Updated: IFA 2016: What to expect from Samsung, Sony and more at Germany’s big tech show
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IFA 2016 news and rumors
Update: A leak in late August seems to have exposed the Sony Xperia X Compact, a handset with a rumored 4.6-inch display. While not tied directly to IFA, the very real looking phone could make its debut on the Berlin stage. We’ll know more soon.
IFA, the world’s second largest tech show behind CES, is fast approaching, and we’re more excited than ever to see what Berlin has in store.
The show is normally dominated by TVs, but last year saw an influx of smartwatches from the likes of Samsung, Motorola and Huawei. A number of phone announcements were also thrown in for good measure: two Sony Xperia Z5s, the "compact" and the "premium", and Huawei showed off the Mate S and the G8.
Official IFA 2016 dates are September 2 – September 7, though loads of press conferences take place in the days prior. Some of the biggest names in tech will descend on the Messe Berlin, and we’ll be on the ground to bring you all the latest news and first-hand impressions of everything that’s announced.
Read on for a company-by-company breakdown of the news and rumors we’ve heard so far about IFA 2016, and turn to Page 2 for some of our pre-IFA predictions.
Head to the bottom of this page to take our IFA 2016 poll!
It’s been quite a year for Samsung, one that was recently punctuated by the debut of the Galaxy Note 7.
But Samsung isn’t done with 2016 yet. It has two IFA events planned, and we have a good idea what tech it plans to reveal at both.
The main draw of its August 31 mobile event and September 1 press conference looks to be the Gear S3 smartwatch. How do we know? Because Sammy gave it away.
The company’s press conference invite features two watch hands, strongly suggesting a smartwatch will highlight the event. With the Gear S2 announced at IFA 2015, it only makes sense Samsung is gearing up to unveil its successor.
Samsung then followed the invitation up with another one, this time for an event the day before. This invite is even less subtle than the first; not only does it feature a full-blown watch face, it also says "Talk about 3" and "Gear".
It followed that up with a tweet about "a timely innovation", so if Samsung isn’t ready to announce the Gear S3 after giving us these clues, we’re not sure what to think.
The different style watches on the dual invitations could be a hint Samsung will announce multiple versions of the smartwatch, and rumor has it Gear S3 Classic, Gear S3 Explorer and Gear S3 Frontier editions are in the works.
According to the sometimes-spurious DigiTimes, the Gear S3 will have a built-in barometer that will read atmospheric pressure. It can also predict the weather, which is quite a cool feature. Last but note least, a speedometer will clock how fast users are moving while running or pedaling on a bike.
But that’s not all the buzz around Samsung. Thanks to a posting on the company’s Colombian website, we know the Galaxy Tab S3 tablet is very real. It’ll have similar qualities to the Galaxy Tab S2, yet outshine it "with some innovations", the website notes.
While the post doesn’t specifically mention an IFA unveiling, it does say the tablet will launch to support the Galaxy Note 7 release in September. Though the Note 7 landed in the US in mid-August, it’s coming to other regions, including the UK, next month.
All of this is to say that it makes perfect sense for Samsung to unveil the Galaxy Tab S3 at its IFA press event. The Tab S2 earned good marks in our review, though it stood to improve in a few areas, including battery life.
If Samsung does unveil a new tablet next month, it’d do well to give it a healthy boost where its predecessor faltered if it wants to compete with the likes of the iPad.
Sony always comes to IFA packing goodies, and this year it looks like the PS4 maker won’t disappoint.
The invite for its September 1 press conference features a wide range of gadgets, from headphones to an Xperia phone to the PlayStation VR to cameras to a television set.
While Sony will likely limit its announcements to a few core products, we expect it to unveil at least one phone while in Germany.
Recent benchmarks revealed a new Sony handset that’s sporting some serious high-end specs. Those include a Snapdragon 820 processor, 3GB of RAM, a 21MP rear camera and 12MP front-facing one, and a 5.1-inch 1080p screen.
The unnamed device’s specs line up with Sony’s current flagship, the Xperia X Performance, though are behind the Samsung Galaxy S7. The phone could be the long-awaited Xperia X2, and a big-stage announcement at its September 1 press conference seems likely.
On August 25, noted leaker Evan Blass took to Twitter to send out an image of what he says is the Sony Xperia X Compact. The device is said to have a small 4.6-inch display, similar to the Sony Z5 Compact. Also of note is the relocation of the earpiece and speaker to sit more deeply into the bezel, as well as the front-facing camera, much like we’ve seen with the Sony Xperia X.
Though tiny, the new Xperia X Compact could pack a punch if it debuts at IFA next week.
Flipping back to the wearables theme, Fitbit is making the trek to Berlin this year. The company will likely unveil the Fitbit Flex 2, a device with a slimmer design than we’ve seen before, as well as the Fitbit Charge 2.
The Charge 2 is particularly exciting because not only is it thinner than its predecessor, leaked images also suggest it will have a nice, big screen on which to see all your stats.
This would be the first major update for the Flex and Charge since 2013 and 2014, respectively. Rumors suggest the devices will feature some integrated payment capabilities following Fitbit’s acquisition of Coin’s payment systems, a major update for the bands.
With LG launching its V20 flagship phone on September 6 in San Francisco, it’s left many to wonder what exactly it will announce all the way in Berlin.
