IFA 2013 Preview: Tech giants prepare for battle in Berlin

From a purely meteorological perspective, the dying days of summer are tinged with more than a little sadness as the sun retreats and the nights close in. But reassessing the change of seasons with our technology hat on brings plenty of reasons to be cheerful, as manufacturers put a traditionally quiet spell behind them and prepare for a product onslaught heading into the holiday season.

The rejuvenation of the tech scene at this time of year is heralded by one of the oldest and largest trade shows on the circuit, with Germany taking centre stage for Internationale Funkausstellung Berlin – known simply as IFA.

Like any event of its kind, IFA is more than an opportunity to flaunt your wares to consumers and journalists; it’s a heated battleground for the spotlight with companies trying to out-do each other with every announcement and product unveiling.

As major industry players from around the world begin to ready their exhibition stands in the German capital, we preview who and what will be making the biggest ripples at this year’s event, which runs from 6 - 11 September. ITProPortal will again be jetting off to the show to cover it from the ground, so stay with us to see how much of the below comes to fruition.

Samsung ready to hit right Note again

The biggest name at IFA 2013 is a safe bet to cause the biggest stir. The Samsung juggernaut is again rolling into Berlin this year, not only to bring us its customary Galaxy Note launch, but to potentially throw something a little fresher into the mix in the form of its ‘Galaxy Gear’ smartwatch.

Starting with the more definite proposition, the Galaxy Note 3 should be unveiled on 4 September, two days before the tradeshow officially begins. Teasing the headliner of the pre-IFA press conferences, Samsung virtually confirmed the phablet launch by urging us to “Note the date” on its invitation. It follows in the footsteps of its Note predecessors – unveiled at IFA 2011 and 2012 respectively – and if the rumoured specifications are anything to go by, we have another powerful handset in the offing.

The Note 3 will apparently feature a 5.7in full HD 1,920 x 1,080 display, a 13-megapixel rear camera, a quad-core Snapdragon 800 processor, 3GB of RAM, and will run Android 4.3 Jelly Bean. In short, it should represent a worthy upgrade on the popular Note 2.

Galaxy Gear smartwatch to throw down gauntlet

With the surprise-factor around the Galaxy Note 3 somewhat diminishing in recent weeks, Samsung watchers have been hunting for signs of additional announcements from the company at IFA, and the Koreans look set to oblige by finally launching its smartwatch venture.

The Galaxy Gear, as it is being dubbed at present, is expected to act as smartphone companion, alerting the user to messages, calls and notifications arriving on their phone. Those hoping for a fully-functioning ‘watchphone’ with its own SIM card, like the Kickstarter sensation Pebble, may be slightly disappointed with the Galaxy Gear’s alert-only limitations, but the arrival of Samsung on the wearable tech scene can only be healthy.

Combining intel from the likes of GigaOM and Sammobile presents us with a device sporting a 2.5in display with 320 x 320 resolution, a dual-core Samsung Exynos 4212 processor clocked at 1.5GHz, Bluetooth connectivity to link with smartphones, and NFC capabilities to boot. But only its performance in the flesh will really determine how worried Apple and co should be by this smartwatch pace-setter.

Sony eyes new Honami hulk

Determined to make sure Samsung doesn’t totally hog the IFA headlines will be Asian rival Sony, who look to set to continue a busy year on the smartphone front. The impressive Xperia Z and Xperia Z Ultra have already turned heads in 2013, but its next model, codenamed Honami i1, may be the real ace up Sony’s sleeve.

With a nod to Nokia and its Lumia 1020 photographic blockbuster, the Honami i1 could sport a 20-megapixel camera if leaks are to be believed, with a 5in full HD display, 2.2GHz quad-core Snapdragon 800 chip, 2GB RAM, 16GB of storage, LTE and NFC support, a 2-megapixel front camera, and a 3000 mAh battery making up the rest of the rumoured specs.

Sony has also called a press conference for 4 September. Be it strategically or coincidentally, its 16:00 CET announcement steals a march on Samsung by two hours, as the duo wrestle for the pre-event spotlight. The respective wares unveiled by these two could well provide the intriguing narrative of IFA 2013.

