CES may rule the roost in the States, but over in Europe, it’s IFA that serves as the year’s biggest tech trade show. It means we’re likely to see plenty of product announcements, as well as showcases that’ll cast a light on where consumer tech is now and where it’s heading in the next 12 months.
This year, IFA opens its doors to the public on September 1st and runs through the weekend to September 5th. But much like CES, many companies like to make their big announcements in the days leading up to the show’s public opening. If September and October (Techtember and Techtober, if you will) are the year’s two big months for tech announcements, then IFA is their starting gun.
The Verge will be covering IFA 2023 live from Berlin, taking a firsthand look at all of the biggest launches, and you can follow along with all our coverage below. In recent years, IFA has acquired a reputation as being a big smart home trade show. Last year, it took place on the eve of Matter’s launch and was filled with companies making big promises about their support for the fledgling standard. So, alongside announcements from LG, Samsung, and Honor, expect plenty of robot vacuum cleaners, security cameras, and smart lights, as well as difficult questions about if and when Matter is going to let them effortlessly work together.
Aqara is adding a bunch of new products to its smart home lineup today, one of which includes a Matter-enabled ceiling light with a pretty unique perk. With a diameter of 50cm (~19.7 inches), Aqara’s Ceiling Light T1M features a range of 16 million different colors, along with an independently addressable RGB ring on the outside.
While you can use the ring to create a gradient lighting effect, Aqara notes that it can also serve as a status indicator when linked to other smart home products. That means you can program the outer light to show a specific color when one of your other smart devices detects an issue, such as a leak or an open door.
Sennheiser’s new Ambeo Soundbar Mini is the German audio brand’s third and most affordable soundbar. At $799 (€799 / £699), it’s still an expensive AV accessory, but in the context of the company’s original $2,499.95 Ambeo Soundbar Max and $1,499.95 Ambeo Soundbar Plus, the Mini’s asking price almost looks almost entry-level in comparison (almost).
The Ambeo Soundbar Mini maintains many of the core specs of Sennheiser’s previous soundbars. It still supports a range of 3D surround sound formats like Dolby Atmos, DTS:X, 360 Reality Audio, and MPEG-H, it can still be paired with an utterly excessive four Sennheiser Ambeo Subs, and it still supports a full array of streaming options like Bluetooth, Spotify Connect, Chromecast built-in, and AirPlay 2.
For just $1,699.95, you could have a glowing Dolby Atmos party speaker.
The company says the PartyBox Ultimate self-tunes, has Wi-Fi 6 and LE Audio-ready Bluetooth connectivity and supports the company’s multi-speaker connection feature. Oh, and RGB lights. It has those too.
Robot vacuum manufacturer Roborock announced three new vacuum products at IFA 2023, the global tech show taking place in Berlin this week: the Q5 Pro robot vac; the Q8 Max robot vac; and the Dyad Pro Combo wet / dry stick vacuum. The new lidar-powered robot vacuums add more than double the suction power of previous models, a new and more advanced DuoRoller brush system, and more app features for a lower price. The Dyad Pro is a multifunctional upright vacuum that can convert to a stick vacuum.
Part of the company’s more affordable Q line, the Q5 Pro costs $429.99 standalone or $699.99 for the Q5 Pro Plus with an auto-empty charging dock. The Q8 Max costs $599.99 standalone or $819.99 for the Q8 Max Plus. Both are slated to go on sale in October.
JBL’s Soundgear Sense is a new pair of true wireless earbuds with an open design that’s meant to allow you to “hear the world around you while enjoying every beat of your favorite tracks.” JBL is announcing the earbuds alongside new Live 770NC and 670NC headphones and a new party speaker called the PartyBox Ultimate.
JBL is making the announcements during Berlin’s IFA trade show this week, where the company is also demonstrating its new Authentics-branded smart speakers, which offer simultaneous access to Alexa and Google Assistant — an industry first. The Authentics speakers and PartyBox Ultimate are coming to both the US and Europe, but the earbuds and headphones won’t release in the US until next year.
The latest retro-style smart speakers from JBL are the first to house Google’s and Amazon’s voice assistants in one place for simultaneous use — something Sonos was never able to achieve.
