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IFA 2019 - What to Expect at Europe's Consumer Electronics Extravaganza

05 Sep 2019 - As IFA 2019 opens its doors to press, industry experts and consumers, world leading brands will unveil the latest gadgets, products and innovations providing a grand showcase of consumer digital lifestyle products, together with a vision for the future.

The CE team at Futuresource will be meeting key clients and contacts at the show. However, as precursor to the main announcements the teams would like to share some key trends and commentary to highlight pivotal technologies driving innovation.

TV & Vision

IFA will be a case of evolution not revolution for the vision category. The themes will be very similar to what we have seen over the last year or two, with a particular focus on 8K and virtual assistants. Meanwhile, expect to see more TVs showcasing their premium audio credentials, wider OLED and QLED ranges and of course LG back with its rollable TV – maybe even with a price tag this time.

MicroLED TVs have been shown by LG and Samsung for a while now, but production issues will keep these in the realm of showcasing what is possible rather than consumer ready. In contrast, microphone placement, whether in the TV or in the remote, is unlikely to be a marketing focus, but it is an area being closely watched, as brands figure out how TVs fit into the smart home environment. And finally, newcomers to the TV market, Xiaomi and Huawei, may show their wares for launch outside of China, with the latter rumoured to be showcasing a 5G connected TV, which if true is an example of future intent rather than anything particularly relevant to the existing market.

Audio

Wireless speakers and soundbars are expected to have a strong presence at IFA 2019, with voice once again the hot topic. Despite the likes of Google and Amazon dominating this market to date, new smart speaker releases from audio vendors are expected and it will be interesting to see how these companies attempt to differentiate their products from those of the internet brands. Additionally, rumours of an Amazon branded Hi-Res smart speaker persist, to go along with the expected announcement of an Amazon Hi-Res streaming service.

Away from wireless speakers, both 3D audio and voice assistants are anticipated to be prominent in new soundbar releases, with Bang and Olufsen announcing its first soundbar pre-IFA, which is placed firmly in the premium category. CES earlier this year saw numerous improvements in TV built-in audio, an important trend for audio vendors to keep an eye on at IFA this year.

AirPlay 2 will have a strong presence in Wi-Fi audio products, while the slowing Bluetooth speaker market will be looking for any innovation that could potentially invigorate the industry. This may potentially come in the form of Bluetooth 5.1, which allows the streaming of higher bitrates, although many vendors are still releasing products with the five-year-old 4.2 standard.

Headphones

IFA 2018 brought a plethora of new headphone releases, with many brands rushing to force out first-generation true wireless products to compete with the dominant Apple. This year, Futuresource expects to see more of the same with second-generation updates loaded with better connectivity, longer battery life and at lower prices than before as decent Android alternatives from the likes of Samsung, Xiaomi and Huawei finally begin to eat away at Apple’s share. If we are lucky, we may see these products loaded with more features, thanks to just enough lead-time from improvements silicon-side, such as ‘wake-word’ voice activation and more ANC within this form-factor.

Sony released its WH-1000XM3 headphone at IFA last year and there is potential for an update on the successful over-ear product to go toe-to-toe with Bose’s recent Headphones 700. More likely, Sony will provide an update on its true wireless sports range or at the very least there be an opportunity to trial the WF-1000XM3, released just in June. Audio-Technica, Sennheiser, JVC, Jabra and Poly are all expected to refresh product lifecycles, whilst brands such as LG, Skullcandy & TCL have already teased headphone range expansions in their upcoming press conferences. Zound (Urbanears/Marshall) are one of the only major headphone brands not to have a true wireless product in their line-up, so expect a release here.

Although not physically showcasing at IFA, the big surprise may come from Sonos as it teases two new products, with a leak confirming one of these as a Bluetooth speaker but the other still shrouded in mystery. Could the other be headphones? One thing is for sure, that with such a dynamic market, IFA headphone releases have become a crucial part of the CE calendar ahead of the festive season.

Mobile and Tablets

There are no notable tablet announcements expected at IFA this year, with the category becoming increasingly less relevant due to trends in other, competitive markets. Apple’s non-attendance means that the world-leading tablet vendor is absent, and it looks like previously significant vendors such as Acer and Asus have abandoned the tablet category in favour of laptops.

Mobile device announcements will be more significant; despite MWC being the trade show of choice for all things mobile, IFA still represents an opportunity for vendors to build momentum into the upcoming holiday quarter. There are rumours that Samsung will re-release its Galaxy Fold, having had to delay the initial release due to mechanical problems with the device. However, it is more likely that further development time is needed to overcome earlier problems with the device.