6in phablet to join HTC One family

With its HTC One flagship, Taiwanese HTC bestowed the smartphone market with one of the most critically-acclaimed handsets of the year in March, which must make the company’s continually bleak financial reports all the more galling for the firm’s hierarchy.

Perhaps buoyed by the media adulation, HTC is nevertheless staying true to the One formula. With the One Mini breaking cover in July, it is now believed an HTC One Max will be revealed at IFA, completing a full trio of large, medium and small HTC One phones.

According to recent leaks, the HTC One Max will feature a 5.9in Full HD display, a 2.3GHz Snapdragon 800 SoC supported by 2GB of RAM, a 3,300mAh battery, and the latest Android 4.3 OS. And that may not be all. Also appearing in the rumour mill of late is the HTC Zara, a 4.5in handset with more modest specifications.

Lenovo looking busy

Lenovo may currently be the number one PC manufacturer in the world, but with that market segment suffering such a well-documented decline the Chinese outfit will be desperate to boost its product portfolio elsewhere. As a result, IFA’s already competitive smartphone battle is likely to have another entrant, with Lenovo apparently set to unveil a brand new Android handset.

Leaks from the company’s homeland have revealed a smartphone codenamed K6 or X910, which could again pack Qualcomm’s powerful Snapdragon 800 processor, as well as sporting a large 1,920 x 1,080 display. Other reported specs remain thin on the ground, but we don’t mind that. Where’s the fun if we know everything about each product already?

Lenovo has been heavily involved with Windows 8 since its launch nearly a year ago, and indications from the company suggest it may unleash an updated set of tablets running Microsoft’s divisive OS. So keep your eyes peeled for that too.

Archos set to deliver a dozen

If you’re not quite in the tech A-League, like French manufacturer Archos, how do you go about competing with the likes of Samsung and Sony at a major tradeshow like IFA? Well apparently you go and release a grand total of 12 new products.

In its last financial report, Archos confirmed it was preparing a “full range” of devices to be unveiled in Berlin. The new-look line-up will be headed up by "seven Android smartphones" and will also feature at least five high-end tablets, as well as a number of "thematic tablets" targeting the gaming, connected TV, and educational sectors.

The aggressive strategy echoes Samsung’s recent approach to product roadmapping, with emphasis placed on quantity as much as quality. But while the Koreans can rely on the established Galaxy brand to shift high volumes of its phones and tablets, Archos cannot boast the same springboard. The French firm will thus have to produce something special in this product line to start threatening the marketshare of its Asian and American rivals.

Asus to build on Nexus 7 momentum

Another IFA press conference invitation winging its way into ITProPortal’s inbox came courtesy of Asus. Having again manufactured the Google Nexus 7 tablet, the Taiwanese firm should profit well from tablet sales this year, but with its US partner enjoying most if the branding limelight on the Nexus, Asus will be keen to have its name up in lights at IFA to help further boost its profile among everyday consumers.

The company has kept its cards close to its chest ahead of the Berlin show, but this hasn’t prevented rumours of a Padfone mini breaking cover, offering a scaled-down version of Asus’s innovative phone-tablet hybrid.

Last year’s Padfone 2 comprises a 4.7in smartphone that slots into a 10.1in tablet, so perhaps the form factor of the Padfone mini’s dock will be more in the mould of the Nexus 7, bringing greater portability. This may only be one part of the Asus plan for IFA however; don’t rule out more announcements heading our way during that 4 September press event.

And that's not all

Elsewhere, expect further developments on the 4K/UltraHD television front, with prices coming down and their presence in the everyday living room edging nearer to reality. Samsung and Sony will again be striving to out-fox each other in this category. We'll also be seeking out news from the growing number of alternative mobile operating systems, with Firefox, Ubuntu, Tizen and others continuing to build their challenge on the mainstream market.

IFA may be a consumer event but we've also slotted meetings with numerous B2B executives into our diary to make sure the enterprise angle is as thoroughly covered as ever here on ITProPortal.

Supplementing the big hitters in Berlin will be scores of smaller businesses and startups too, so we'll be seeking out the most exciting innovations at this end of the spectrum.

Now we’ve got all that off our chest, we can safely say the countdown to IFA 2013 is in full swing. Make sure you stay well acquainted with our special IFA hub for more event build-up, and join us from the 3 September for live rolling coverage from Berlin.