IFA, the world’s biggest consumer tech and home appliance trade show, has kicked off for 2023. This lavish feast of technology takes place in Berlin at the start of September each year, and Big Tech Question is here to catch all the tastiest morsels.
This year, the show opened on Friday 1 September and carried on for four days. And, as a pre-show taster, there are two press days full of product launches and hyperbole in almost equal measure. In this article, we’ll highlight the best new products – our award winners as Best of IFA 2023 – that we’ve seen.
Best robot helper: Roborock Q5 Pro
There are plenty of robots at IFA, but the ones we’re interested in remove life’s burdens rather than looking pretty. That’s why the Roborock Q5 Pro caught our attention. Roborock is arguably the BMW of robot vacuum cleaners, so it’s great to see this feature-packed offering cost 349 euros (no UK price or availability yet).
That price is made even more enticing when you realise you don’t need to go through the hassle of emptying the cleaner every day or two, as the waste is sucked away into the base. You’ll only need to empty this once every few weeks.
Best large charger: Jackery Solar Generator 300 Plus
I will remember this year’s IFA for many things, but most of all for chargers. Little chargers, like the Belkins above, but far more for the sheer number of stands touting huge chargers. These are backup devices for the home and office, sure, but also for campers and RV drivers.
Jackery already has a huge range of chargers, including the much touted Solar Generator 2000 Plus, but used IFA to launch the comparatively tiny 300 Plus. It’s just about small enough to fit in a backpack, although you will also need to find space for the foldable solar panels, and at 5kg it’s luggable too.
When fully charged it has a 288Wh capacity, and it can output up to 100W via two outputs. And call me shallow, but it looks striking with its bright orange flashes. All of which means it stands out in a crowd of chargers at a show, and in a field.
Best compact charger: Belkin’s trio of BoostCharge Qi2 wireless chargers
Belkin released three wireless chargers that support the latest Qi2 standard at IFA 2023. Now, I’m not suggesting that wireless chargers are exciting, but they are damn useful. Being able to charge at 15W rather than 5W means far quicker charger times, and Belkin also has usability in mind with its trio of designs.
First there’s the BoostCharge Pro Universal Easy Align Wireless Charging Pad 15W, with a large charging area for easy alignment (always a pain with wireless chargers) plus a non-grip material. Then there’s the BoostCharge Pro 3-in-1 Wireless Charging Pad with Qi2, which is MagSafe compatable and includes an attachment for Apple Watches.
The most versatile model is the BoostCharge Convertible Qi2 Wireless Pad to Stand. This lets you switch from between pad and stand modes (eg for pesky Teams meetings) and folds for travel.
Only the first of these three is available now ($39.99 in the US), with the pad to follow later this year and the stand on sale at the start of 2024.
Best emerging technology: Ambient Photonics
IFA made much of its Sustainability Village, an area dedicated to sustainable tech, in its pre-show briefings, but only one of the exhibitors stood out: Ambient Photonics. In a demo, I saw that its panels were three to four times more effective than the typical panels we see in, say, calculators, delivering enough to keep a Bluetooth keyboard going happily.
Ambient Photonics is still at the startup/prototyping stage, but it’s backed by Amazon so I suspect its technology will be wangling its way into many of the products that company sells within the next few years. And if that means fewer wasted batteries, what fantastic news for users and the environment.
Best “bar” phone: Fairphone 5
What’s not to love about the latest Fairphone? If you’re unfamiliar with the name, Fairphone has released four previous phones that have all been designed with upgrading and easy repairs in mind. The Fairphone 5 goes further in three key areas: it comes with a five-year warranty, packs an OLED screen for the first time, and promises a superior set of cameras.
It’s also more repairable than ever, with all three of its rear cameras being replaceable if things go wrong. And you can also repair the screen yourself, swap out the battery, replace the speakers and the USB-C charging port. We haven’t tested the CPU, but Fairphone assured me that it should be fast enough to cope with Android for eight years.
The Fairphone 5 is available to pre-order now for €699.
Best folding phone: Honor Magic V2
The Magic V2 was launched for China earlier this year, but in a glitzy ceremony at IFA it made its worldwide debut. And you know what: it’s worthy of the hype. At 9.9mm, it’s little thicker than a traditional “bar” phone, and when I slipped it into my pocket I genuinely couldn’t tell the difference compared to my normal phone.
It comes with a cutting-edge Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 processor and a fine supporting cast of components, including a trio of rear cameras, Wi-Fi 6E and from 256GB to 1TB of storage. Best of all, its 5,000mAh battery gives it similar battery life to the iPhone 14 Pro Max according to Honor. And that’ using the unfolded 7.9in AMOLED screen.
We expect it to cost around £1,250 on release, but that’s an estimate based on its Chinese price. Fingers crossed for a release in the UK this year.
Best concept: Honor Phone Purse
Now, I’m fully aware that the Honor Phone Purse is essentially the same hardware as the Huawei Mate Xs 2. So the screen folds on the outside rather than the inside, resulting in a super-slim design that will garner many admiring glances. But while the Mate uses Huawei’s custom OS, the Phone Purse will use Android.
It also comes with a tweak: a chain that means you can hold this like a purse. Honor has also crated a bunch of designs so that you can change its look depending on your outfit. It sounds cheesy, but when you see it in the flesh the Honor Phone Purse is oddly compelling. For example, as you swing the Purse, the pattern swings with you.
And for men reading this, if it makes you feel better you can always call it the Honor Phone Man Bag. We await a price and a launch date…
Best speaker: Urbanista Malibu
There was a lot of talk about sustainability at IFA, but one of the best routes to reducing our environmental burden is to cut out our reliance on the grid and batteries. That’s what Urbanista is doing with its range of solar-powered speakers and headphones, with the Malibu being its latest offering.
I chatted to a representative from the company that makes the solar panels that do the electrical work, and admit to be ging swayed by her claims of weather-proofing (IP67) and the fact you may never need to charge the Malibu from the mains. Yet it outputs 2 x 10W of audio goodness. So not only do you get plenty of volume, you can listen wherever you like for as long as you like.
The Malibu costs £149 and is available right now later this month from Urbanista’s online store.
Best smartwatch: Withings ScanWatch 2
Withings can lay a strong claim to making the world’s most stylish smart watches, and with the ScanWatch 2 it adds a bunch of handy health measurements. Chief of these is is its constant skin temperature measurement. That is a great indicator of health, giving you early warning of potential problems.
Unlike certain other smartwatches, the ScanWAtch2 also delivers superb battery life. Up to 30 days. It’s also fully waterproof and looks like a normal watch, with a low profile design (especially if you choose the 38mm version).
It’s already on sale, costing £320 in the UK. The only negative: to glean extra health insights from the watch, you’ll need to sign up to Withings+, which costs £8.95 per month or £89.50 for an annual sub. But you can try out Withings+ for free for three months.