Berlin's IFA technology show sees new smartphones, watches and gadgets
Internet-connected appliances and a new Polaroid camera also featured at electronics showcase
Some 1,500 companies and over 250,000 people are expected to visit Europe's flagship technology show, the IFA in Berlin, when it opens to the public tomorrow.
The event, which runs through next Wednesday, will featured a range of new mobile handsets and smartwatches that will hit stores just in time for the holiday shopping season.
Beyond phones, the event will see technological innovations applied to all aspects of life, from internet-connected kitchen appliances to rollable keyboards.
Companies have already showcased some of their new products over the last few days in pre-convention presentations.
Here are eight things that are stirring up buzz at the show.
1. Sony smartphone
The Japanese electronics giant is releasing three new models for its much-lauded Xperia smartphone line.
The Z5 comes in several variants: standard, compact and premium. Each of the new devices comes with a 23-megapixel primary camera with 0.03-second autofocus so users will hardly ever miss a shot.
Like previous devices in the series, all Z5s are dust and water proof, while the premium version sports a 5.5-inch screen with 3840 x 2160 pixels. This gives it a 4K resolution — a standard that was only recently rolled out for high-end televisions. Sony says it's a first for a smartphone.
2. Samsung surprise
Having already announced its latest range of Galaxy S phones last month, Samsung then jumped the gun on its own Berlin launch party by revealing a new smartwatch on Monday.
The Gear S2 is round and comes with a better battery life. Previous Samsung smartwatches have felt like miniature phones. Apps are presented on the rectangular screen the way they are on phones. You swipe on the screen to flip through pages of apps.
The Gear S2's interface is more fitting for a watch. The S2 has a circular frame that can be rotated to scroll through notifications and apps, so your fingers won't tire out from endless swiping. The watch itself is also smaller — roughly the size of the larger version of Apple Watch. Prices have yet to be revealed.
The company also announced a new line of smart sensors to install in homes and allow people to monitor and control their house. The sensors can go on doors, windows and even under a mattress to gather and use data like household temperature and moisture, connecting with smart appliances. The mattress sleep sensor, for example, can do things like turn off the lights and TV when someone falls asleep.
3. Touch types
The Apple Watch had it. Now smartphones are getting it.
Force Touch, a technology that allows users to transmit different commands to their smartphone depending on how strongly they press the touchscreen, made an entrance in Berlin.
Huawei introduce it in their new device, the Mate S, ahead of the launch of Apple's new iPhone next week. The technology allows for an unusual feature: Huawei says the phone can be used as a scale to weigh objects.
The Mate S aims to compete with high-end handsets from Apple and Samsung. It has a 5.5-inch display, fingerprint sensor and 13-megapixel camera, and will retail for around $950 without a contract, comparable to the iPhone 6 Plus.
Several manufacturers (but not Samsung or Apple) are making smartwatches based on Android Wear. Manufacturers can focus on designing the hardware, while letting Google worry about the functionality.
Consumers get choice, without compromising on app selection, as developers can write apps just once for multiple devices.
Among the choices:
- Motorola's latest Moto 360 watches come in three lines — men's, women's and a premium Sport version for fitness enthusiasts. Sport will have GPS built-in, along with a screen that can adapt to bright sunlight, with high-contrast text and graphics for better visibility in glare. Price range is $400 to $560 for the men's a women's, with release dates starting in late September.
- Huawei Watch will have luxury versions, with bodies plated with rose gold, starting at $900. The bodies won't be entirely made of gold, as Apple Watch's Edition models are. But those go for $10,000 to $17,000.
- On the flip side, Asus's new ZenWatch 2 will be notable for its price — starting at about $220 when it comes out in October.
Though these watches will now work with an iPhone, they get more functionality with Android.
5. Rollable keyboard
IFA isn't just about smartphones and watches though. Thousands of new gadgets, from drones to smart fridges, are launched there each year.
Among the most eye-catching items previewed before the events is the Rolly, a Bluetooth keyboard that can be folded into a long rectangular box. Its manufacturer, South Korean company LG, hopes the Rolly will appeal to people who always carry their tablet around but prefer to type on a keyboard than a touchscreen.
Other accessories that might catch consumers' eyes include a USB cable with a built-in LED light that manufacturer Hama says makes it easier to plug in your device in the dark.
6. Instant photos
Polaroid is going back to basic with its latest instant camera.
By stripping away the LCD screen found in the previous models and halving the price to $99, Polaroid hopes to boost sales of its new Snap camera in time for the holiday season.
Each click will instantly print a photo, with 50 sheets of special paper costing under $30.
7. PC on a stick
Tiny PCs powered by Google's Android have been around for a while, but Windows is increasingly entering that market.
The ASUS VivoStick PC is among the most impressive of its kind to feature Windows 10 in a stick the size of a dongle. Plug it into any modern TV and you can use it as a computer. It has Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 4, two gigabytes of RAM and 32 GB of storage, plus two USB ports and an audio jack.
The VivoStick will be available for around $170 when it hit stores.
8. Modular computing
Acer is taking the traditional PC apart so users can put it back together again.
The Taiwanese manufacturer launched Revo Build, a module computer starting at under $260 and shipping this quarter.
Users can add to the black base unit by attaching a dedicated graphics card, a sound block, a portable hard drive and even a power bank to wirelessly charge certain smartphones.
Acer manager Sherlock Cheng says the idea is to provide a "mini-PC on demand."