BERLIN — For most visitors of IFA 2014, the largest consumer electronics show in Europe has just begun. For journalists, however, all that's left is to recover from seemingly endless wandering through Messe's (the Berlin venue where the show is held) convoluted hallways and recap the intense couple of days behind them.
We got what we expected, and then some — the heavyweights of the tech world,
includingSamsung, LG, Asus and Sony, all brought their new smart wearables to the show, and added a couple of tablets, smartphones and enormous TVs in the process.
The cool stuff
Innovation-wise, Samsung deserves a pat on the back for trying something new with its smartphone-enabled virtual reality headset Gear VR. We also liked Alcatel's smart smartphone cover prototype (yeah, even the covers are getting smarter) and Kobo'swaterproof e-reader (the first of its kind, as far as we know). During a showcase of its vision of a smart house, which was seen at this year's CES, Sony did show us a very cool new prototype: the Portable Ultra Short-Throw Projector (pictured below), a small waterproof device that can turn any surface in your house into a 23-inch screen.
While there was no lack of innovative gadgets at the show, there were some that are pretty unlikely to cause a big splash. Sony lets you go smartphone-photography crazy with its newlens-style cameras, but for the same price you can just buy a decent, regular camera. Samsung's semi-curved Galaxy Edge looks beautiful and does some clever tricks, but I'm not sure it does anything better than a regular smartphone.
Phones that aren't dumb
Those, of course, were not in short supply at IFA. In the absence of true flagship devices, the keyword was "affordable flagship," which is marketingese for trying to make a mid-range phone look like a flagship. Nokia did a pretty good job of proving its new phone's cameras are better than the competition — especially when it comes to taking selfies.
Also worthy of mention were the pen-equipped LG G3 Stylus and Lenovo's Vibe X2, with its "layered" and semi-modular design, which not only makes the phone a little bit different from the rest of the pack, but also lets you add extensions, such as an extra battery.
Sony did launch a new flagship phone: the Sony Xperia Z3, and its smaller-but-equally-powerful brother, the Xperia Z3 Compact. Though neither device is all that different from its previous iteration, one has to admit that Sony is not straying from its mission to bring powerful, waterproof and uncompromising (the Z3 Compact is smaller, but packs the same power as the Z3) smartphones to the market.
A computer for your wrist — or finger
Depending on how you look at smart wearables, this year's IFA was either very exciting or a bit disappointing. I tend to fall into the latter camp — Asus' ZenWatch and LG's G Watch R are all definitely a step forward, especially from a design standpoint, but I still haven't seen any smartwatch features that really make me want to buy one.
Sony's SmartWatch 3 went a different route: instead of trying to look like a luxury watch, it's more of a fitness-tracker with an emphasis on voice control.
As far as the countless other companies that are trying to jump on the wearables bandwagon — like MOTA, who unfortunately was not able to show us a working prototype of its smart ring — sorry, you're just not quite there yet.