IFA, the world’s second technology show behind CES, is fast approaching, and we’re more excited than ever to see what it has in store for us.
In September you can look forward to the Messe Berlin being taken over by the Internationale Funkausstellung Berlin (that’s the International Radio Exhibition Berlin for the non-German speakers amongst us).
The show is normally dominated by TVs, but last year saw an influx of smart watches from the likes of Samsung, Motorola and Huawei. We also saw a number of phone announcements thrown in for good measure: two Sony Xperia Z5s, the ‘compact’ and the ‘premium’, and Huawei showed off the Mate S and the G8.
With the show’s start now rapidly approaching we’ve now got a much better idea for what we might have in store for us, so read on for our top 6 predictions for this year’s IFA.
Prediction 1: Ultra HD Blu-rays will be big
When it comes to TVs, IFA tends to play second fiddle to January’s CES in Vegas where the majority of new sets are announced, but we wouldn’t be surprised if one of the big TV manufacturers dropped a couple more 4K TVs.
We’d be surprised if Sony has more to show after having recently unveiled its line of Z series TVs not to mention the TVs that were shown off at CES earlier this year, but it’s likely that Samsung, Panasonic, Philips and LG will have more to show off.
But we’re more excited to see what happens in the world of Ultra HD Blu-ray players.
To be honest, it might even make more sense this year than it did last year, as most major studios including Universal Pictures, Sony Pictures and Warner Brothers’s first round of UHD Blu-ray releases are just now hitting store shelves. There’s plenty more of these expensive, high-capacity discs to come later this year and throughout 2017 so we’re going to need a lot more players to deal with all those movies.
So this year we’re betting that at the very least Sony and LG will enter the Ultra HD Blu-ray arena to satisfy those of us who want our movies completely unencumbered by the constraints of 4K streaming.
Prediction 2: Ultra HD Premium will become the industry standard
Ultra HD is still in its relative infancy, and much like the early days of HD saw enormous consumer between the ‘HD Ready’ and ‘Full HD’ specifications, the current 4K market is full of TVs that don’t make full use of the new format.
The situation is improving, however. A standard, called Ultra HD Premium, has been decided upon by the UHD Alliance, but it’s still so new that Samsung’s recent UBD-K8500 Blu-ray player had to wait until two weeks after its release to receive its certification.
It will still be early in UHD’s lifespan come September, but we’re hoping that television manufacturers fully get behind the new standard.
The two biggest culprits behind the lag in adoption are Sony and Philips, two of the largest TV manufacturers in the world. Sony currently isn’t using the branding, despite both its equipment meeting the required specification and literally a member of the alliance that defined it, while Philips is currently refusing even to produce sets that meet the specification in the first place.
We’d like to see all manufacturers fully embrace the Ultra HD Premium standard at IFA this year, partly because reducing consumer confusion is always a good thing but mostly because additional features like HDR make TVs look absolutely phenomenal. Plus, it would be a shame to see adoption suffer because of poor communication and branding.
Prediction 3: Wearables are worn out
Buoyed by the recent launch of the Apple Watch, last year’s IFA was filled to the brim with wearables, from the Samsung Gear S2, Moto 360 and Huawei Watch, to the Asus ZenWatch, gold LG Watch Urbane and even the TomTom Spark Fitness Watch.
In the year since however, the Apple Watch has failed to gather steam, and it’s possible that interest in the form factor has waned. We’ll probably see a couple of watches from bigger players like Fitbit and Samsung – with the Gear S3 possible, if not probable – but it’s unlikely that we’ll see a repeat of the smartwatch mayhem of last year.
Prediction 4: No to VR, it’s just not IFA’s way
The whole of the tech world might currently be going mad for VR (did you see our coverage of GDC 2016?), but it’s unlikely that we’ll see it make much of an impact at IFA this year.
Most of that immersive gaming VR content is likely to come out during E3 2016 in June, Gamescom in August, or the Tokyo Game Show in September, almost any other convention coming up this year except IFA. Sony also has plans to run its own PlayStation Experience event later on in December where it’ll likely be talking more about its PlayStation VR headset.
That’s not to say that VR manufacturers such as Samsung and HTC won’t be present at the show, but their focus will almost certainly be on their smartphone offerings. (See: Prediction 6.)
Prediction 5: Home automation will cross the threshold
Last year Samsung announced its SmartThings Hub to connect our lighting, thermostat, security monitoring and other systems in our homes to our growing list of smart devices.
We’re not convinced that home automation technology is a worthwhile investment yet for anyone who isn’t a hardcore early-adopter (if you haven’t read it yet, check out this home automation technology is a mess piece), but there’s always hope that this will be the year that some of the more serious kinks get ironed out.
These kinks currently include a lack of interoperability between different home automation brands – Google’s Nest thermostat doesn’t work with Samsung’s SmartThings hub, for example – and a complete lack of any one single killer feature.
These products also continue to be horrendously expensive compared to the relatively cheap products they’re aiming to replace.
IFA probably won’t see any massive announcements in that regard (that will probably come at CES next January) but, after Samsung used it for their SmartThings announcement last year, others might see it as a useful event to make an announcement at without being drowned out by the scale of CES.
Nest has also recently announced that it has open-sourced the networking protocol (called Thread) it uses for communication between its devices. This should in theory make it much easier for other manufacturers to connect their products into the Nest ecosystem. Will we see a swell of companies announcing connectivity with Nest devices at this year’s IFA?
Prediction 6: Ring, ring! It’s a bevy of new phones
And, of course, no IFA would be complete without a couple of phone announcements to round out the show. IFA is the time of year, traditionally, when Samsung launches its new phablet, and we expect 2016’s event to be no different.
Along with a new jumbo handheld, we also reckon there will be more S Pen functions, a bigger battery, more power and hopefully some sultry S7 stylings.
Sony could also be poised to make an announcement at the show, and given the recent Sony benchmark leaks we could have a Snapdragon 820-equipped Xperia X2 with a 5.1-inch 1080p screen on our hands.
Then again, given that the Z5 was announced last year at IFA 2015 it could be that we’re about to see the announcement of the Xperia Z6 but Sony remaining tight-lipped on the status of its ‘Z’ line of phones, we’re not sure what form the new handset is going to take.
IFA is not traditionally a massive show for phones (you’d need to look towards Barcelona’s Mobile World Congress in February for that), but last year saw a couple of announcements, and we’ve got our fingers crossed that this year we’ll see a couple more.
Honorable mention: The insanity of last year
3D printed pizza, virtual reality gloves and a speaker rug all made an appearance at last year’s IFA, and we’d by lying if we said that we weren’t hoping for more weird and wonderful products to inject some diversity into a show that’s overwhelmingly about the big shiny tellys.
Internet connected trainers? Hover trousers? 3D printed 2D printers? Virtual reality dogs? Show us what you’re made of IFA.
We’ll see you in September.
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