IFA 2014 kicks off in Berlin on Friday, with thousands of consumer technology companies attending and hundreds of new devices launching. Although not as big as the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas or Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, IFA has developed a reputation for producing big announcements in consumer electronics.
Originally known for showcasing new home appliances, IFA has taken a major turn toward smartphones and tablets since 2011, with Samsung launching the Galaxy Note and, more recently, its first smart watch at the event.
This year, observers expect to see several flagship products in smartphones, smart watches and smart appliances launched by Samsung, LG, Sony and others.
Smartphones, Smart Watches
Samsung's Galaxy Note 4 may be the most anticipated new device expected to launch at IFA, but the company also will release pricing and availability details for its Galaxy Alpha smartphone, which was first announced several weeks ago. Meanwhile, Sony is expected to launch the Xperia Z3 and Z3 Compact. Microsoft, following its acquisition of Nokia's devices and services divisions, will be launching the Lumia 730 and Lumia 830, both of which will be running Windows Phone 8.1. Qualcomm has already given a sneak peek at a new HTC handset running a 64-bit processor. Lenovo may also take the opportunity to unveil its Vibe X2 phone, which will run on the Android L operating system.
LG's G3 Stylus smartphone also will be debuting at IFA. The G3 Stylus will reportedly come with a 13-megapixel camera, a 1.3 GHz quad-core processor, 1 GB of RAM and 8 GB of storage memory, and will run on Android 4.4.2 KitKat. The phone is rumored to be priced more cheaply than its G3 sibling.
Last year Samsung launched its first smart watch at IFA, the Galaxy Gear. This year, it is expected to unveil the Gear S, its sixth smart watch, which is expected to feature a 3G connection to allow users to make calls without connecting to a smartphone. The wearable is a Tizen OS-based watch featuring a curved face and a built-in SIM slot.
Sony has two smart watches of its own to unveil, the SmartWatch 3 and SmartBand Talk, while Asus will be launching an Android Wear device, the ZenWatch, rumored to be priced for less than $200. LG has already given us a peek at the Android Wear device it plans to launch at IFA, a circular smart watch called the LG G Watch R.
Internet-Enabled Appliances and OLEDs
Appliances designed to work with the Internet of Things are expected to be a major trend this year. Home appliances including smart refrigerators, ovens, coffee makers, grills and toasters are rumored to be launching at the show. Nest, which is already producing a smart thermostat, is expected to have more news at the event. Its CEO, Tony Fadell, plans to speak.
"The connected consumer will be a major focus at IFA," Barbara Kraus, director of research at Parks Associates, told us in an e-mail. "With several new entrants in the smart home space, including Google, Apple, and Samsung, attendees can expect to see a multitude of new smart home products."
Paul Gray, director of European Research for the NPD Group, said ultra-high definition 4K TVs (meaning televisions with around 4,000 horizontal pixels, twice the number of existing HD displays) would be a major theme for IFA 2014.
"The big question is whether competitive strategies will allow new categories to grow or whether the dynamics of the industry repeat the 3D bloodbath [in which] nobody cared about the quality, compromised the experience and ultimately failed to convince consumers," Gray told us in an e-mail. Curved TVs are also likely to see several launches at the show. "While we believe that curved screens are a fashion item, retailers are wanting to bring some competition to Samsung," Gray said.
Organic light-emitting diode (OLED) screens will also be a big factor. OLEDs have been heralded as the most significant development in display technology since the invention of the plasma screen. New ways to control your TV, including through smartphone apps, may also debut this year.
Kraus said virtual reality headsets will also make a splash this year. Samsung is believed to be planning to launch a VR headset, the Gear VR.
"While virtual reality will initially be geared towards gamers, companies such as Facebook (owner of Oculus VR) have plans to take virtual reality into the mainstream and add VR to video to provide a new immersive entertainment experience," she said.