Before 2011, very few companies launched smartphones or tablets at IFA. Only a handful of phone makers bothered showing up with new devices, and in most cases they were mid-range at best. That all changed after Samsung launched the Galaxy Note at the show -- and turned the practice into an annual IFA tradition. Now, as the company prepares to release its fourth large-screened flagship phone in as many years, several manufacturers have followed and now use IFA as a launching pad for the latest and greatest gadgets.
Samsung has made it no secret that it plans to follow precedent and announce the next entry in the Note series, thanks to a series of teasers leading up to this week's unveiling. It's done a fantastic job of preventing major leaks, however; nobody knows for sure what it looks like, because the company's managed to keep images and specs of the Note 4 close to its chest so far. Chances are, Samsung won't be ready to ship the device for a few more weeks, which would follow the same pattern set by the Galaxy S5 this spring.
The rumor mill is pretty dry for other Samsung phones. We've seen recent reports that Samsung has filed a trademark with the USPTO for something called the Galaxy Note Edge, but we can't take this as a guarantee that the company will introduce such a product at IFA. We're also excited to see the Galaxy Alpha, which is a sleek device with a metal frame that was officially announced a couple weeks ago.
Whereas Samsung has done a fantastic job at keeping quiet about its upcoming Note phone, Sony's the complete opposite. Unless the company has something new up its sleeve, we've likely seen its entire holiday roadmap. At IFA, plan on seeing the Xperia Z3 and Z3 Compact: As you might expect, the former is the flagship, while the latter is a smaller version. If the rumors are true, the Z3 Compact will be just as close in specs to its larger brother as the Z1 Compact was. This is fantastic news, because it means that users who prefer smaller screens won't be forced to endure mid-range hardware.
Microsoft Devices -- y'know, Nokia's phone division -- will also come to Berlin with at least one or two smartphones. The company hasn't been shy about showing it off internally to employees, as we've heard several reports indicating that Stephen Elop has been proudly talking up the devices at recent town hall meetings. The higher-end of the two is the Lumia 830, which will be the most affordable PureView-branded device. If the leaks are accurate, we can expect the 830 to look similar to the 930 and come with a 10MP camera. There'll also be a "selfie phone," presumably the Lumia 730, which will focus on bringing a solid front-facing imaging experience to mid-tier buyers.
LG's already announced most (if not all) of its product lineup, which includes the G3 Stylus. It's a less-expensive version of the G3 that comes with a 5.5-inch qHD screen and -- you guessed it -- a stylus. We may also see the Gx2, a follow-up to a device that landed exclusively in Asia last year, and a couple of low-end L-series devices designed for emerging markets.
IFA will house several other manufacturers, so there will be plenty of other smartphones on display. Acer, ASUS, Alcatel One Touch, HTC and Lenovo will all be there, so be on the lookout for some of their wares. Lenovo's made the most noise from this group, thanks to its Vibe X2 teaser mocking Apple's iPhone event invites. (And yes, that is indeed a lollipop in the teaser.)
Smartwatches have been around in at least some capacity for several years -- it all started with the Microsoft SPOT and has continued on through Sony, Pebble and others -- but people didn't seem to notice or care until Samsung came out with a "mainstream" product known as the Galaxy Gear. The Android-based watch came out alongside the Galaxy Note 3 at last year's IFA. It's amazing how much can change in 12 months: Samsung is showing off its sixth watch; LG will have its second on display; Sony will have two more; and ASUS will join the party with its first.
Both Samsung and LG officially announced their watches last week -- curiously, within just a few minutes of each other -- and the two devices are completely different from each other. The Samsung Gear S is a Tizen watch that comes with a curved display and built-in SIM slot, so you can either pair it to a phone or use it as a phone. On the other hand (wrist?), LG's newest Android Wear watch steers closer to a truly classic look thanks to its circular display. It's called the G Watch R, and despite the clunky name, it's got enough chops to give the Moto 360 some tough competition.
Sony hasn't made any announcements yet, but the leaks for its watches, the SmartWatch 3 and SmartBand Talk, are just as prominent as the company's phones. The former is a squarish Android Wear watch, while the latter is a fitness band with an e-ink display and a mic. Finally, ASUS' first watch will be an Android Wear device called the ZenWatch, and the company will reportedly sell it for under $200, which will be aggressively priced against its competitors.
VR and everything else
A few months ago, we broke the news that Samsung was working on its very own virtual reality headset called the Gear VR, and reported that it would likely launch at IFA. Sure enough, plenty of leaked images and renders have followed; given the number and strength of the rumors, we'd be surprised if Samsung didn't release the product at this year's show.
There'll also be a few tablets, but they seem like much more of an afterthought. Sony's leaked Xperia Z3 Tablet Compact is a horrible name, but looks like a good 8-inch tablet; Huawei's got a Mate 7 tablet inbound; and per tradition, ASUS will have at least one or two tablets there.
Finally, expect to see some news on the chipset and Chromebook fronts. For the former, Intel is planning to introduce hardware -- likely tablets and laptops -- running its new Core M chipset based on Broadwell architecture. Additionally, Qualcomm teased a new HTC smartphone with a 64-bit processor inside. As for Chromebooks, at least a couple new models from Acer and Toshiba will pop up, although we wouldn't be surprised to see a few other options showing up.
As always, these are simply a few products we expect to see at the show, and let's face it -- events like this hardly ever go exactly as planned. There'll be new TVs and smart home products, and we're sure a new washing machine or two. We'll be liveblogging Samsung's and Sony's product launches, and we'll be there to cover everything else that happens in Berlin, so keep our event page bookmarked!
[Image Credit: Getty Images (washing machines), Ausdroid (Z3 Compact), Sammobile (Gear VR)]