IFA (Internationale Funkausstellung Berlin or “International radio exhibition Berlin”) — kicked off with a bang in 1924, when German physicist Manfred von Ardenne transmitted television signals over the air using a cathode ray tube. Since then, it has grown into one of the world’s largest annual gadget and home appliances shows, with more than 200,000 visitors and 1,000 exhibitors represented.
The Berlin expo is a veritable who’s who of consumer electronics companies: representatives from Microsoft, Bang & Olufsen, Casio, Samsung, LG, Sony, Huawei, ZTE, Asus, Acer, Toshiba, Philips, Panasonic, Amazon, and other titans of industry are set to deliver keynotes. If past years are any indication, expect a deluge of news from start (31 August) to finish (5 September) — particularly during August 29-30, which are press preview days.
VentureBeat will be covering the events live as they unfold from Berlin. Here’s what we expect to see at IFA 2018.
Inevitably, smartphones get a lot of attention at IFA. That’s because handset makers like Huawei, Sony, LG, and ZTE reliably save a few announcements for their respective IFA press conferences. There aren’t likely to be any blockbusters this time around — Samsung took the wraps off the Galaxy Note 9, its stylus-touting flagship, in early August — but that doesn’t mean there won’t be a few surprises.
Huawei is riding high on impressive growth. The Beijing phone maker leapfrogged Apple for the number two spot in Gartner‘s Q2 2018 smartphone rankings, and it’s reportedly gearing up to launch a trio of high-end devices.
Here’s what we might see:
- The Mate 20, a high-end 18:9, 6.3-inch device with a large battery, an AMOLED display (with a teardrop-shaped notch), a 4,200mAh battery, and Huawei’s new HiSilicon Kirin 980 processor — the first commercially available 7nm smartphone chipset. It is likely to have a triple-lens camera (following the precedent set by the Mate P20 Pro), and up to 6GB of RAM and 128 GB of internal storage. Extras like wireless charging and dust and water resistance are a given, as is Android 9.0 Pie — the latest version of Android — skinned with Huawei’s Emotion UI.
- The Mate 20 Lite — a more affordable alternative to the Mate 20 Pro — reportedly measures in at 6.3-inches (the same size as the Mate 20 Pro), but trades the Pro’s AMOLED screen for an LCD model. It is said to have an octa-core Kirin 710 processor onboard — the same chip inside Huawei’s Nova 3i — paired with 6GB of RAM and 64GB of storage. Rumors suggest that it will feature a twin pair of dual cameras: a 20MP + 2MP module on the front and a 24MP+2MP system on the back.
- The Mate 10 Pro, an enhanced variant of the Mate 20 with up to 8GB of RAM and an in-display fingerprint sensor.
At last year‘s IFA, Sony took the opportunity to announce a slew of new products: three smartphones, including the XZ1 and XZ1 Compact and Xperia XA1 Plus; three new headphones; and the LF-S50G, a smart home speaker powered by the Google Assistant. This year’s shaping up to be equally packed.
Likely on tap are follow-ups to IFA 2017’s headlining Xperia lineup:
- The Xperia XZ3 reportedly has a world’s first: Sony’s 48MP, 0.8μm pixel size IMX586 stacked CMOS image sensor. It’s able to capture superior low-light photos thanks to a compositing mode that intelligently raises the sensitivity, and can record 4K video at 90 frames per second.
- Leaked product renders show a colorful, ergonomic departure from the current-gen Xperia series’ design language.
- Other highlights include a 5.7-inch 1080×2160 screen, Qualcomm’s top-of-the-line Snapdragon 845 system-on-chip, 6GB of RAM, 64GB of internal storage, and a 3,240mAh battery. At least one leaked spec sheet suggests the XZ3 will have dual rear cameras and a 13MP front-facing camera, plus wireless charging.
The reports haven’t been totally clear on this point, but Sony might announce two phones alongside the XZ3: the XZ3 Compact and XZ3 Premium. Mum’s the word on their specifications.
Sony’s also likely to take the opportunity to announce a few accessories, including the recently leaked WH-1000X MK3 noise-canceling headphones.
LG let the cat out of the bag earlier this week, announcing two new smartphones — the LG G7 One and LG G7 Fit — ahead of its IFA keynote on Friday.
Here’s the rundown:
- The LG G7 One is the first in LG’s lineup running Android Go, a stripped-down version of Android designed to run on entry-level phones, and it’s pretty powerful for an entry-level handset. It’s got a 6.1-inch, 2,560×1440 19.5:9 display and a Snapdragon 835 system-on-chip, 4GB of RAM, a 3,000mAh battery, and 16MP and 8MP rear and front cameras, respectively. The only real points of compromise are the camera, which has a single sensor compared to the LG G7’s dual sensors, and the relatively small amount of internal storage (32GB). (It’s also running Android 8.1 Oreo instead of the newest version of Android, Android 9.0 Pie.) Pricing has yet to be announced, but we’re expecting to learn more in the coming days.
- The LG G7 Fit is virtually identical to the G7 One, save for a weaker processor (the Snapdragon 821), a slower camera, and LG’s software skin running on top of Android 8.1 Oreo.
There’s a decent chance that LG will introduce its anticipated next flagship — the LG V40 — at IFA. After all, it was this time last year that the South Korean smartphone maker took the wraps off the LG V30, and VentureBeat contributor Evan Blass pegged the launch as likely to happen “late summer” or “early fall.”
Taiwanese smartphone maker HTC didn’t have the best of fiscal quarters, but it’s nothing if not resilient. An affordable midrange phone will reportedly join its U series this week — possibly the U12 Life.
