Samsung’s press conference at IFA in Berlin is over, so as the dust settles what exactly did it announce?
Wearables and appliances took centre stage at Samsung’s IFA conference as the tech giant announced the new Gear Sport smartwatch, Gear Fit 2 Pro and GearX in-ear headphones as well as the Quickdrive washing machine and Samsung Powerstick Pro cordless vacuum.
We didn’t see a voice-controlled smart hub, but there were some updates to the Samsung Family Hub fridge freezer and a few glimpses of what speaker brand Harman are up to.
Best Buy smartwatches – add some tech to your wrist with these top-rated wearables
Samsung Gear Sport and Gear Fit Pro 2
It’s not the Gear S4 and its name makes it look as though it may sit alongside the Gear S3 rather than be its successor. It’s another choice for anyone who wants something that’s as good at tracking your workouts as it is at tracking your notifications.
The Gear S3 wasn’t suitable for swimming, but the Gear Sport certainly is. It’s waterproof up to 50 metres and it can track your speed and number of strokes. It tracks activities automatically, too, so you don’t need to tell it when you’ve stopped swimming and hopped on your bike to do your commute. It will adjust and keep a separate record of the new activity.
Like the Gear S3, it has built-in GPS and you can store music on it. This means you can leave your phone at home if you’re off out for a run. Samsung is also partnering with Spotify to allow you to download tracks straight to the watch and listen offline – it’s likely you’ll need a premium account though.
As you might expect, it looks sportier than the Gear S3, which had a chunkier, cog-like bezel. The one on the Sport is smooth and less bulky, but it still looks more like a conventional watch than an activity tracker.
That’s not the end of the Gear Sport’s talents though. You’ll be able to change the channels on your TV with one and use it as a sort of controller for a Gear VR.
The Gear Fit Pro 2 is an activity tracker through and through, with its flat design that curves around your wrist. Like the Gear Sport it’s water resistant up to 50 metres and you can download Spotify tracks to it.
There’s no word of release date or price for either device.
Want an activity tracker today? Head to our Best Buy activity trackers page to see the models we recommend.
Samsung GearX headphones
We thought we might see these bundled in with the Note 8, but Samsung is keeping its new headphones separate. They are completely wireless and in-ear with a claimed eight-hour battery life. Unusually, they have 4GB of memory built in, so you add music straight onto them rather than your phone. This would be handy if you wanted to leave your phone at home while you went for a run.
They will have voice control, too, courtesy of Bixby. Samsung didn’t show any commands, but it’s likely to be used for initiating and accepting phone calls, and skipping tracks. Samsung isn’t exactly known for its headphones, so we’re curious to see how these sound. We’ll get them tested as soon as they hit UK shores.
See which Bluetooth headphones we rate highest on our best wireless headphones page.
Or Qdrive for short. It’s a washing machine that cuts the time of a cycle in half. According to Samsung, a full cycle will take 66 minutes, which will save you a whopping 10 days of washing time over the course of a year – assuming you sit and stare at your washer during a cycle that is.
It’s better at washing, too. Where a normal machine spins clothes, the Quickdrive moves them up and down using a separate part of the drum as well. It’s smart, of course, and you can set it to wash or spin using a smartphone app, and add clothes mid-cycle.
Head to our Best Buy washing machines page to see which ones we rate highest.
Samsung Powerstick Pro
We were treated to a new cordless vacuum cleaner from Samsung, which will give you 40 minutes of cleaning time on a full charge. The flexible handle will make it easier to get under beds and sofas and it should be easy to empty too.
But how well will it clean? It has two brushes, which spin in opposite directions and collect dirt in two separate chambers. This should mean the dirt and crumbs are less likely to moved away by synchronised bristles – if one brush doesn’t get them the other one will.
What about the smart home?
When Armin Prommersberger from Harman took to the stage we thought we would finally see a voice-controlled smart hub speaker from Samsung, but it wasn’t to be. He did introduce two speakers, but details weren’t forthcoming. Hopefully we’ll find out more at Harman’s conference later in the week.
Samsung’s Family Hub fridge freezer is getting an update though. The voice commands are rolling out to more countries and it will be compatible with more smart devices. We didn’t expect Samsung’s voice-controlled smart hub announcement to be about a £2,000 fridge, but there you go.
Samsung at IFA 2017 live blog
If you missed our live coverage of Samsung’s event, read on.
17:00 – And we’re off. It’s time for Samsung to tell us what our ‘new normal’ really is.
17:03 – Lots of talk about new things, so here’s hoping for plenty of new products.
17:04 – Apparently Samsung is a ‘disruptive force in home appliances’. Who knew?
17:10 – Samsung is adding a new size to its picture-frame TVs. You’ll soon be able to get a 43-inch model and a new partnership with the Prado museum is adding more paintings to the display.
17:15 – A new gaming monitor now and its the first QLED, HDR model. It’s a huge 49 inches and it’s curved. Don’t sit too close to it. It’s called the CHG90 and it will probably cost a small fortune. It has Steamlink built in, too, so you can play your Steam games even if your monitor isn’t connected to your PC.
17:17 – Dan Harvey now to talk about home appliances.
17:20 – We’ve got a new washing machine. It’s called Quickdrive or Qdrive for short and it will wash your clothes in just 66 minutes. The drum can move your clothes up and down as well as spin. It’s more efficient, too – by 20% according to Mr Harvey. It’s smart, of course, so you can set it to wash using an app on your phone and it will alert you if there’s something up with it. One-button operation means it can detect the size of the load and set the right time and the amount of detergent. Apparently it’s so much quicker at washing it will save you 10 days worth of time over the course of the year – if you tend to watch your washing machine while it’s spinning.
