WELCOMING HALF A MILLION visitors at the end of every summer, IFA is Europe's biggest consumer electronics trade show. And if you've been following the tech news for the past few days, you're probably well aware that the event is still underway, with the official press days coming to an end before the conference opened to the public at the weekend.
At almost a hundred years old, IFA has grown to become the most prolific of its kind; where some of the technology industry's biggest players come to show off their latest products before they go on sale to the public in time for Christmas. And this year was no different, with the likes of Sony, Samsung and LG unveiling their latest smartphones, alongside many other gadgets, in hope to get our heads turning.
But there's much more to it than that. As a member of the press, you get a glimpse behind the scenes, meeting the people behind those announcements and discover what is really going on in the world of consumer technology. And it ain't always pretty.
So with that, here's our best and worst of IFA 2017. And not just in terms of tech, but the sweat, tears, and gossip: the whole shebang.
While Sony and LG grabbed some much-deserved attention with their flagship smartphone announcements, Samsung stole the show, especially in terms of impressive booth space. This year, the Korean giant upgraded its product "stand" from a section of the trade show to a whole exhibition centre in its own right, at City Cube Berlin. It was merely an amusement park of Samsung tech as far as the eye could see. There was even a pop-up restaurant serving up gourmet nine course meals from the firm's Club Des Chefs venture - a collaboration between Samsung Home Appliances and some fancy Michelin-starred chefs.
IFA is a place for tech industry people, such as press, PR, execs, sales, etc, to report, network, make deals, and to get on top of the latest tech trends. This is made all the more exciting by the fact it's hosted in Berlin; Europe's party capital. So IFA has naturally become an opportunity for tech people to let their hair down. And by that, we mean go crazy and get absolutely trolleyed.
This is in our "best" section, purely because the type of people you see smashed on booze at IFA aren't the type of the people you see smashed on booze, like, ever. So you can imagine some of the sights. It's nothing short of hilarious to see straight-laced, nerdy types that don't really know how to socialise, put in situations where they must socialise. They drink copious amounts of alcohol to counteract the awkward exchanges, which only results in much more awkward regrets the morning after.
Unfortunately, there is more than one side to IFA. It isn't just party town; there's the professional façade, of course, where suited executives talk up their latest product lines with exchanges full of marketing spiel, offered to anyone unfortunate enough to make eye contact with them, or silly enough to agree to go meet them. As a result, you're often projected into endless chats about - you guessed it, tech.
While we are obviously very enthusiastic about the latest innovations (we wouldn't be at IFA otherwise), it doesn't mean we want to talk about processor speeds and storage options constantly. Breakfast, lunch, dinner, and drinks; some people just don't know when to stop!
Talking about tech constantly isn't enough for some people, there's those that aren't happy until they've fingered it for hours, too. This year's IFA, like many before it, saw many a journalist or blogger fight tooth and nail to get hands-on time with the latest bit of tech.
Take the press conference at the Sony booth, for example. Shortly after the firm's Xperia XZ1 was announced, a barrage of camera-wielding tech press stampeded to the demo area to salivate over the fresh handset, with zero consideration for one another. This is our least favourite thing about IFA, as well as tech trade shows in general. The press will stop at nothing to get their digits on the latest devices, and while it's great that they are enthusiastic, it's pretty pathetic to see grown men (and women) turning press conferences into shoving matches.
While some attendees got a bit carried away fingering the latest tech, others wandered the vast IFA halls, looking mesmerised yet somewhat overwhelmed, and wondering where to start. There were also those whose experiences left a bit of a bitter taste. We heard from several female attendees that sexism is very much alive and well at these kind of events, which are - unfortunately - still predominantly dominated by middle-class class men. You know, the kind who ogle at the scantily clad "booth babes" that some tech companies - believe it or not - think are necessary in order to sell their products. GUYS, IT'S 2017.
Fighting for attention
The ear-splittingly loud demos of new tech on show, such as OLED TVs and WiFi speakers, quickly becomes near impossible to endure. Especially on the last day of the show, when almost everyone is looking a little worst-for-wear. If you make it to the conference centre before your flight home, the obligation to remain enthusiastic while surrounded by the tech talk you've heard all week, quickly becomes a fight for survival.
Everyone leaves the show cursing, but you can guarantee they will return next year to do it all again, just a little bit more jaded than the year before. µ
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