Announced at the IFA tech show in Berlin this week, Harman’s new JBL Authentics 200 ($329.99), Authentics 500 ($699.99), and the portable Authentics 300 ($429.99) speakers come with both Amazon’s Alexa and Google’s Assistant on board. And for the first time on any smart speaker, you can invoke either assistant at any time. This means you can ask Alexa to play your “Sounds of the ’80s” playlist and then your roommate can ask Google to stop it.
The smart home is all about interoperability these days. First came Matter, making Apple, Amazon, Google, and Samsung play nice, and now large appliance manufacturers LG, Samsung, GE, and Vestel are going all kumbaya.
Today, at the IFA tech show in Berlin, LG and Samsung announced that before the end of 2024, their respective smart home apps will be able to control each other's appliances and TVs. So, LG’s ThinQ app can tell you when you left the door open on your Samsung Family Hub smart fridge, and Samsung’s SmartThings app can set your LG washer to delicate mode. You should also be able to control each company’s TV’s with their competitors’ apps.
Is your phone screen just too darn bright and uncomfortable to look at? Do you long for the comforting matte-like finish of a page of paper as you swipe through Tinder? No? Well, TCL went and made a couple of phones to try and remedy these problems anyway. The NXTPAPER 40 and 40 5G include screens with a matte-textured finish that emphasize eye comfort with reduced blue light output, which TCL says gives them a paper-like look and feel. If nothing else, they’re a refreshing departure from the stream of unremarkable budget Android phones the brand has been putting out over the last few years.
Confusingly, the 4G-only NXTPAPER 40 includes a few more high-end touches compared to the 5G version. The NXTPAPER 40 5G uses a newer MediaTek Dimensity 6020 chipset, while the 4G-only model includes a lower-caliber Helio G88 chipset. But outside of that, the NXTPAPER 40 offers more amenities like a bigger 6.78-inch 1080p screen, 8GB of RAM, and 33W wired fast charging. It’s also compatible with an optional T-pen stylus; the 5G version isn’t. The NXTPAPER 5G has a 6.6-inch 720p screen, 6GB of RAM, and slower 15W charging. There’s good news, though: they both have a 3.5mm headphone jack.
Dolby Atmos is about to get a whole lot more adaptable. Today, Dolby is announcing Dolby Atmos FlexConnect, which it describes as “a new feature that seamlessly pairs together a TV’s sound system with accessory wireless speakers to deliver a more extensive and immersive Dolby Atmos sound experience.” Since it factors your TV speakers into the equation, FlexConnect doesn’t necessarily require a soundbar at the center of everything. TCL will become the first TV manufacturer to offer FlexConnect with its upcoming 2024 TV lineup, and it also plans to release a line of wireless speakers optimized to support the feature.
Dolby says that FlexConnect “intelligently optimizes the sound for any room layout and speaker setup, offering the freedom to place one or more wireless speakers anywhere in a room without having to worry about whether they are placed perfectly.” There’s no long setup required; Dolby will use the TV’s built-in microphones to locate and calibrate each wireless speaker in the room.
A year ago at Berlin’s IFA tech trade show (think European CES), Verge reporter Jon Porter witnessed a Google Nest Hub control an Apple HomeKit smart plug. This “lightbulb moment for the smart home” was the first public demonstration of Matter. The new smart home standard is designed to fix the biggest issue facing tech in our homes: interoperability, and witnessing two fierce competitors in the space working together was exciting. Twelve months later, on the eve of IFA 2023, we’re still waiting for that lightbulb to turn on across the industry.
The smart home remains fragmented. Despite being developed by the biggest names in the industry — Amazon, Apple, Google, Samsung, and more — Matter has yet to deliver on its main promise. You still can’t just buy a smart light bulb, screw it in, and have it work with every other smart light you have (no matter who made it) and with any ecosystem you want.
Smart home robotics company SwitchBot — of robot finger fame — has come up with another ingenious solution for automating boring chores in your home. This one is a sizable leap toward a Rosie the Robot vision of a fully autonomous robot house cleaner, though without the personality. The SwitchBot S10 is a new robot vacuum and mop that autonomously drains and refills its dirty and clean water tanks using a battery-powered water station that hooks directly into your plumbing.
Combined with an auto-empty charging dock that dries the mop, the S10 is the most fully automated floor cleaner I’ve seen. You won’t need to refill its mopping tank, deal with emptying dirty water post-clean, or mess with its mops. The only dirty work you need to do is empty its dust bag after about 70 days (according to the company). Otherwise, it should trundle around your home, mopping and sweeping until the cows come home.