17:24 – Samsung Powerstick Pro everyone. It’s a cordless vacuum with a dual-action brush, each with a separate drum. There’s a flexible handle, so you can get in those hard to reach areas. The battery life? 40 minutes, apparently.
17:27 – The Samsung Family Hub is getting better. The fridge is getting voice control in more countries and it will be able to control more smart devices.
17:30 – Matthew Perry, the president of the OCF (Open Connectivity Foundation). He’s talking about IoT (Internet of Things). The OCF wants to make sure the multitude of smart devices can talk to each other. It’s a noble goal since some devices can’t at the moment and, as more and more devices go online, the problem will worsen.
17:32 – We’re getting some new wearables now. Three of them no less. Samsung is calling it wearable wellness. Say hello to the Gear Sport. It’s water resistant up to 50m, has built-in GPS, weight management, a built-in music player, notifications and automatic activity tracking.
17:36 – It’s still designed to look like a normal watch and there are plenty of watch bands. It will work with any 20mm watch band. It’s even compatible with Gear VR and you can change TV channels with it.
17:38 – Gear Fit Pro 2 has automatic activity tracking and it’s water resistant. It will be available in black and red. Spotify is built into both devices, so you can download music offline and listen without your phone.
17:40 – Samsung is partnering with Speedo – it’s a match made in heaven. The software is called Speedo On and it’s on both devices. It’s a swimming community where you can share your workouts and take part in challenges against friends. It will have training plans tuned by experts and athletes.
17:42 – But wait, there were going to be three wearables, right? The Gear IconX are wireless, in-ear Bluetooth headphones. They have an eight-hour battery life and 4GB of built-in memory to add your own music. Bixby support will let you use voice commands, too. Samsung isn’t known for its headphones, so we’re curious to see how they sound.
17:46 – Bixby now. Still no word of it launching in the UK though.
17:48 – Harman VP Armin Prommersberger takes the stage. Is this the voice-controlled smart hub?
17:51 – Harman is releasing two smart speakers, but there wasn’t much information to share on either.
17:52 – HRD10+ now. Samsung is teaming up with Panasonic and 20th Century Fox to make HDR10+ the standard.
17:54 – You’ll soon be able to watch more live sport and music events on your Gear VR. You can even get a backstage view.
17:56 – Looks like that’s it. No voice-controlled smart hub speaker, unfortunately, but the new wearables look interesting as do the new appliances.
What did we expect from Samsung?
Here’s what we said Samsung might launch based on the rumours before the event. They didn’t all turn out to be true.
A new smartwatch?
Maybe. The rumour mill hasn’t been in overdrive on this one – we haven’t see any leaks and Samsung hasn’t dropped any oh-so-subtle hints like it did last year (see the 2016 invite we got, below).
But it has been almost a year to the day since we first got our hands on the lovely Gear S3, so we reckon there’s a chance we’ll see it. We’re keen to see what else Samsung can bring to smartwatches given how feature-packed the S3 was, but we aren’t expecting a radical redesign. The Gear S3 was made to look like a conventional watch and a stylish one at that.
You can see what we thought of the watch when we went hands on live from the IFA 2016 show floor, or head to our full Gear S3 review to find out if Samsung landed a Best Buy.
We could also get our first proper look at the Gear Fit 2 Pro. Rumour has it that it will have built-in GPS and offline Spotify playback, so you can leave your phone at home when you’re doing a workout.
A new camera?
It looks like Samsung’s 360-degree camera is getting an update. The technology hasn’t exactly caught on yet, but Samsung isn’t about to bow out without at least one more stab at cameras in the round.
The bulky original Gear 360 camera was replaced by the sleeker Gear 360 VR, which could film in 4K. The new camera was released earlier this year, making the possibility of a new one slight. Trademarks don’t lie, though, and Samsung is trying to trademark ‘360 Round’, which sounds an awful lot like a potential 360 camera to us.
If a new camera does raise its bulbous head at IFA, we want to see how it differs from the current Gear 360 and if whatever features it adds will make people actually want to buy one.
A new smart hub?
This is looking increasingly likely, particularly when you look at this year’s invite (if you missed it, it’s at the top of the page). There’s no doubt about it – those lines make the shape of a house and, with Samsung already having a vested interest in smart home tech, we may be due some new goodies.
With Samsung’s arch-rival Apple due to release its own voice-controlled hub in December, it’s doubtful that Samsung will be too far behind and it may want to get there first with its own speaker-hub device.
The HomePod from Apple puts sound before smarts and Samsung could use its speaker know-how from its multi-room systems and its acquisition of Harman Kardon to good use. But will it use Bixby, Google Assistant or Alexa? We don’t know, but we hope to find out later today.
And some smart appliances to go with it?
Samsung loves a smart appliance. It already has a washing machine and a fridge that can go online. Some updates to those that can respond to voice commands from its rumoured new hub would make for quite the presentation.
Its smart appliances are very expensive though – the Samsung Family hub, which is a fridge freezer in case you were wondering, will set you back two grand. Will Samsung introduce a range of affordable appliances, or will they remain the reserve of people with a surplus of cash and a love of the latest tech?
A new tablet?
Probably not, but if Samsung is taking an everything-but-the-kitchen-sink approach (with the kitchen sink being a smartphone in this case) it might as well throw a new tablet in there.
With the flagship Galaxy Tab S3 only released in March of this year we probably won’t see another high-end Android device, but there might be a 12-inch tablet or a Windows device in the works, which is ready for its grand entrance at IFA.