Expectations for IFA 2019

Electronics trade show kicks off in Berlin

The CCS Insight team is back in Berlin for the annual IFA event. IFA has become one of the key showcases for the world’s biggest consumer electronics players to share their latest and greatest products ahead of the fourth-quarter holiday sales season. Amazon, Bosch, Lenovo, LG, Miele, Panasonic, Philips, Samsung, Siemens, Sony, TCL and many others make eye-watering investments at the event, with big product launches and enormous booths that act as “temples” to their extensive portfolios.

While at the show we’ll be focussing on several areas, including smartphones, wearables, virtual and augmented reality, 5G developments and smart home products.

In smartphones, we expect two key themes to emerge. Firstly, support for 5G will be a common topic. As a curtain-raiser to the show, Samsung unveiled its third 5G smartphone, the Galaxy A90 5G, which takes 5G support to a new lower price for a tier-one phone-maker.

Samsung’s new phone heralds the start of a move to shift 5G technology down the smartphone price curve. With HMD Global, LG, Sony, TCL and others all hosting media events at the show there is a high likelihood they’ll extend their portfolio in this direction, as well as announcing other new smartphones.

The other smartphone trend is the emergence of more products using flexible displays. Foldables were a big story at MWC in Feb (see The Folding Stuff), but Samsung’s Fold device will finally go on sale tomorrow, six months after its debut, and Huawei’s Mate X folding phone has yet to appear in the shops. We’re also keeping a close eye on TCL. It had a wide range of concept devices with flexible displays at MWC 2019, and given its major investment in display technology it may have news in this area.

We could also see the emergence of alternative shapes and designs for foldables, such as a clamshell smartphone with a flexible display. This would support our view that, although they are highly experimental, foldable products will usher in a whole new chapter in device diversity.

IFA has traditionally been an important show for wearables. Other than Apple, all the big players support the event. We expect the latest products from Amazfit, Fitbit, Fossil and Garmin to be on show. Several new devices have already been announced, such as Fitbit’s Versa 2 and Garmin’s Fenix 6, but we also expect to see further products launched. It will also be interesting to see what big players such as Huawei, LG and Samsung showcase as part of their ever-growing line-ups.

Smart home is another area that gets a lot of focus at IFA. We expect LG, Samsung and other consumer electronics giants to continue extolling the virtues of their products’ growing support for smart home technologies; appliance manufacturers such as Beko, Bosch, Philips and Siemens will add more smart features to existing products, especially white goods.

The battle between voice assistants is also set to continue as Amazon’s Alexa and Google’s Assistant compete to be the leading platform that binds smart home devices together. We also anticipate companies with a dedicated focus on smart home products such as Belkin, Netatmo, Signify (Philips Hue), Amazon (Ring), Tado and Yale will showcase their latest offerings as the “land grab” for smart home consumers progresses.

We’re expecting big news in the TV space. LG, Samsung, Sony, TCL, Vestel and others are adding more features than ever to drive sales of their products. Key developments include the transition to bigger screens, OLED technology, more pixels, 8K support and smarter features, notably voice interactions with Amazon Alexa, Google Assistant, Samsung’s Bixby and other proprietary solutions. Reflecting this trend is Amazon’s announcement that it’s working with Grundig, JVC and Toshiba to offer Fire TV edition products. These have Amazon’s Fire TV service and Alexa technology baked directly into the TV.

Although we’ll be tracking the latest developments in virtual and augmented reality, we have limited expectations on what we’ll see. The technology appears to have lost momentum, with companies that previously had large virtual reality showcases at trade shows reducing the amount of space dedicated to the category.

Finally, although not a visible theme at the show, it is hard to get away from shadow cast by the trade war between China and the US. There is a palpable nervousness among exhibitors that the fallout from current geopolitical tensions could dampen demand for consumer electronics globally. Keynote presentations such as those from Huawei’s Richard Yu and Qualcomm’s Cristiano Amon will provide fascinating insight into the importance of the geopolitical landscape for major tech companies.

CCS Insight analysts Ben Wood (@benwood) and Leo Gebbie (@leogebbie) will be sharing real-time updates from the show on Twitter and will produce an event report for our clients in the days following the show.

Video production: Will Wood