All Eyes on Berlin for IFA 2018

Europe’s Biggest Consumer Electronics Show Starts Tomorrow

The annual pilgrimage that officially marks the end of summer for the tech industry has begun. The sprawling Berlin Messe exhibition ground plays host to the biggest names in consumer electronics. Mega brands such as Samsung and Sony have enormous stands and will kick off the event with press conferences to unveil their latest products and their vision for the future of consumer electronics technology.

IFA’s stature as a show has continued to build over the past few years, thanks to its ideal timing as a showcase ahead of the crucial fourth-quarter sales period. This allows consumer electronics companies to raise the profile of the latest and great products they have to offer in time for key shopping events such as Black Friday and Christmas.

It’s always hard to predict what the exact announcements will be, but there are some clear trends already emerging.

Voice assistants and voice interactions with devices are certainly a hot topic. All the big players are here supporting their respective platforms. As we’ve seen at all major consumer electronics events this year, Google has invested heavily to plaster the show with advertising for its Google Assistant. It will be hoping that this effort will be backed up by a growing number of products integrating its digital assistant. Amazon is also showing off a major area dedicated to Alexa-enabled devices, and Samsung’s Bixby voice assistant is expected to be a consistent theme across all of the company’s product announcements. We don’t expect to be able to keep up with the raft of voice-enabled products that will be on the show floor spanning speakers, headphones, white goods, TVs and more.

Another big theme at the show is 8K resolution. Leading companies in display technology such as LG, Samsung, Sony and others are expected to announce developments in this area. Having seen numerous 8K demonstrations over the years, we acknowledge the image quality is astounding but there’s a long way to go before it becomes a mainstream consumer technology. However, it’s little surprise that TV makers want to take this route, as their products have long replacement cycles. We predict a deluge of marketing proclaiming devices as “8K ready”, as they emerge with a sales narrative that encourages customers to buy “future-proof” products. Expect less detail on how much content will be available and, more importantly, how it will be delivered to consumers given the significant bandwidth demands of 8K technology.

Although the connected home zone is relatively small at IFA, the theme is omnipresent and for many of the large consumer electronics companies it’s the glue that binds their entire product portfolio including TVs, white goods and other appliances. We anticipate plenty of news in this area.

Of course, the breadth of announcements will cover all areas of technology. We expect to see new smartphones from companies such as Huawei (in the guise of its Honor sub-brand), Sony and TCL (with its BlackBerry-branded devices). We also expect a small spike in interest in wearable devices. Companies including Fitbit, Fossil and Samsung will all be showcasing new products. Furthermore, the show coincides with the announcement of an update to Google’s Wear OS.

Another hot topic will be artificial intelligence, although we caution that many companies are making bold claims about this technology but delivering only basic capabilities. As with any major tech show, many companies will demonstrate virtual reality experiences, as well as augmented reality, which is definitely one of the big technology areas that numerous players including Apple (although it’s not attending the show), Microsoft and others are focused on.

Our team of analysts at IFA include Ben Wood (@benwood) and George Jijiashvili (@George_CCS), and they’ve already started offering live updates on Twitter. We will also publish events reports for CCS Insight clients covering the key topics that emerge from the show.