IFA 2019: 5G, laptops, streaming news and more at Europe’s biggest tech show

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Acer’s Predator Thronos gaming chair captured our attention at IFA 2018


Tyler Lizenby/CNET

IFA, Europe’s premiere consumer tech tradeshow, is a lot like the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) held here in the US every January. It’s a massive showcase for companies to show off their latest products in front of international media and hordes of showgoers. Its official dates this year are from September 6th to the 11th, and press coverage begins on the September 4th with the first media day. 

Familiar names like Amazon, Samsung, Electrolux, LG, Lenovo, and Qualcomm will be front and center at IFA, alongside other companies perhaps less familiar to American audiences, but all contributing to the carnival-like atmosphere in Berlin. Unlike CES, IFA is open to the general public, which makes the mood more festive, with a crowd that’s ready to be impressed.

What’s the biggest news that will happen at IFA this year? It might be centered around mobile phones. 

The global roll-out of 5G, the next generation in cellular phone connectivity will be top-of-mind for every mobile phone company. With press conferences from Samsung, LG (who already introduced new K Series phones for the show), Sony, Huawei and, for the first time at IFA, Nokia, I would expect every manufacturer to at least pay lip service to the coming 5G shift, if they don’t outright announce phones that support it. Even Deutsche Telekom, Europe’s largest cell phone service provider, has a press conference slot. While most Americans won’t care about the particulars of German cell phone service, the pace of global transformation to 5G will impact product development from all the core technology providers like Qualcomm (who has a press conference of its own on Friday) to the handset makers.

We’re also looking for any evolution of foldable screen technology, and this week could even result in the reemergence of the Samsung Galaxy Fold. According to a leak in the South Korean press last week, Samsung is set to reintroduce the world to the foldable smartphone that needed a do-over on September 6th. That’s the first day the show is open to the public, but also a day after Samsung’s official IFA press conference, when it usually makes all of its news at the show. With the iPhone 11 event scheduled for the following Tuesday, September 10th, the timing is right for Samsung to steal some of Apple’s thunder. The rumor also says that Samsung will only release the revamped Fold in South Korea initially, which would lessen its impact with American consumers. 

On the laptop front, Intel has a new generation of six-core laptop processors coming to market, code-named Comet Lake. You can expect laptop makers from Lenovo, Acer, and others to follow Dell, who already announced its Comet Lake-equipped XPS 13 laptop this past week. A new Chromebook line from Lenovo also emerged before the show. Personally, I’m also hoping for something similar to the $30,000 Acer Thronos gaming chair that we saw last year. Acer has the first major press conference at the show, scheduled for 4:30am ET on Wednesday, Sept 4th, so hopefully, they will kick this off with something equally ridiculous.

For TVs, usual suspects like LG or Samsung haven’t tipped their hands to any IFA TV news, but perhaps more interesting than the hardware right now are the content streaming services. Roku CEO Anthony Wood will deliver one of the keynote speeches for the show on Saturday, September 7th (Huawei, Qualcomm, and Turkish appliances manufacturer Arçelik comprise the others). It seems likely that Roku will announce some kind of European expansion to its streaming services. 

Amazon might have similar news coming to Berlin. Last year, we saw the expansion of Alexa into various third party speakers, along with various gadget announcements. Amazon will have a press event at this year’s show, which suggests we might get more news than the typical product showcase Amazon brings to IFA. Like Roku, though, any major Amazon announcements at IFA may be tailored to a European audience, perhaps along the lines of European service expansion.

Beyond just the day-to-day product news, you can look for CNET’s team in Berlin to bring you plenty of product news too, of course, but there’s a lot more to trade shows than just the next gadget, and we’ll tell you about everything we can find at IFA 2019 that’s worthwhile. I can’t wait for you to see what we have to show you.