What to expect from the epic tech extravaganza about to open in Berlin


The annual IFA (Internationale Funkausstellung Berlin, which translates to “International radio exhibition”) conference in Berlin, Germany, is one of the oldest consumer electronics exhibitions in the world. The first took place in 1924, became an annual event in 1939, entered stasis during World War II, and picked up again in 1950. Now, the 1.6-million-square-foot Messe Berlin expo hall attracts more than 1,600 exhibitors, 245,000 visitors, and a deluge of press coverage each year in September.

The festivities may officially begin on September 2, but manufacturers like Samsung, LG, and others fight aggressively for the limelight by hosting spin-off events and pop-up conferences off the show floor. Many press conferences kick off on August 31 and September 1, so you can expect to see major announcements before the show officially opens.

So what can we expect from the top dogs in the smartphone, wearable, and broader electronics industry? We’ve compiled a list of what we know to help suss things out.

Sure, Samsung debuted the Note 7 and a new Gear VR headset nearly a month ahead of its Berlin showing, but that doesn’t mean the company won’t have more to show in September. Already, juicy rumblings about a long-rumored Galaxy Gear S3, the presumed follow-up to last year’s Gear S2, have been coming at a constant dribble. Just this past week, Samsung sent out a not-so-subtle press invitation to an August 31 “Gear” event where it promised to “talk about 3” and a “timely [emphasis added] innovation.” If the latest rumors are to be believed, the newest Gear will sport a round design; sensors like an altimeter, barometer, GPS, and speedometer; a rotating bezel similar to its predecessor; and run Tizen, Samsung’s proprietary operating system. It’s expected to launch in three flavors: the Classic, Frontier, and Explorer edition.

The Galaxy Tab S3 is another candidate for an IFA launch. The rumored Tab S3, which briefly appeared on the company’s Colombian website and reportedly passed through Chinese governing body TENAA earlier this year, purportedly packs a Qualcomm Snapdragon 652 processor, an 8-inch 1,536 x 2,048-pixel AMOLED screen, 3GB of RAM, and a 4,000mAh battery — in sum, hardware nearly identical to last year’s model. A larger, 9.7-inch option is expected alongside it.

A smartwatch likely isn’t all Samsung has in tow. Earlier this year, Samsung confirmed that it’s actively pursuing QLED, or “electroluminescent quantum dot light” technology, for consumer televisions. That’s a mouthful of a term, but it’s a new type of display tech, in essence, that leverages many-sized molecules to produce a rainbow of colors. Thanks to the ability of QLED screens to “switch off” individual pixels, they’re expected to deliver massive improvements in contrast ratio, power efficiency, and color. Most analysts estimate the first QLED consumer products are at least “three to five years” away, but a protoype at IFA isn’t out of the question.

There’s a chance less conventional projects may get stage time. Samsung’s C-Lab skunkworks launched two innovations this past summer potentially due to debut: the Iofit, a pair of “smart shoes” for golfers designed to track your activity level improve golf swing posture; and Welt, a “smart belt” intended to help prevent overeating and obesity. And Samsung’s bound to showcase bleeding-edge tech from its myriad of other divisions. We’re expecting new set-top boxes, monitors, and new developments from its SmartThings and smart home appliance divisions.

Samsung is hosting two press conferences around IFA: one on Wendesday, August 31, at 12 p.m. ET, and the second on Thursday, September 1, at 5 a.m. ET.

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