When you think about IFA — if you think about the trade show at all — it's probably as the CES of Europe, an event where companies show up every fall to unveil some new products aimed mostly at a European audience.
It's true IFA has a Euro-centric bent, but we're living in a global economy these days. Companies use the big spotlight that IFA casts to launch all sorts of products — everything from laptops to wearables, with all manner of gadgets thrown in for good measure — that are relevant to tech shoppers on this side of the Atlantic, too.
Tom's Guide is in Berlin for IFA 2019, checking out the hottest gadgets that you need to watch this fall. Here are the biggest highlights so far.
Top stories of IFA 2019
- We got our hands on the Asus ROG Phone II, which upgrades Asus' gaming handset with a blistering overclockable Snapdragon 855 Plus CPU, a 120Hz OLED display and a 6,000 mAh battery.
- Do you need a $14,000 gaming chair? Probably not, but we still want Acer's new Thronos.
- The Asus VivoWatch SP is shaping up to be a compelling Apple Watch alternative, with a swimproof design, 14-hour battery and tons of fitness features.
Lots of laptops
IFA usually sees a truckload of new laptops and tablets making their debut, and it's easy to understand why. Falling just before the holiday shopping season, laptop makers are eager to get their latest models out in front of shoppers. And chip makers have rolled out new components as well with an eye toward making this year's releases faster than before.
We've already seen a wealth of exciting new notebooks at IFA 2019, including Acer's new Triton 500 gaming laptop with a 300Hz and a new version of the super-sleek Razer Blade 13 with discrete graphics. It's been a big event for workstations, from beastly machines running Quadro RTX 5000 cards to the Asus ProArt StudioBook One, which is a unique hybrid of laptop and all-in-one PC.
Top laptops such as the Acer Swift 5 have gotten the 10th gen Intel treatment, and we've seen promising new Chromebooks that start at under $300.
Don't forget about phones
IFA used to be a bigger show for smartphones, particularly in the days when Samsung would unveil its latest Galaxy Note model in Berlin. But Samsung, like Apple, prefers to have its own events — the Galaxy Note 10 debuted earlier in August in Brooklyn — and other phone makers have followed suit.
That's not to say phones will be a no-show at this year's IFA. We already got our hands on the Asus ROG Phone II, a new take on Asus' gaming phone that packs an overclockable Snapdragon 855 Plus processor, a 120HZ OLED display and a 6,000 mAh battery. With all of that juice, it could be one of the most powerful and feature-packed Android phones ever.
LG could unveil its dual-screen V60 ThinQ phone, which sounds a lot like the second-screen attachment that's available for LG's V50 ThinQ in some markets. A series of teaser videos leading up to LG's appearance at IFA certainly leave no doubt that dual screens are very much in the phone maker's plans.
Sony's another IFA mainstay, and while the company's Sept. 5 press event will likely cover a wide variety of products from cameras to headphones, there's a rumor a new phone could be shown off. That would be the Xperia 2, Sony's follow-up to the Xperia 1 smartphone that came out earlier this year. The Xperia 1 introduced a new form factor for Sony phones with a very tall screen. We'd expect the follow-up to continue with that design, while improving on the cameras which were surprisingly poor on the Xperia 1.
HMD Global, which handles the design and marketing for Nokia phones these days, also has a Sept. 5 press event scheduled for IFA. The smartphone rumor mill expects follow-ups to the Nokia 5.1, Nokia 6.1 and Nokia 7.1 midrange phones.
And Samsung hasn't entirely turned its back on IFA. While the company's IFA press event is likely to focus on appliances and TVs slated for the European market, there's the small matter of the Galaxy Fold, which is supposed to ship in September after a lengthy delay. A new report claims that Samsung will release its foldable phone in the coming week, though only in South Korea for now. Samsung could use IFA to clarify the Galaxy Fold's rollout to other markets, including the U.S.
Huawei in the spotlight
Speaking of phone makers, the world's second-largest maker of handsets gets the stage all to itself at IFA. Richard Yu, CEO of the consumer group at Huawei, will deliver one of IFA's opening keynotes on Sept. 6.
Huawei's been in the news a lot since Yu spoke at the 2018 edition of IFA, though not for reasons that the company would prefer. As part of the ongoing U.S.-China trade war, Huawei has found itself smack dab in the middle. Earlier this year, the U.S. Commerce Department blocked U.S. companies from supplying Huawei with hardware and software, and while those restrictions eased somewhat, Huawei still finds itself scrambling to deal with the fallout of the Trump administration's animus. The company has unveiled its own operating system since its ability to use Android going forward is in doubt, and it could talk more about the Harmony OS and what kind of apps will be available to future Huawei phones during its IFA keynote.
Past IFA keynotes have also hinted at Huawei's plans for the Kirin chipsets it uses to power its phones; that could continue in 2019. And Huawei has a foldable phone of its own, the Mate X, which has been delayed from its original launch date — hopefully, the company's IFA keynote gives us a sense of when that device is coming out.
We wouldn't expect a ton of U.S.-specific information about 5G networks during IFA — that's what trade shows like October's Mobile World Congress Americas are for. But Qualcomm President Cristiano Amon is giving a keynote of his own at IFA this year, and given Qualcomm's heavy investment in 5G, we'd expect the faster networking standard to be the focus of his talk. (Amon could also talk up his company's efforts with Wi-Fi 6, the emerging wireless standard that was the focus of a Qualcomm event just this past week.)
We tend to think of smartphones when we think about 5G connectivity, but that's not the only device that benefits from 5G's faster speeds and lower latencies. 5G is important to a number of different devices, from smart gadgets for home to connected cars. And, circling back to laptops, we could hear about more portable devices capable of faster connectivity during IFA.
Other products rumored for IFA
Like CES, IFA covers a wide spectrum of electronics, and the product news coming out of the show will reflect that.
Sonos: The home audio company reportedly wants to expand beyond the home, adding a portable speaker to its lineup. And according to the rumor mill, the Sonos Move, which has appeared in leaked images, will show up in the flesh just before IFA kicks off next week.
Smartwatches: Fitbit got a jump on IFA by unveiling the Fitbit Versa 2, which goes on sale Sept. 15. But other smartwatch makers figure to have a presence at the upcoming trade show. After just announcing its Fenix 6 watch, Garmin is expected to show off additional watches. Fossil is expected to have a presence at the show, too.
A New Mesh Router: Router maker Netgear has already teased a Wi-Fi 6 version of its Orbi mesh router, with plans to announce the new model on Sept. 6. Those of us with a good memory for dates will notice that coincides with IFA's opening day.