BERLIN — You may not be familiar with IFA, the European equivalent of the massive CES trade show, but you've certainly seen the products that have debuted at recent IFAs. LG's V30 smartphone, Samsung's Gear smartwatches and a host of laptops from leading brands like Lenovo, Acer and Asus have all spent some time in the IFA spotlight.
What products could join those ranks when this year's IFA kicks off Friday (Aug. 31) in Berlin? We're in Germany to take in the sights from the show floor, and here are the potential announcements that have us excited.
(Before we get started, one important note about IFA scheduling. While the show doesn't officially get underway until Friday and runs through Sept. 5, a press day on Thursday (Aug. 30) and preview events mean you can expect announcements out of Berlin all week long.)
LG’s focus on smarts
LG has gone all-in with AI, as we’ve seen from the ThinQ branding it’s used across a suite of devices, such as smartphones, TVs and appliances. The ThinQ label signifies a smart product with artificial intelligence baked right in, as evidenced by the G7 ThinQ smartphone’s artificially intelligent camera.
LG will deliver the opening keynote at IFA this year, and it’s all about — you guessed it — AI. LG CEO Jo Seong-jin and CTO I.P. Park will discuss the company’s AI strategy and how it applies to refrigerators, TVs and washing machines. We expect to see new additions to LG’s smart home lineup on the show floor, including a few high-end appliances that LG announced early this week as part of its pricey Signature label. A voice-controlled wine cellar will debut at IFA alongside a new Signature dryer and bottom-freezer refrigerator.
Huawei’s next move
Richard Yu, CEO of Huawei's consumer products division, is also slated to give a keynote at IFA this Friday, and considering that the Chinese phone maker builds some pretty innovative phones — even if they're not always available in the U.S. — it's worth paying attention to what he has to say.
It's unlikely we'll see the rumored Huawei Mate 20 at IFA — Huawei tends to hold its own phone launch events, and in recent years, it's used the CES show in January to talk about U.S. availability. That said, we could hear some hints about what Huawei's planning for its next phones. At least year's IFA, Yu took the wraps off Huawei's Kirin 970 processor, talking up its new neural processing features for image recognition. That chip would power the Mate 10 Pro and P20 Pro, among other devices.
Huawei may not restrict itself to phones, either. At CES this past January, the company unveiled new mesh routers. It will also be interesting to see if Huawei, now the world's second-largest phone maker, has more to say about its plans for the U.S. market, in light of the U.S. government's ongoing concerns about the company's alleged ties to the Chinese government. (U.S. agencies are barred from buying Huawei hardware.)
Samsung goes beyond the Galaxy
Samsung likes to go big at IFA — literally. The company just announced the Galaxy Note 9, Galaxy Watch and Galaxy Home smart speaker, so we’re not expecting any new phones, wearables or smart home devices (though it would be nice to see the Galaxy Home in action).
Instead, Samsung will likely show off some impressive examples of its game-changing display technology. The company has already announced two such products ahead of IFA: a 34-inch QLED (3440 x 1440) curved monitor with two Thunderbolt 3 ports, and a 43-inch ultra-wide curved monitor with an eye-popping 3840 x 1200 resolution. We expect to see some incredible TVs, too, when Samsung hosts a press conference Thursday at 11 a.m. CET.
The return of ZTE
Speaking of another phone maker that's run afoul of the U.S. government, ZTE has a Thursday press conference. The last we heard from that Chinese company, it had shut up shop after the U.S. government banned ZTE from importing U.S. components in a row over ZTE selling equipment to Iran and North Korea. President Donald Trump later intervened as part of the U.S's ongoing trade maneuverings with China, and the ban has since been lifted.
So what does ZTE do on its return to the stage? All signs point to a new flagship device from the phone maker, with leaked renders reportedly of the Axon 9 Pro popping up online this week. IFA would be a fitting venue for a new Axon phone: two years ago, the company launched the Axon 7 Mini here.
Given IFA's spot on the calendar — right before fall gets underway and the holiday shopping season kicks off — you can understand why laptop makers see this event as a great venue for showing off the latest notebooks, 2-in-1s and gaming machines. Acer, Asus and Lenovo are all expected to be on hand in Berlin, showing off new gear powered by latest chipsets from Intel. If you're in the market for a laptop, it's a good idea to always wait for IFA to see what's coming down the pike.