The U12 Life is said to sport a 6-inch, 18:9 screen with a Snapdragon 636 chipset, 4GB of RAM, 64GB of storage, and dual 16MP rear cameras (complemented by a 5MP sensor on the front). Interestingly, according to at least one report, it won’t be manufactured by HTC — production has instead been outsourced to a third-party OEM, much as Chinese company TCL licenses brand names like BlackBerry and Nokia.
TCL and BlackBerry
TCL is expected to announce a more affordable BlackBerry smartphone at an IFA event this week. It’s reportedly called the BlackBerry Key2 LE — a step down in price from the Key2, which launched earlier this year — and it’s already been teased by the company’s official Twitter account.
Here’s a rundown of the rumored specs:
- The BlackBerry Key2 LE reportedly has a Snapdragon 636 system-on-chip with 4GB of RAM (a step down from the BlackBerry Key2’s Snapdragon 660 and 6GB of RAM), and 32GB/64GB of storage. The battery‘s 3,000mAh, down from 3,500mAh on the Key2, and the cameras are 13MP and 5MP on the rear and front, respectively.
- Evan Blass reported that to cut costs the Key2 LE will be made of metal instead of plastic.
All is quiet on the wearables front. Well, that’s not entirely true — Fitbit recently debuted the Charge 3, following hot on the heels of Samsung’s Galaxy Watch. But there hasn’t been so much as a hint at new smartwatches, activity trackers, or health-monitoring devices from major manufacturers. That’s likely to change.
Watchmaker Casio is hosting a press conference at IFA, where it’s promising to “highlight its latest product introductions.” A new smartwatch is practically a given.
Huawei could have something up its sleeve. Earlier this year, CEO Richard Yu said to expect a follow-up to the Huawei Watch 2, the company’s Wear OS-powered (formerly Android Wear) smartwatch, and IFA seems as good a time as any to launch it.
LG, too, is working on a smartwatch designed around Wear OS. Reports earlier this year pegged it as the Watch Timepiece, a hybrid blend of digital and quartz with a Qualcomm Snapdragon 2100 system-on-chip, 4GB of storage, and 768MB of RAM (but no GPS or NFC).
Fossil, the American fashion designer and manufacturer behind devices like the Michael Kors Access Runway and Skagen Falster, might have new devices on hand. If it does, they’ll likely take cues from its recently unveiled fourth-generation Q range, which introduced NFC, GPS, heart rate monitors, and waterproof designs.
Samsung is a bit of a wildcard in the wearables department, but it could take the opportunity to refresh its long-in-the-tooth Gear Fit2. There’s precedent — it launched said Gear Fit2 at IFA 2017, and it has used past keynotes to launch wireless earbuds (in the Icon X series) and other accessories.
Televisions and PCs
If smartphones and wearables don’t float your boat, perhaps gigantic flat-screen TVs will do the trick. IFA has historically been chock-full of them, and this year is shaping up to be no different.
Reports suggest that Samsung will introduce an 8K QLED TV at its press conference; it might also demo the 146-inch 4K MicroLED TV it announced earlier this year. LG, not to be outdone, reportedly has a 175-inch microLED TV in the works.
Philips could have something new on the TV front — last year, it announced its first-ever Quantum Dot television. And Toshiba is almost certain to have sets in tow. Last year, it teamed up with Lucasfilm to launch a Star Wars-themed TV and a lineup of televisions compatible with Amazon’s Alexa Voice Service. We’re curious to see what it’ll bring to the show this time around.
With Acer, Dell, Lenovo, and Asus in attendance, you can bet on new laptops, desktops, and all-in-one PCs making appearances at IFA 2018.
At last year‘s IFA, Asus made waves with the ZenBook Flip 14, the “world’s thinnest” 2-in-1 laptop, and what better time for a refresh than IFA? Another shoo-in: a new Chromebook model. Rumors of a more powerful Asus ChromeOS machine with a touchscreen and backlit keys have been circulating for a few months, and they might finally come to fruition at IFA.
Expect Dell and Lenovo to upgrade their respective ultraportable lineups with speedier, more power-efficient (and hopefully not thermally constrained) processors– perhaps Intel’s recently announced Core processors. The latter might have something special in store, rumors suggest: a 15.6-inch ThinkPad designed to compete with the former’s XPS 15.
Razer will be in attendance at IFA, as usual, and might take the opportunity to shed light on Project Linda, the combination phone/laptop concept it teased at the 2018 Consumer Electronics Show in January. Here’s hoping.
Smart appliances, smart speakers, and robots
If there’s one prediction we’re confident making, it’s that IFA 2018 will feature appliances out the wazoo. Smart refrigerators, smart ovens, smart washers and dryers, smart pet food dispensers, and perhaps even a smart drying helmet or two are just a sampling of we expect to see on the show floor.
Smart speakers will be an oversubscribed category this year, and for good reason — shipments soared 187 percent in Q2 2018, led by Google and Amazon. Last year, Alexa came out victorious, scoring integrations with security cameras, robot vacuums, standalone speakers, lawnmowers, home robots, entertainment systems, and too many smart TVs to count. Perhaps the tide will turn now that Google’s smart displays have begun hitting store shelves.
Another IFA shoo-in? Robots. We’re expecting Softbank’s Pepper to make an appearance, and perhaps a few bots from LG’s CLOi series (hopefully in better shape than we saw them at CES 2018). One thing we know LG’s bringing to the show is a freakin’ exoskeleton: the LG CLOi SuitBot, which is designed to help human workers lift heavy objects. Man, why can’t all robots be that fun?
Odds and ends we’ll definitely see are the world’s first planar in-ear headphones — RHA confirmed that it’ll be demoing a pair of CL2s on the show floor — and foldable screen prototypes from California startup Royole. As for the rest of the miscellany, it’s anyone’s guess — and that’s what makes IFA 2018 so darn exciting.
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