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James Norton

IFA Highlights

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As if it wasn't enough to find out that Microsoft has bought Nokia or that Google and Nestle have signed an agreement leading to the next version of Android being called KitKat and even a glimpse at the phone it might launch on with the "accidental" sighting of what may be the Nexus 5, we also had the start of IFA in Berlin, the biggest European tech conference of the year.

Samsung, Sony and Asus have all displayed some new devices and here is a very quick rundown of some highlights for us.

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Kicking things off were Sony with the launch of their next flagship device, the Xperia Z1. Following on from the Xperia Z, Sony have kept the basic design language the same but seriously upped the specs with a Snapdragon 800 SoC clocked at 2.2Ghz, 20.7 Megapixel camera, 2Gb RAM and 16Gb storage with micro-SD expansion. The screen is the same 5" that endowed the Z but this time it is a Sony TriLuminous display which will hopefully have better viewing angles and colour reproduction than the somewhat lacklustre TFT screen on the Z. Sony have kept the resolution the same at 1080x1920. The Z1 is as durable as any high end Sony device having an IP58 rating meaning it can be submerged in water for up to 30 minutes should you be so inclined. All this is wrapped in an aluminium frame with liberal use of polycarbonite too. Overall, the look is something like a blend of the Xperia Z and the Nokia (or should that be Microsoft) Lumia 925.


Sony also showed off their Smartwatch 2 again which is an improvement in every way on the previous version. It too is waterproof with an IP57 rating and has a distinctly Sony design incorporating the same large power button that we are seeing on devices like the Xperia Z and Z1.


Most interestingly of all though were the lens-style cameras as Sony calls them. Essentially, the QX10 and QX100 devices are the lens, battery and storage - via microSD card - from Sony cameras with WiFi and NFC built in to allow your mobile phone to act as a remote. In essence, you clip the lens onto the back of your phone and start shooting with your phone acting as the viewfinder. It is a very interesting concept and with the QX100 model containing the optical assembly from Sony's high end RX100 II camera, you should finally be able to get some great shots from your phone. Well, not really from your phone, but from this separate piece of kit you have to charge and carry around that isn't really a camera. Cynicism aside, it is great to see Sony experimenting like this.


It has become traditional to see the latest Samsung Galaxy Note at IFA and this year did not disappoint. The Note 3 is a fairly significant evolution of the previous members of Samsung's phablet phamily. It will be arriving in the UK with a Snapdragon 800 2.3Ghz system including 3Gb of RAM and 32Gb of storage all driving a 5.7" 1920x1080 full HD Super AMOLED screen. It will arrive with Android 4.3 skinned with TouchWiz and a whole host of enhanced abilities for the customary stylus. There is a 13 megapixel camera on the back which is also where you will find Samsung's new material and design choices. Yes, they have gone with a faux leather finish complete with stitching. Here at MoDaCo HQ we love innovation and quality. You will have to listen to the next episode of MoDaCo Mobile Week to find out if Samsung have managed either of those with their new plastics!

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As has been rumoured for a while, Samsung have announced the Galaxy Gear. With the Gear, Samsung are making a play for the wrist and to be sure you remember every moment of it, they have even included a camera! The wearable device - thankfully they are avoiding calling it a smartwatch - comes with a 1.63 inch square AMOLED display with a 320x320 pixel resolution, an 800Mhz Exynos processor, 512Mb RAM, 4Gb storage and a 315mAh battery. The camera is mounted on the watch strap and is a 1.9 megapixel unit. It will come in a variety of colours and with around 70 apps including fitness apps and obviously the ability to show your notifications.

Samsung have made Bluetooth LE (Low Energy) a requirement for the Gear meaning that the only devices it will sync with today are the new Note 3 and their updated Note 10.1 tablet. Indeed, despite other devices having Bluetooth LE support, only Samsung Galaxy devices will sync with the Gear, limiting its initial appeal somewhat. The Galaxy S4 and S3 as well as the Note 2 will be updated soon according to Samsung. Despite this low energy requirement, the battery in the Gear is rated at only 25 hours, but hey, at least it's more than a day right?


Asus showed off the Fonepad 7 and seemed to launch the Fonepad Note 6 FHD all over again. The Fonepad 7 seems to be a follow-up to a MoDaCo favourite, the Asus FonePad (the one with no numbers or letters after its name) which Paul reviewed earlier in the year. It has a 7" 1280x800 pixel resolution screen, runs on an Intel Atom Z2560 1.6Ghz system and has a 5 megapixel camera.


The Fonepad Note 6 FHD is a very poorly named but excitingly specified phablet which has a 6" Super IPS+ 1080p full HD screen, runs on the Intel Atom Z2580 dual core 2Ghz chipset and is far more phone than tablet. It also comes with a stylus, hence the Note part of the name. The camera is an 8 megapixel example and for a phone, it has a nice big 3200mAh battery. The Atom Z2580 chipset though is by far the most interesting part and should provide outstanding performance with good battery life. Hopefully we will be able to offer a full review of this very interesting device soon.

This is just a quick look at a few of the most interesting happenings at IFA. Make sure you check out the MoDaCo Mobile Week podcast at http://www.modaco.com/podcasts next week for far more on all these products and more.

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Yeah... the IFA was disappointing for me. The Sony smartwatch still looks like a toy to me (I have the old one and I never wore it; in the pictures it looked better, but the device itself looks like a child toy). The Samsung Gear looks better (at least in pics), but with a battery life of less than 1 day it's a big no-no for me.

And I'm tired of paying premium prices for phones and getting screwed one year later, when they decide that the phone is too old and won't receive Android updates anymore...

So bye bye Sony&Samsung, hello noname Chinese manufacturers (or Xiaomi :)...).

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