Ah, IFA. This year’s edition of Europe’s biggest technology show saw the world’s premier tech companies competing for many square metres of stand space and press conference slots to announce… not very much headline-worthy tech at all.
Of note, Amazon kicked off proceedings with a big, ambitious Fire TV-focused event and foldable phones came back into play with Samsung announcing a September 18 release for its redesigned Galaxy Fold and Huawei CEO Richard Yu stating that the also-delayed Mate X will launch as soon as October.
And of course there were plenty of predicatable product launches, spec bumps and refreshes at IFA 2019 in Berlin: Samsung’s QLED TV now comes in a tidy 55in model and Razer announced a powerful new Blade Stealth 13 ‘gaming ultrabook’. We were on the hunt for devices solving problems and attempting to do something new, or at least something we haven’t seen for a decade or two. These are the products we’d put in our ears, under our feet and in our homes.
Sony NW-ZX507 Walkman
The Walkman celebrated its mid-life crisis in some style with this 40th-anniversary player, due in November and instantly one of the most coveted products at the Messe Berlin. Even the evidence that cassette sales are set to double again in the UK wasn’t enough to convince Sony to go the whole hog with an actual cassette player in 2019. Instead we got a hi-res, touchscreen Android music player with a retro cassette screensaver and support for 384kHz/32bit playback – perhaps slight overkill – and a 20-hour battery life. The real innovation? Old-school buttons down one side.
Price: £750 | Sony
This isn’t what it looks like. Chinese company and Xiaomi partner Huami’s Apple Watch-alike is a third of the price of a Series 4 and lasts well, 14 times longer. If Huami can deliver on its promises of a 14-day battery life with heart rate on and GPS workouts three times a week, we’ll be very impressed. Of course there’s no advanced ECG here but the 340ppi AMOLED display looks sharp up close and there looks to be limited support for third-party apps like Strava. It’s 50m waterproof with Bluetooth 5, an aluminium body though NFC may be Asia only.
Price: £129 | Amazfit
Philips Hue Filament
Hot on the trail of the Edison v Westinghouse v Tesla flick The Current War comes Signify’s hipster-friendly smart light collection, Filament. The glowing inner coils and amber coating provide the vintage aesthetic credentials while Wi-Fi connectivity – with or without a Hue Bridge – takes care of wireless dimming of the 550 lumens A60, G93 and ST64 bulbs. Dangle three or four of these over your kitchen counter for ambience the fathers of electricity would approve of.
Price: From €19.95 | MeetHue
Nokia 2720 Flip
Plucking similar nostalgia strings to the Sony Walkman is Nokia’s 2720 Fold, we mean 2720 Flip. Because why shouldn’t HMD Global release a two-screened flip-phone with 4G, WhatsApp, YouTube, Facebook and a dedicated button for Google voice controls? Battery life is 28 days standby and there’s an emergency button too. Ostensibly designed for digital detoxes, we can confirm that the new 2720, which has a 2.8in display and a 1.3in outer screen, will hang up calls when flipped closed. That’s if you still take phone calls, that is.
Price: £79 | Nokia
Jabra Elite 75t
It takes confidence to charge more than a pair of AirPods for your wireless earbuds but Jabra has earned it. The Elite 75ts are replacing a long-time recommendation of WIRED’s, the 65ts and the new buds are 20 per cent smaller than their predecessor with a new shape. The 75ts also offer twice the battery life, now 7.5 hours standalone and 28 hours with the charging case. There’s still only IP55 water resistance but we can live with it. These are coming in mid October in ‘titanium black’ and ‘gold beige’.
Price: £190 | Jabra
IFA isn’t the AirDresser’s first rodeo – it’s been shown off in the US before – but we were reminded to rush home to make room for it in our bedroom. The idea is a full-on dry cleaners squeezed into a slim, shiny wardrobe: the AirDresser employs jets of air to blast off dust and grime from delicate clothes with bacteria-killing steam, low-temperature heatpump drying, and a deodorising filter to complete the process. The detail that you can only fit three items on its Air Hangers at a time is a snag but we’re sure Samsung will work that out for V2.
