The latest in smartwatches, smartphones, smart appliances, and even smart cars were on display at Europe's leading tech trade show last week — and it's likely several of these gadgets will wind up on your wish list this holiday season.
The IFA tech show, which showcases the latest innovation in consumer electronics and home appliances, wrapped up after a huge week in Berlin. IFA hosted over 1,800 companies from all over the world — and we've done all the walking and gadget gazing to bring you the very best of what’s out there.
The smartwatch has earned a prominent place on the wrists of mainstream tech lovers. Luckily, it’s evolved greatly: Today's smartwatch is an elegant and stylish techy timepiece that people might actually want to wear.
Samsung’s Gear S3 stands out for its design; a round face and rotating bezel that makes it super easy to scroll through all the apps and notifications. It has a stainless steel case with rounded edges so it really looks more like a watch than previous versions. The always-on display shows vibrant colors and there are great-looking watch faces to choose from.
The Gear S3 comes in two models; the Frontier (with optional LTE) for those looking for a more rugged design, and the Classic. Both models have GPS built in and a larger battery, which does add a bit to the size and weight. Android users will want to check this out when it releases but iOS users will have to look elsewhere.
For those looking for a more elegant, analog watch-like design, Fossil and Skagen are making a big push into wearable tech. Skagen announced the Hagen Connected hybrid smartwatch line, which is a classic-looking watch, (there are four models) with smart features like activity, sleep and goal tracking, email and text notifications, and tech that lets you snap photos or control music from your watch.
Fossil also introduced four hybrid watches in its Q line that offer basic fitness tracking, push notifications and other features similar to Skagen, which Fossil owns. Both companies offer watches designed specifically for a woman’s smaller wrist, which is a welcome change from those big LED screens and chunky straps.
The era of 2-in-1 convertible devices is officially here with Acer, Asus, Lenovo and others showing off the latest laptops that convert to tablet mode and back again.
The most innovative in this space is the Lenovo Yoga Book with its unique keyboard. The tactile, chiclet-like keys have been replaced with a slate that displays a lighted touch keyboard for typing, and converts into a writing desk for hand-written note taking. You can write on any kind of paper, right on the slate with Lenovo’s stylus and your words or images appear somewhat magically on the screen. It’s ideal for students and others who want a serious laptop but also those who like to take notes the old-fashioned way; pen and paper. The 10-inch Yoga Book is lightweight at 1.5 pounds and is available in both Android and Windows versions.
Truly wireless earbuds are the latest in headphones this year and that was even before Apple announced it’s doing away with the headphone jack on the iPhone 7. Samsung, Bragi and others introduced earbuds that have no wires, and Jabra showed off the Jabra Elite Sport, which the company calls “true wireless sports earbuds.” They’re sweat- and waterproof, which is great for runners and gym bunnies, and they come with a carrying case with a built-in rechargeable battery that adds on six hours of battery time.
Built-in microphones in each bud make these great for taking calls as well as listening to music, but what sets these apart is the in-ear coaching feature. The earbuds can measure your heart rate and then, using the Jabra Sport Life app (iOS or Android) provide real-time feedback, based on your heart rate and fitness level.
For those who still like to track fitness and activity on their wrist, Fitbit and TomTom both showed off new slimline fitness trackers. The TomTom Touch is the first tracker to monitor body composition, which lets you keep tabs on body fat and muscle mass, similar to the technology used in some scales. It also monitors steps, sleep, distance, and calories; and has an optical heart rate sensor, a feature many athletes and runners will find useful. SMS messages and phone calls will pop up as an alert on your wrist, useful if your bag and phone are elsewhere.
Fitbit has upped the tracking capabilities of its Charge 2, adding in multi-sport modes and guided breathing sessions. You know, just in case you want to relax for a little and don’t quite know how. It has also added a larger screen and the ability to swap out the bands for whatever color or style you like.
Connected Bulbs/Smart Home
The latest smart devices and bulbs from Philips will save you energy as well as keep you from tripping on things in the dark. The Philips Hue motion sensor is an easy way to control Hue connected lights. You don’t have to install it, since it runs on batteries and can sit on a bookshelf or table, or be mounted to a wall.
In addition, there’s a daylight sensor so the lights are only activated when needed, like when you get up in the middle of the night. When used with the new Hue White and Color Ambiance bulbs you can set them to warm tones for nighttime and have them wake you up with an energizing light to start the day.
Smartphones and Accessories
While everyone is buzzing about the new iPhone 7 and the Samsung Galaxy Note 7 recall, it’s worth taking a look at Motorola’s Moto Z smartphones. The new flagship line now includes the Moto Z Play with a longer lasting battery and a fingerprint reader.
Not only is it a capable, budget-friendly phone, it works with Moto Mods accessories that snap on to the phone using magnets so you can quickly and easily add on a projector, a Kate Spade battery pack, a JBL speaker and now, a Hasselblad camera with 10x optical zoom.
The Hasselblad True Zoom Moto Mod is the latest accessory in the lineup and solves the problem of not being able to zoom in close enough with a smartphone camera and still get a crisp image.
Philips is making a big push into the health field with the goal of helping people take better care of themselves using digital technology. Its health suite is comprised of apps and products ranging from sensor-enabled toothbrushes to heart health programs and baby monitoring devices.
Heart Health is made up of products that include the Philips blood pressure monitor, health wrist watch, body analysis scale and others. These all track your data and then sync with an app which devises a personalized plan to keep you on track to meet your health goals. All the data can easily be shared with your doctor.
And because we’re all about the data these days, you can start tracking your baby’s health, too, which may make things more simple when describing symptoms or changes to your pediatrician. Philips Avent uGrow is a range of connected products, including a baby monitor and smart ear thermometer. You can track sleep, breastfeeding, temperature and other vital statistics so you get an overall view of your baby’s health that you can bring to your next doctor appointment.