CES in January may get the majority of headlines, but the Internationale Funkausstellung Berlin (IFA) is one of the oldest consumer electronics conventions in the world, having launched in 1924. Today, it serves as a place where 245,000 gadget lovers see not only the latest innovations in the home entertainment, cell phone and computing spaces, but also a multitude of grooming, beauty and household appliances that unfortunately won’t ever make it stateside (wouldn’t you love to have a Grundig refrigerator with a camera inside so you can check if you need more milk, remotely from the market?).
For anyone looking to make an aesthetic statement with their technology, IFA is also a good place to find more esoteric, design-focused gadgets that you’re more likely to find at a Monocle store or have to order online. Between the gee-whiz home goods and the niche gizmos, we whittled down nine items we’re psyched to try in the coming months.
Bang & Olufsen BeoPlay A6
After introducing the A2 at last year’s IFA, Bang & Olufsen’s more playful and accessible spin-off, BeoPlay, adds another Bluetooth device to its lineup. This one is big and curvy — inspired by a stingray — making it a more aesthetic alternative to devices such as the Minx Air 200 or Marshall Woburn. Like those other supersized Bluetooth speakers, the A6 is capable of filling a room with its sound and needs a power outlet, but can still be carried around to different rooms. It also sports what appears to be all the rage for Scandinavian wireless speakers this year — a fabric covering. The A6’s is by Kvadrat, but the trend was also apparent on an updated Libratone Zipp and speakers from Vifa.
Marshall London Phone
The iconic amp company’s first smartphone is more than just a gimmicky, superficial coating of a logo and a black matte enclosure. It actually has quite a few features that cater to music lovers: a systemwide equalizer that keeps its settings across music apps, lossless FLAC file playback capability for CD-quality sound, unrivaled volume (going to 36, for what it’s worth), two headphone inputs that can blast audio at two different volume levels, and a physical dial for volume control (a welcome throwback for anyone tired of trying to be precise with a touchscreen). Its 8 megapixel camera is the only weak feature, when compared to other phones.
Asus VivoStick PC TS10
Just add monitor: This USB dongle is also a full-fledged PC — the smallest to run Windows 10, so far, as well as a new Atom Cherry Trail processor. And yes, it’s small enough to fit into any pocket. So, how does it work? Plug it into the HDMI input on any TV, connect it to an outlet via a micro USB input, then connect a keyboard and mouse (either via Bluetooth or wired, thanks to USB 2.0 and USB 3.0 inputs). Voila, you have just turned your boob tube (or monitor) into a working computer.
Pod-based coffee makers are taking over the world — 27 percent more single-serve coffee pods were sold around the world in 2013 compared to the previous year — but few people, it would seem, like to talk about how bad for the environment each of those tossed-away plastic pods can be. Yes, they’re increasingly recyclable, but that process also uses up energy and resources. Now you can enjoy the convenience of single serve, throwaway coffee making with Beanarella, a Swiss company that offers the world’s first 100 percent compostable coffee pods — doing the disappearing act in just four weeks without any extra processing — which means they can be mixed up with the rest of your compost, garbage or recycling. The pods are filled with 100 percent organic Fair Trade blends from a 250-year-old roaster in Switzerland. To boot, Beanarella’s new Puk model only uses 800 watts, making it about half as energy-consuming as most pod coffee makers on the market today. The line is already out in Europe, but the company is aiming to make it available stateside in 2016.
Technics OTTAVA SC-C500 HiFi System
Panasonic’s iconic audio brand, Technics, relaunched at IFA last year with a slew of retro components updated for the digital era. These are no corny Crosley cosmetic cover-ups, though. The OTTAVA is an all-in-one bookshelf or tabletop system to serve the needs of people who stream music and MP3s like the rest of us, but also still use optical media. The top-loading CD player with a see-through cover is reminiscent of some of the world’s first CD players (case in point, the Magnavox 1010), but inside there is also capability for high-res audio via your home network or via USB or optical, along with a built-in amplifier, not to mention a pair of discreet, cylindrical speakers. The rest of the minimalist metallic body styling is all 2016, too, which is when this unit will hit the US market.
The only thing smarter than purifying the air at your house is getting a smart air purifier to do the job. By connecting directly to the updated Blueair Sense air purifier and the new Blueair Sense air monitor, the new Blueair Friend app for iOS and Android tells you exactly what’s floating around in your household atmosphere, allowing you to remotely adjust settings or just get the hell out if, say, there’s suddenly too much carbon monoxide. Otherwise, it’ll keep you updated, no matter where you are, on air particles, pet dander, temperature, humidity and volatile organic compounds that may come from household cleaners or paint.
Samsung Gear S2 Smartwatch
Philips Smart Shaver Series 7000
It started off as an ordinary electric shaver with microbeads that allow blades to bounce off your face, reducing irritation. Now, in this latest incarnation, the Philips 7000 series adds Bluetooth, designed to improve the face-grooming experience, and, more importantly, alleviate irritation for the 60 percent of men who report suffering from skin irritation after using an electric shaver. Pair it with your phone, open up Philip’s shaver app and start shaving. When you’re done, you answer a few questions, such as whether or not your skin feels irritated. The next time you shave, the app will give you tips as you’re shaving to alleviate any irritations you may have reported, and it becomes more precise with the advice over time, to keep up the painless grooming.
Lenovo Phab Plus
Banking on the idea that fewer and fewer people use their smartphones to make voice calls, Lenovo is following in the footsteps of Huawei’s Ascend Mate 7 with the Phab Plus, a 6.8-inch slab that isn’t afraid to call itself a phablet. And though making a phone call on a device as big as a flip flop looks ridiculous and brings to mind Get Smart’s shoe phone, it won’t make you suffer long since you’ll likely spend most of your time texting, Snapchatting, and watching YouTube videos on a spacious, full HD display.
With its wood body and aluminum face, the Revo SuperSystem looks like an old-school radio from the ’60s or ’70s. The good news is that this retro tabletop unit is ready for the multiroom era. Play music from it to other SuperSystem units or Revo SuperConnect hybrid radio in other rooms, or just play music via Spotify Connect, controlling volume and the like right from the Revo app. Audiophiles, take note: You can also stream music from your phone with high-quality aptX Bluetooth.