There’s a Sparkle at IFA…

We’re not talking metaphorically, here – Philips really did make the walls glow. But more on that later…
IFA, so far, has been the normal rush of meetings, press events and elbow work (to get inside said press events). Mobiles and wearables are being promoted by everyone, but TVs have mostly faded into the background.
Sony and Panasonic held their press conferences on Wednesday. The combined total time both companies spent talking about televisions was probably less than five minutes – it might even have been below three! Sony is adding the S90B-65 and S90B-75 65″ and 75″ TVs to its UltraHD line-up; however, these appear to simply be new sizes, positioned between the current 55″ and 84″ models. The product category was given a little more time by Panasonic, which introduced the AX900. The company intends this to be an ‘industry reference’ for UltraHD, fitted with various colour and local dimming technologies. Increased image accuracy is something that we will always support at Display Monitor!
The big news – and we do mean BIG – from Samsung was a 105″ UltraHD TV that can transition between flat and curved. Samsung’s Michael Zöller called it, “The most amazing TV ever seen”. We don’t know about that, but we do know that Hisense had a 65″ bendable TV concept with 240 zones of local dimming on its stand. Unlike LG or Samsung’s models, it also featured a flexible chassis (the back of LG and Samsung’s bendable TVs remain flat, no matter their configuration).
In terms of mobile products, Samsung was making a big deal about the S Pen on its long-rumoured Galaxy Note 4, and we’re becoming convinced that it’s not a wholly ridiculous idea. Styli are certainly more accurate than fingers, as well as being thinner – so are less of an obstruction to a user’s view. The S Pen also opens up some nifty new features, such as hovering over something to simulate a mouseover.
The Galaxy Note Edge is effectively identical to the Note 4, but possesses an extra 160 pixels along the left edge (Samsung describes the resolution as ‘Quad HD+’) of the 5.6″ screen, taking the form of a curved strip. The strip has been integrated into the phone’s software, with context-sensitive commands appearing depending on the open app. Shortcuts and settings appear when using the camera, for example. In or out of apps, you also have the option of displaying items including notifications, stocks and weather. Expect even more options when the SDK is made available to developers ‘very soon’.
Samsung’s experiment with the Note Edge is a good move, which would be unlikely to work for a company with a smaller user base. It is likely that developers will write or tweak apps specifically to take advantage of the extra screen estate. However, the Edge also returns to the same problem we’ve complained about in the past: phones just keep getting bigger, but pockets don’t. The Edge is 3.8mm wider than the already-hefty (78.6mm) Note 4.
And Philips? As well as putting a focus on audio, the company (via TP Vision) introduced three new UltraHD TVs and an evolution to its Ambilight product. The concept, shown at the very end of the IFA press conference, is called Afterglow. Instead of just colours, Afterglow made it look as if the image was truly extending out beyond the bezel of the TV and onto the wall. The reel of action shots that we were shown was extremely impressive, and even received a spontaneous round of applause from the crowd of attending journalists – a notoriously difficult feat!
Asking around after the event ended, we heard that Afterglow is a very early prototype. It uses a combination of pico projectors and LEDs in the edge of the TV’s frame. Of course, this is an extremely expensive method! However, if Philips can bring the price down, it might have a real ‘killer app’.