IFA Insider 2018 #1

Despite being one of the oldest consumer electronics shows in the world, IFA is renowned for showcasing the latest releases and offering insights into the trajectory of modern technology.

And this year, there have already been a lot of them.

In this bumper edition of IFA Insider, we dive into the biggest pre-show announcements across: Audio, Smart Speakers, Wearables, Televisions, Appliances and Smart Homes, Computers, and Phones.

IFA is a show with something for everyone, and so is this roundup.

Audio

Bose kicked off a major presence this year with the launch of two new Soundbars. Elsewhere, Ultimate Ears aimed to make waves with portable sound systems, and Sonos brought its new Amp to the stage.

Audio Technica have covered all grounds, unveiling new over-ear headphones as well as wireless earbuds. Also making a wireless earbud play, Bang & Olufsen are showcasing their Beoplay E6, along with the beautiful Beosound Edge speaker. Panasonic is another unmissable name in the audio arena, presenting new over-ear, noise-cancelling headphones, dubbed the HD605N.

FHF Insight: The audio space at IFA 2018 is delivering a symphony of updates as firms fight to break away from the pack and stand out from the crowd. One route to the limelight is collaboration, and this is exactly what Bang & Olufsen has done by working with a renowned designer in an attempt to gain the edge.

Smart Speakers

2018 is arguably the year in which smart speakers have entered the mass market, and developments at IFA were always set to turn heads. RIVA Audio announced its new ‘Voice Series’, the first set of third party speakers to contain the full Amazon Alexa pack built in.

Bose has also unveiled the new voice-controlled Bose Home Speaker 500. Featuring integrated Alexa functionality and the widest soundstage of any smart speaker, Bose look to have produced a major player in this burgeoning sector.

In other news, Bang & Olufsen has added Google Assistant to its already-released BeoSound 1 & 2 speakers, and Libratone has given its portable pint-sized travel speaker, the Zipp Mini, the Alexa treatment.

FHF Insight: Amazon stands as a constant across the IFA Smart Speaker releases, with Alexa beginning to feel like a “seal of approval” on new products.

Wearables

Once again brands at IFA 2018 are battling it out to win over our hearts and… wrists. Samsung were first out of the blocks with the new Galaxy Watch, and Fitbit was not far behind with the sleek, new Fitbit Charge 3 fitness tracker.

Garmin has announced the new Vivosmart 4, which is set to compete directly with the Charge 3 as both have added new smartwatch and advanced health features. Casio and Diesel have launched smartwatches that are more classically “watch-like” in form, and Skagen has brought a stylish, minimalist design to the table with the new, swim-proof Falster 2.

It’s not just adult wrists getting an update; competition in the children’s wearable market is heating up. Norwegian based start-up Xplora is showcasing its new Xplora 3S – a smartwatch that boasts a camera and water-proofing.

FHF Insight: It’s apparent that swim-proofing, long battery lives and advanced health tracking are now must-haves; consumers increasingly expect wearables to act as life trackers and provide more insight than ever before.

Televisions

Samsung has kicked off attempts to take all of our attention at IFA by unveiling its first 8K QLED TV available for purchase, alongside two premium soundbars. The Q900 can be yours in October and, powered by Samsung’s 8K Quantum Processor, it will use AI to improve the quality of non-8K content, so that everything you watch is up to par. We also saw LG look to make a mark by revealing an 88-inch 8K OLED TV, however it didn’t announce a distribution date or price.

FHF Insight: Together, these announcements show that technology giants see 8K as the next phase in the evolution of the televisual experience. While we should expect to see 8K have a larger presence at future shows, they might not arrive in time for Christmas.

Appliances and Smart Homes

Perhaps surprisingly, home appliances have become one of the most exciting categories at IFA. AEG is aiming to transform the end-to-end cooking experience. The MultiSpace Fridge Freezer has a rotating refrigerator shelf, the SenseCook cooktops automatically adjust temperature and, finally, the ComfortLift dishwasher lets you clean your dishes quickly while keeping an eye on your energy consumption.

Bosch also pitched a “perfect” kitchen, showing off their PerfectAir smart hood, which “has a sense of smell”, alongside the PerfectCook and PerfectFry and the PAI projector, which casts a touchscreen display directly onto your countertop. These products are all synced up with Bosch’s HomeConnect app that lets you control settings remotely, offering one of the most complete visions for a connected kitchen.

FHF Insight: What’s clear is that we’re closer than ever to an entirely smart home experience, with the internet of things and the word “smart” touching every piece of technology possible. The question is: at which piece of furniture do we draw the line?

Computers

When it comes to personal computing technology, we can feel like we’ve seen it all. At IFA, announcements in this category can get lost in the deluge.

This year, Acer has asked us to pay a little more attention. Not only have they launched the world’s lightest 15-inch laptop, the Acer Swift 5, but they’ve unveiled the Predator Thronos, an immersive gaming chair. This showpiece is as yet unpriced, but has been described as “less of a place to sit and more of a convenient way to let you live inside your gaming PC.”

Stepping back a little closer to reality, but still turning heads, Samsung has unveiled the world’s fastest external hard drive, the Portable SSD X5. The speed theme was continued by Intel’s latest round of chips, which are focussed on supporting faster and thinner machines. Finally, Dell has pulled out all the stops, bringing new XPS, Vostro, Inspiron series laptops, including its first premium Chromebook, to the floor.

FHF Insight: Harder, better, faster, stronger – IFA cements its place as a home for the latest and best PC hardware. Size and power are the name of the game; whether it’s high-spec gaming rigs or feather-light laptops – consumers want more for their money.

Phones

While many big brands focus phone launches around events like MWC, there have been a variety of mid-range announcements at this year’s IFA with HTC showing its new U12, and LG announcing the first Android One phone.

We’ve also seen the official announcement of the Sony Xperia XZ3, which boasts a 6-inch OLED QHD+ screen. Alongside improved picture capabilities, it features “Side Sense” technology, which allows you to use your phone without touching the screen.

FHF Insight: As we await further announcements from Huawei, Blackberry and Samsung, this year’s battle for the mid-tier smartphone crown is far from over. On your marks…

We’ll be back on Friday with a roundup of announcements and insights, following the first official day of IFA.

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