Price: £TBA | Samsung
The first product from Puma and Fossil Group’s ten-year collaboration, inked back in 2018, Puma’s first touchscreen smartwatch is a 44mm sports watch that runs Wear OS. On top of the standard Google Fit offering, Puma’s contribution takes the form of interactive watch faces, such as Scorecard with the time, date and current heart rate, and sporty silicone straps – we like the neon yellow. The only disappointment? A Fossil Group rep told us it’s “not part of Gen 5” so it misses out on the swimproof speaker and extended battery mode of the new Fossil smartwatches.
Price: £269 | Puma
JBL Link Portable
JBL’s at-home Link line has really grown up this year. The Google Assistant speakers have been redesigned to look less aggressive and the Link Portable gets a neat charging cradle to sit on. Think of the Link Portable as a (much) cheaper Sonos Move alternative; there’s both Wi-Fi and Bluetooth connectivity with AirPlay 2 and Chromecast built-in to add it to a multi-room speaker setup. An eight-hour battery life is handy and IPX7 waterproofing makes it garden and balcony suitable.
Price: £139 | JBL
Ninebot MAX G30
Segway-Ninebot has prototyped a self-piloting T60 e-scooter, which we’re not sure the streets are quite ready for. More down-to-earth is the human-piloted Kickscooter MAX G30 with its double-braking system, shock-resistant 10in pneumatic tyres and built-in A/C adapter for fast charging. The real story, though, is the battery life which Segway-Ninebot says is good for 65km (40 miles) on one charge. The G30 has a top speed of 15.5mph and weighs 18kg and it almost goes without saying that it’s “not currently permitted on UK roads”. Down to £620 for pre-orders which are open now.
Price: £729 | Segway
While the Sonos Move made quite a splash at IFA, we got a first listen and the inside story at a briefing in New York. The Move is Sonos’s first Bluetooth outdoor speaker but it’s still very much part of the Wi-Fi, multi-room system too. It’s IP56 rated, weighs 3kg (!) and is good for ten hours of battery-powered music. Inside there’s two Class-D digital amplifiers and a downward-firing tweeter and most impressive is the new automatic Trueplay calibration which, based on anonymised Sonos data, calibrates the Move as you move it, move it.
Price: £399 | Sonos
Anker Nebula Fire TV edition
The star of the show at Amazon’s big TV event at IFA 2019 was the Fire TV Cube but also intriguing is the first Fire TV edition soundbar, made by a Chinese company Anker, whose affordable power banks and accessories you may have picked up on none other than… Amazon. Like the Cube, the Nebula soundbar acts as both a 4K Fire TV streamer and an Alexa controller (via the Voice Remote). It’s a 100W 2.1 channel soundbar with dual built-in subwoofers and Dolby Vision passthrough. Out on 21 November, Anker is one to watch.
Price: £180 | Amazon
Sennheiser Momentum Wireless
Noise cancelling often requires considerable ear bulk, and while we wouldn’t say Sennheiser’s third-gen Momentum Wireless are dinky, they are a few notches more better looking than most accomplished Active NC headphones. New for this IFA pair are Auto On/Off and Smart Pause features to make unfold and play an on-the-go reality with specs including aptX Low Latency and a 17-hour battery life. A ‘sandy white’ model will follow in November.
Price: £369 | Amazon | Sennheiser
The last time new speakers were being put out under the Braun name, Nevermind was pumping out of them. But here we are with the Braun LE collection, from Pure Audio which has licensed the name and the Dieter Rams designs of 1959. This year’s homage isn’t half as striking to look at as the originals; one of them is square at least but with rounded edges. To compensate there’s AirPlay 2, Chromecast, Spotify Connect and Google Assistant plus support for hi-res audio and a room placement audio EQ optimisation system that may give Sonos’s TruePlay a run for its money.
Price: From £349 (LE01), £749 (LE02), £1,099 (LE03)
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