet Z, and Z Ultra could be just a taste of what’s to come, if CEO Kaz Hirai has his way. So what’s the main course, you ask? It’s the Honami, the sleek, powerful device that will come to market this autumn as the Xperia Z1.
The Z1 is supposed to represent the culmination of Sony’s efforts to channel the technological acumen of its various units, in critical areas such as displays, cameras, and industrial design. Sony has already begun to tease it under the “Best of Sony” tagline, in advance of the September 4 press event where the Z1 will be introduced to the world.
Unlike previous Sony flagships, the Xperia Z1’s specifications will be as good or better than those of any other smartphone on the market. Notable features include a 5-inch Full HD Triluminos display, a Snapdragon 800 processor, a 20.7MP camera, and a generous 3,000 mAh battery. The appearance of the Z1 is not a major departure from Sony’s now iconic design language, which may or may not be good news depending on how you feel about the slate-like appearance of the Xperia Z.
Sony has some tricks up its sleeve that will likely make an appearance at the September 4 pre-IFA event: detachable lenses. Yes, you read that right – Sony thinks users will love to turn their smartphones into pseudo-MILCs by strapping so called “camera-lenses” accessories on to them. It remains to be seen how users will receive Sony’s radical idea, but stranger things have turned out to be surprise hits.
“G” stands for Greatness, claims LG, a mobile manufacturer that went through a rough patch a few years ago, but is now on a clear upward trajectory.
LG’s recent G smartphones, the Optimus G, Optimus G Pro, and G2, have been relatively well received by customers, and the Korean company hopes to capitalize on its newfound popularity to relaunch its tablet business. LG’s last tablet, the 2011 Optimus Pad, was a complete failure, but now the time may be right for a successful reboot in the form of the LG G Pad. And what better stage for it than IFA?
LG already began teasing the G Pad, an 8.3-inch slate featuring a high-resolution display (supposedly similar to the one on the upcoming iPad), a Snapdragon 600 processor, and 2GB of RAM.
The small Android tablet market is already crowded, so will LG be able to succeed where so many others have produced nothing but forgettable products? We’ll get to judge for ourselves at IFA, though LG, unlike Sony and Samsung, hasn’t planned a pre-show event of its own.
LG seems to be pretty open about its plans, but we won’t rule out any surprises. As for us, we’d be happy just to get some more hands-on time with the G2 and its intriguing rear button setup.
HTC is a sort of the wildcard at this year’s IFA, as it may or may not show any new products. The elephant in the room is the HTC One Max, leaked repeatedly but yet to be officially acknowledged, which rumors claim might hit the stores this fall. With its 6-inch display, the One Max is HTC’s response to the Samsung Note series and an attempt to capitalize on the popularity of the 4.7-inch One. The One and One Max will share the same overall design, but the larger device will have a fingerprint sensor as a key differentiating feature. The Snapdragon 800 processor, the UltraPixel camera, the stereo speakers, and Android 4.3 complete the description of an intriguing device.
The problem is HTC hasn’t announced anything for IFA. While it’s possible that the company will announce the One Max without fanfare, we are not getting our hopes high.
Then there’s the HTC Zara, a cross between the One and the Desire families, that we might get to see in Berlin, along with some other mid-rangers that HTC recently hinted to.
Samsung, LG, Sony, and HTC are the big dogs of the industry, and their presence at IFA is very exciting. But there are many other players in the sprawling world of Android that will try to capitalize from the attention that the show gets.
We expect to see up and coming Chinese makers such as Huawei, ZTE, or Oppo launch new devices or at least have a consistent presence at IFA. Acer and Asus have big plans with their tablets, and the Berlin show could be a good occasion for them to interact with the European public and tech press.
While IFA is mainly Europe centric, American device makers like Dell and HP will also be there. And there’s a variety of smaller hardware makers, accessory makers, app developers and service companies that will compete for your attention.
Next week is the start of the fall season, the all-important time when electronics makers do their best to wow you with new and, hopefully, exciting products. The prize is huge – a place on the shopping lists of countless gift buyers, come Black Friday and Christmas.
IFA is the gunshot that marks the start of the race for your wallet this holiday season. As Android enthusiasts and consumers, we have many reasons to be excited. As tech bloggers trying to cover everything, we have a few reasons to fret about – getting hands-on time with all those new gadgets, publishing great content, and, perhaps, getting some sleep in the process.
IFA officially starts on Friday, September 6, with the first launch events scheduled for Wednesday, September 4. Check out the IFA 2013 tag page for complete coverage and keep in touch with us on Google Plus, Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, and the comments sections of our posts.
What do you look forward to the most at IFA 2013?