With the week-long IFA tech fair in Berlin, Germany drawing to a close this week, TabTimes reviews some of the main themes and key products at the tech extravaganza.
4K rules on all screens
Super high res 4K displays have been a hot topic in the consumer electronics industry for some time now and that was evident at IFA 2013, especially on the exhibit floor.
It wasn’t just from one vendor either; Panasonic unveiled a 4K tablet – the 20-inch Toughpad 4K, as well as 4K TVs as did Samsung, LG, Toshiba and Philips. Technicolor was talking 4K technology too, Sony exhibited new 4K projectors and camcorders and Acer unveiled the first smartphone capable of recording at the resolution.
Even some 6,000 miles away in San Diego, mobile chip giant Qualcomm spoke of supporting the technology -- which can take form in several resolutions including 3840 x 2160 -- at its own Uplinq event.
And while they may not have been 4K -- also known as Ultra HD, there were new hi-res tablets from Toshiba (with the Excite series), Kobo (with the Arc 10 HD), Samsung (Galaxy Note 2014 edition) and Archos, indicating that hi-definition screens are fast-becoming the new norm.
Research firm DisplaySearch at IFA said 4K is a global phenomenon and across all screens.
"Previously used only for iPhones and other high-end smartphones, high-resolution displays are making in-roads in everything from monitors to public displays," said Yoshio Tamura, research fellow at DisplaySearch.
"Declining costs for high-resolution flat panel displays are expected to lead to greater consumer market demand for less expensive products with sharper resolution."
Android tablets come out in force, but where's the wow?
With Apple and Microsoft avoiding the German tech fest, IFA 2013 was a good opportunity for Android tablet makers to stake their claim, especially with the tech giants still to release their latest iPad and Surface tablets.
There were countless new models on display – including from Acer, Archos, LG, Samsung, and others, each promising some reasonable specifications and even better price-points.
However, I can’t help but think the show lacked a new ‘wow’ Android tablet. The LG G Pad has some neat app features, and the screen and stylus with the latest Galaxy Note 10.1 are terrific, but didn't seem to generate excitement in the press room or with attendees. Maybe they were simply overshadowed by Samsung’s eye-catching Galaxy Gear smartwatch.
That said, there was some good news for the Android tablet ecosystem as a whole, and also for Android tablet owners.
It stayed somewhat under the radar, but the show seems to have marked a turning point for accessory makers and their plans with Android.
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No-one really knows how you use a smartwatch…yet
The Galaxy Gear smartwatch was the main attraction at Samsung’s booth from the get-go. On the first day available to the public, people swarmed around the smartwatch, trying to get a photo, a feel or a brief try.
Reviewers may not be impressed, but plenty of attendees I observed were receptive, even if they had to be told repeatedly how to use it and what it is for.
Sony also showed off a smartwatch concept – the Sony SmartWatch 2.
Content: The next wave of tablet innovation
Android generally scores heavily over iOS for its ability to let you customize your home screen with apps, widgets, photos and more. But to date no-one has really put that to much use, with the screen looking cluttered instead of clever.
Samsung is trying to change that and is making some important strides via partnerships with The New York Times and BusinessWeek, which both offer free content on the 2014 edition of the Galaxy Note 10.1 for 14 weeks and one year respectively.
If you also add Samsung’s own news section of the tablet, and other tablet app wins from LG – with the innovative G Pair app – and Lenovo’s Yoga Picks which selects apps based on which computer mode you are using, it’s clear that the tablets of tomorrow could be differentiated by apps and content.
(TabletBiz conference & expo is coming to New York on November 13. Register today).
App developers could soon be targeting your car
IFA is historically a hardware show and so there isn’t so much here for app developers as there is at other shows, like Barcelona’s Mobile World Congress.
Nonetheless, the exhibition did give developers a taste of where the next wave of disruption (and app opportunity) might be coming from - cars.
In the same week Renault announced that it will integrate customized Android tablets in 15 new cars, Ford discussed the future of in-car apps at IFA, and announced a raft of new apps for its AppLink system, which connects to the user’s smartphone via Ford’s SYNC connected dashboard. SYNC already supports apps from Spotify, TomTom and Hotels.com.