IFA: Sony, Samsung Face Off With New Smartphones, Smartwatches

Samsung Galaxy Gear - P 2013
Courtesy of Samsung

Samsung Galaxy Gear - P 2013

Sony unveils the Xperia Z1 phone as Samsung unpacks its Galaxy Gear wristwatch. ?

BERLIN – IFA, the world's largest consumer electronics show, doesn't officially open to the public until Friday but Samsung and Sony got things going Wednesday with a series of product announcements aimed at the hordes of technology press that have converged on Berlin.

Samsung has made IFA its go-to show for unveiling new flagship products, and this year, it chose Berlin to launch both its latest smartphone, the Galaxy Note 3, as well as the company's first smartwatch, the Galaxy Gear, which allows users to make and receive phone calls and text messages as well as take digital pictures from their wrist.

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Not to be outdone, Sony's IFA press event included a raft of product launches including its new flagship smartphone, the waterproof Xperia Z1, the SmartWatch 2, new foldable versions of its Vaio laptops, and, most surprisingly, a new wireless lens that can be mounted on a smartphone to turn a mobile device into a true point-and-shoot camera.

But while there will be new phones and tablets aplenty at this year's IFA, it's the smartwatches that are generating the biggest buzz. Samsung's Galaxy Gear, unveiled with a maximum of fanfare at an evening event in Berlin's Tempodrom club by Samsung president and CEO JK Shin, is looking to dominate the still nascent market for watches that offer Dick Tracy-like functions. The Korean manufacturer has even beaten Apple to the punch, getting its Gear watch on the market ahead of Apple's iWatch, which is expected to launch later this year.

The tech giants displaying in Berlin are betting that wearable computers, a trend started by Goggle with its Google Glass, will be the way forward.

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One trend from last year's show that seems to have faded is 3D TV. This year, the focus is on higher-resolution HD television sets, so-called Ultra HD screens, which offer four times the resolution of today's full HD sets.

The IFA show, which runs through Sept. 11, is expected to attract nearly a quarter of a million people.