IFA is more likely to be an announcement opportunity for vendors outside of the big 3 of Apple, Huawei and Samsung, with the likes of LG, Huawei-owned Honor and Nokia HMD all expected to announce new products for the European market. LG’s teaser trailer for their press conference implies that there may well be an update to the V50 ThinQ dual-screen accessory, LG’s take on the ‘foldable’ smartphone.

Wearable Technology

IFA will see some of the top performing wearables vendors present at the show, with the likes of Fitbit, Garmin, Fossil, Samsung and Huami all bringing along their newest devices. The wearables market is enjoying a period of significant growth, and vendors will hope that IFA acts as a springboard from which they can launch into a successful holiday quarter, a quarter likely to be one of the most competitive on record. We’re expecting to see 5 flagship wearable devices at the show from these top tier vendors, such as the Fitbit Versa 2, Garmin Fenix 6, Samsung Galaxy Watch Active 2, Fossil’s 5th Generation Smartwatch, and the Amazfit GTS. Of course, shortly following IFA is Apple’s new product announcement, where we expect to see Apple update their category-leading watch with the Apple Watch 5. It’s sure to be a busy 2 weeks for the wearables industry.

The key trends Futuresource expects to see in wearables are very much evolutions and improvements on existing trends. The health tracking use cases of these devices are being improved, as this becomes an increasingly compelling reason for product adoption. Fitbit are hoping to exploit this trend with its health coaching subscription service, while Samsung and Amazfit are following Apple by introducing an ECG monitor on their devices. Of course, sports and activity tracking remain crucial to the category, and this is an area that Garmin particular dominates. The Fenix range is a popular portfolio of Garmin’s, and this upgrade, supported by expected refreshes of the Vivoactive range, is a timely update to Garmin’s portfolio in advance of the coming holiday quarter.

Smart Home

There will be a plethora of smart home devices on show at IFA, ranging from locks to cameras, from thermostats to lighting and perhaps even frying pans to toothbrushes (as we saw at CES). The likelihood is that compelling new use cases will not come to light, but that the devices on show will be easier to install and set up, be compatible with a greater range of other devices and work over longer ranges. We also expect to see products which are more aesthetically pleasing.

Voice Assistant Becomes Virtual Assistant

Artificial Intelligence (AI) is beginning to migrate from cloud to device. Silicon chips that can accomplish voice recognition at the edge are now becoming available, addressing privacy concerns, and the familiar “voice” assistant has been succeeded by the “virtual” assistant with advanced conversational ability, improved natural language skills and some now adding visual search capability through smart cameras. Voice control effectively shortcuts complex user interfaces and presents a more intuitive method for consumers to interact, so expect a new generation of smart TVs, soundbars and smart speakers to showcase the benefits.

The New Wireless Networking Standard: Wi-Fi 6

The thirst for increased bandwidth and high reliability for 4K (and ultimately 8K) video streaming means that networking standards must evolve to keep pace with broadcast innovation. Expect home gateways, smart TVs and smart home devices to harness networking technology using the new IEEE 802.11ax standard, now being marketed as Wi-Fi 6. Higher throughout and increased efficiency coupled with lower power consumption makes Wi-Fi 6 a solid choice for the new generation of consumer electronics and smart home devices.

IFA Editorial Content

Futuresource can provide comment, trends and data to support any articles covering brands and technology developments across the following categories, please email nicola.finn@futuresource-hq.com together with the associated category analyst if you have any questions or need support.

Futuresource IFA Contact list

Audio, Home Electronics, Headphones, Hearables, TV, Voice, Smart Home and Appliances – Jack Wetherill Principal Analyst - jack.wetherill@futuresource-hq.com +44-7701-288430
Automotive Technology - Mike Fisher, Associate Director - mike.fisher@futuresource-hq.com +44-7793-806037
Entertainment Content/Music Streaming - David Sidebottom, Principal Analyst, david.sidebottom@futuresource-hq.com +44-7701-288431
Media & Technology, Content and VR/AR - Carl Hibbert, Associate Director - carl.hibbert@futuresource-hq.com +44-7545-702246
Gaming, Mobile, Tablets and Wearables – James Manning Smith, Market Analyst - james.manningsmith@futuresource-hq.com
Technology Platforms and Products - Simon Forrest, Principal Analyts - simon.forrest@futuresource-hq.com

 

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Here at Futuresource Consulting we deliver specialist research and consulting services, providing market forecasts and intelligence reports. Since the 1980s we have supported a range of industry sectors, which has grown to include: CE, Broadcast, Entertainment Content, EdTech and many more.