Word is LG will come to IFA with the third generation in its Flex line in tow, the LG G Flex 3. A PhoneArena report from way back in May suggests the LG G Flex 2 successor will feature a 5.5-inch 1440 x 2560 screen, a Snapdragon 820 chip, 4GB of RAM, 16MP camera and, most intriguingly, a modular design.
LG went modular with the LG G5, so it carry that over to the G Flex 3 – and the V20, for that matter.
If anything, we can always count on LG unveiling new TVs at IFA, so if we don’t get a new phone, at least we’ll have some new screens to stare at.
Lenovo and Motorola
Lenovo, which owns Motorola, has teased a number of announcements for IFA 2016, including new MotoMods for the Moto Z smartphone, a new tablet, and "a new kind of intuitive keyboard."
It’s all in a video put out on Lenovo’s YouTube channel, and it’s chock full of quick looks at devices we’ll see in Berlin. Check it out below:
Lenovo might also announce a new Moto 360 smartwatch for 2016, based on the wearable’s cameo in the teaser. We’ll find out all during the company’s August 31 press conference.
You’re ready for a Zenvolution, aren’t you? Well, Asus sure is, and it’s counting down the days to just such an occurrence on its IFA 2016 minisite.
Asus has Zen products in every category – ZenFone, ZenPad tablets, ZenWatch, ZenBook laptops – so "Zenvolution" could refer to one, some, or all of these devices showing up at the company’s August 31 press conference.
On August 17, Asus tweeted "The time for something incredible is now! #IFA16 #ASUS", indicating a new ZenWatch is indeed headed to the show. Asus announced the ZenWatch 2 at IFA 2015, so a safe bet is that the ZenWatch 3 will show up later this month.
That was backed up by an August 22 report from DigiTimes, citing the Chinese-language Economic Daily News, that Asus will in fact unveil the third-gen ZenWatch at IFA. The device will look different than its predecessors thanks to a new industrial design.
Intel is also featured on Asus’ minisite, and the two teamed up on the ZenFone 2. Is this a hint we’re in for new ZenFones at IFA 2016? Probably.
Acer’s press conference goes days before IFA, and it’s here the company will unveil its holiday lineup to the world.
First, Acer teased a new, ultra-thin laptop in the company’s IFA event invite in the shape of a less-than sign, which could mean the new notebook will measure less than 1-inch thick.
But then reports came in late August that Acer has other tricks up its sleeve, namely a high-end gaming smartwatch and a smart wearable. The word came from DigiTimes, citing the Chinese-language Economic Daily News.
A gaming watch is an interesting tack for Acer to take – these are typically devices you’d see made for specific games, such as the Pokemon Sun and Moon wearable. However, perhaps Acer feels it can make waves in the market, and plans to release a smartwatch that pairs with its gaming computers.
That’s pure speculation on our part, but we’ll learn more about all of Acer’s devices on August 31.
Huawei came out swinging at IFA 2015 with the Mate S and G8 smartphones, plus pricing details for the Huawei Watch. We expect more of the same at this year’s show.
On August 22, the phone maker tweeted a teaser for its September 1 press conference. The image, shown above, looks to feature the edge of a phone. "Defy Expectations" is the event’s tagline.
Recent Weibo leaks (via Pocketlink) revealed the Huawei Mate 9, a 5.9-inch phablet. It looks to feature a dual-camera set-up, much like the Huawei P9 and Honor 8, the latter of which was recently launched in the US. Will the new handset have other features that set it apart from Huawei’s previous phones?
Other rumors suggest Huawei will use IFA 2016 to unveil a new sub-brand, one that focuses on mid-range smartphones – the first of which could be the device we see in the teaser image.
The Chinese firm will likely unveil a new smartphone or two, along with a updated wearable. We don’t think it will deviate too much from the script, though you never know – it may surprise us with a new VR headset. To follow along with the event, check out Huawei’s minisite, which is counting down the days till September 1.
ZTE and nubia
ZTE is set to host a press conference on September 1, and it’s *hear* the company will unveil a brand-new device.
That’s straight from ZTE’s mouth: the company tweeted a teaser for its September 1 press conference with the tagline "Right Hear Right Now." Sound waves rippling across the image also indicate ZTE is readying a product for our ears.
While a speaker or other audio-only device could be in the cards, the safe money is on a new Axon phone with souped-up sound capabilities. LG is placing a premium on sound for the V20, so it could be sonics are the new camera when it comes to the next batch of smartphones.
Before ZTE takes the stage though, nubia, a sub-brand of the Chinese phone maker, has a reveal of its own.
nubia is hosting an August 31 gathering, and a minisite for the event teases we’re in for something that let’s us "dream without boundaries." It’s a good tease, but the company’s press invites also say "flagship smartphone", so we know what we’re in for.
The tagline could hint at a bezel-less phone, though it might also refer to the device’s camera. An image of what appears to be a camera sensor on the minisite indicates the handset’s snapper will be one of its main attractions.
The phone maker claims the nubia Z11, recently released in China, is bezel less, so we could be in for the device’s international launch at IFA.
Stay tuned for more news and rumors about IFA 2016!
Pre-IFA 2016 predictions
With the IFA’s start now rapidly approaching, we’ve got a much better idea what we might have in store, so read on for our top 5 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.
Last year at IFA we had Samsung unveil the world’s first UHD Blu-ray player, and Panasonic and Philips have also recently released their first players, the DMP-UB900 and BDP7501 respectively.
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: 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 4: 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 5: 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.