After a relatively low-key CES and Mobile World Congress earlier this year, it’s time for IFA — or Internationale Funkausstellung, to give it its full name — the annual consumer electronics show held in Berlin at the end of the summer. And this year’s IFA looks to be the the busiest yet for major Android announcements and product unveilings. The show proper begins Friday, Sept. 6, but the big press conferences start from Wednesday, Sept. 4.
IFA has traditionally been a major event for Samsung, and of course the Korean company is sure to have its share of big announcements this year, too. But we’re also expecting phones, tablets, cameras and more from other manufacturers like Sony and LG.
Naturally, we’ll be live from Germany next week to bring you full coverage of IFA 2013. Check past the break to learn about all the awesome Android stuff we’re expecting to see.
Samsung — Galaxy Note 3, Galaxy Gear and possible tablets
Samsung’s got its second “Unpacked” event of 2013 on the evening of Wednesday, Sept. 4. Once again it’s being held at the Tempodrom in central Berlin — that’s the thing in the photo above that looks like a glowing, upturned umbrella. We’ll be liveblogging the whole shebang, and Samsung will also have a live video stream; the action kicks off at 7pm Berlin time (1pm EDT).
Of course we’ll see the Galaxy Note 3 — a device that’s been partially leaked in recent weeks. We more-or-less know that it’ll pack high-end smartphone internals — supposedly a Snapdragon 800 for the LTE variant, and the new Exynos 5 Octa in non-LTE markets — along with oodles of RAM and a camera that’ll probably be an upgrade on that of the Galaxy S4. (Specifically, 13 megapixels with OIS is rumored.)
We also know the front of it will probably look like a Samsung phone — no surprises there — though if the reported 5.68-inch screen size is accurate, it’ll mean that the Note 3 will fit in roughly the same footprint as the Note 2, only with narrower bezels. As usual with the Galaxy Note range, however, the most interesting part of the Note 3 will be what you can actually do with all this hardware. Surely there’ll be a host of new software features, and that’s what we’re expecting Samsung to spend much of Wednesday’s presentation talking about.
This year there’s also a lot of hype surrounding Samsung’s entry into the smartwatch arena, with a device known as the Galaxy Gear. The name, and the fact that it’s a watch, has been all but confirmed at this point, and in a recent interview a Samsung exec also quashed rumors that it’ll use the company’s flexible AMOLED technology. So we’re probably getting a wearable device that actually looks like a watch, as opposed to the kinds of magical space-age bangles we’ve seen in concept drawings.
The use of the Galaxy brand suggests the device will run Android, and it’s going to be really interesting to see how Samsung has adapted Jelly Bean to run on such a low-power device. At the same time, Samsung’s Android lineup is all about delivering the maximum number of cool, eye-catching features, and so we’re sure to see some unique possibilities when the Gear is paired with a GS4 or Note 3.
Finally, we’re long overdue a decent high-end Android tablet from Samsung. We’ve heard rumors and more rumors — and we certainly hope it’ll be time for the Galaxy Note 12.2 — or whatever flavor of Galaxy Tab is next, to make an appearance at IFA. Samsung can make awesome-looking tablet displays, as evidenced by the Nexus 10 and newer devices like the Ativ Q. Next week we’ll be crossing our fingers for some Android tablets that aren’t as forgettable and overpriced as the current Galaxy Tab 3 range.
Sony — Xperia Z1, Z1 'mini' and crazy lens cameras
Another longstanding big player at IFA, Sony also has its big press conference on Sept. 4 — at 4pm CET (10am EDT), just hours ahead of Samsung. On the smartphone side, we’re going to see the Xperia Z1 — the smartphone formerly known as “Honami” — and thanks to a steady stream of leaked information and photos, we already know an awful lot about Sony’s late 2013 flagship.
According to these leaks, it’ll pack a Snapdragon 800 CPU and a 20-megapixel camera with Sony G Lens, and it’ll look a lot like the Xperia Z, only with taller bezels. It also appears that Sony’s reworked its “skeleton frame” design, as it did between the Xperia Z and Z Ultra. The Z1’s trim seems to have a more metallic finish, compared to the Z’s soft-touch, which should help it to be less of a lint magnet than its predecessor.
It’ll also be interesting to see whether the Z1 sports a “Triluminos” display like the larger Xperia Z Ultra; during our brief time with the Ultra back in June we were impressed with the clarity this delivered compared to earlier (and admittedly lackluster) Sony phone displays.
There are also rumors of a smaller version of the Z1 (a “Z1 mini,” perhaps) going by the codename “Itsuki.” This device has only emerged in shaky photos and rumors in the past week or so. But if, as is being reported, the “Itsuki” can deliver a Snapdragon 800 CPU alongside a 4.3-inch, 720p screen, it could instantly conquer the small-form-factor Android phone space. (That’s assuming the manufacturer can successfully charm international carriers.)
Finally, onto Sony’s “lens cameras” — a class of product that sounded too crazy to be real when we first reported it weeks ago. Yet subsequent leaks have essentially confirmed that Sony is working on a compact “camera within a lens” that straps to the back of your smartphone, turning it into an oversized viewfinder. There are reportedly two models coming, an entry-level unit with point-and-shoot optics and 10X optical zoom, and a higher-end one based on the Sony RX100 Mk. II compact camera. The idea is to provide high-end imaging as a smartphone accessory, in response to devices like the Nokia Lumia 1020 and Galaxy S4 Zoom.
The “lens cameras” are rumored to work with both Android and iOS, which if true could shake up mobile imaging in a big way — assuming the price is right.
LG — More G2, the G Pad 8.3 and maybe something with a 1440p screen
LG has already announced its 2013 flagship phone, the G2, and a U.S. release is expected by the middle of next month. So at IFA we’re expecting the Korean manufacturer to focus on the unannounced tablet that it sorta-announced a few days ago. The LG G Pad 8.3 will show us LG’s vision what a small-form-factor tablet should be in 2013, and if the one press render leak we’ve seen is accurate, there’ll be a lot of crossover with the G2 in terms of hardware design. It’ll also be interesting to see what LG can offer on the software side to compete with the new Nexus 7, which will be reaching even more markets over the next month.
Finally, we’re interested to see what LG’s going to do with that 5.5-inch, 1440p smartphone display it’s cooking up. The obvious choice would be another Optimus G Pro — perhaps a G2 Pro or G Pro 2. The G Pro isn’t old by any means, but LG has cycled through product quickly in the past, and a new oversized phone with such an eye-popping display could present it with a way to leapfrog local rival Samsung.
But it isn’t just about the big press conferences. We’ll be hitting the show floor to bring you devices from the smaller manufacturers, and there’s always some interesting stuff to be found at the European carrier booths. At the same time, IFA is about more than phones and tablets, so we might even see Android embedded in new classes of device. (We’ve already had an Android-powered oven. How about an Android refrigerator or dishwasher?)
There’re also going to be new phones and tablets from Archos on the way. And on the HTC side, there've been rumors in recent weeks surrounding the blue HTC One, the HTC One "Max" and the Mini+, the miniature “phone for your phone.”
So stick around for a busy, busy week of new Android devices. And hit the comments to let us know which you’re looking forward to the most!