Five highlights from Berlin’s consumer electronics show, IFA

The city, which will host the Digital Innovators’ Summit (DIS) in March 2016, is also home to the continent’s major consumer electronics exhibition IFA.

The show, which ran for much of last week, attracted trade visitors, journalists and tech-obsessed members of the public from across Europe, who were there to view a cavalcade of exciting new gadgets.

It also saw a range of new product launches and highlighted several key trends which content creators would do well to take note of.

1. Mobile screens are going even more high resolution

It is fair to say that in spite of its size and global reach, Sony has been something of a bit part player in the mobile world in recent years. The Xperia Z5 Premium (one of a trio of new smartphones, the others being the Z5 and Z5 Compact), which launched at IFA, aims to change all that.

The rival to the Apple iPhone 6 and Samsung Galaxy S6, the Z5 Premium, is especially notable for being the first smartphone to boast a 4K screen. The 5.5-inch 4K (3,840 x 2,160) panel wowed journalists and tech observers with its rich spectrum of colours. Given the resolution it is no surprise that content, especially video, looks ultra sharp on the phone. Editorial pages are also very clear and easy to read. The bump in resolution is impressive and throws down a gauntlet to Samsung and Apple.

2. Smartwatches are now being released for women

One of the big criticisms of the first generation of smartwatches – including the  Apple Watch – is that they are too big for women’s wrists. But Motorola has been listening, and at IFA it unveiled the latest incarnation of its Android operating system watch, the Moto 360, in guises for both men and women. 

The female friendly watch is tad smaller than the men’s at 42mm. It sports a 1.37-inch 360 x 325 display, compared with the 46mm model which has a 1.56-inch display with a resolution of 360 x 330. Admittedly  though, it doesn’t really feel too much smaller than standard smartwatch-sized screens. The watch also comes with a range of colourful bands.

It will interesting to see if smartwatch screens continues to shrink. In some ways this won’t be great news for publishers if they do, as they look to squeeze content onto tiny displays. 

3. Budget smartphones are still coming thick and fast

The year’s key consumer electronics trend is the rise of the budget smartphone. As the technology matures, so budget model from a number of both far Eastern (especially Chinese) and European brands are offering near state-of-the-art handsets for significantly less than the money charged by Samsung Apple and other market leaders. Interestingly, the demand for these types of phones is being fuelled in the European market by the continuing growth if SIM only deals, where users buy their data/voice call minutes from a network but choose their own phone. 

The two key models in this category which landed at IFA were the Mate S from Huawei and the ME trio from German maker GIGASET. The Mate S is a high-end mobile manufactured from high quality components and sporting a striking iPhone-esque metallic look. It will retail for a fair bit less than phones from the company’s big name rivals. As will the GIGASET Me series phones which pair a very striking high-end design with advanced features like quick charge, TV control and sophisticated camera settings. They are likely to attract aspirational but budget-conscious buyers.

4. Tablets are a little last year

For the past few years one of the key features of IFA has been the wave after wave of tablet launches. This year there were newbies from the likes of Acer, Lenovo and LG, but it did seem as if tablets were a low priority for a lot of consumer electronics manufacturers. Tablets appear to be selling well still in many territories, but from the maker’s perspective, they seem to have become something of a commodity.

5. There are now serious rivals to the Apple watch

IFA saw a slew of smartwatch launches from a host of makers. In addition to the men’s and women’s versions of the Moto 360, Motorola also launched a sports watch. Huawei, Asus and LG had new models as did Citizen with its prototype Wena watch.

The watch thought that drew most of the attention was the Samsung Gear S2 which is not only the most striking watch from the brand so far but it boasts a unique feature in a bezel which runs round the watch’s screen and can be used to access the watch’s apps.

It has already scored some very impressive reviews and is a very serious rival to market leaders from Apple and Pebble. With GFK predicting worldwide sales of smartwatches to reach 26m units this year this is a market that needs to be high on every publisher’s agenda.

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