Back in 2011, in only my second time attending IFA in Berlin — Europe’s answer to the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas — I saw Samsung completely overtake the event with the launch of just one product. I was among the first to get their hands on the entirely new Galaxy Note device, which was so hot off the production lines that it didn’t even have clearance to be sold in Germany yet, and all the demo units were plastered with regulatory stickers to that effect. Though we couldn’t have known how influential the Note would become in driving large-screen phones into the mainstream, we were all aware that it was the biggest deal at the show. Samsung built its big hype magnet and we all came to see it.
Today, mere hours ahead of LG launching its new V30 smartphone, I get a similar sense of anticipation for a product that’s likely to overshadow everything else making its debut at IFA. In the same way that the Galaxy Note remains the most memorable thing to come out of IFA 2011, so the LG V30 will be the biggest and most lasting news item from IFA 2017. That’s my expectation, anyway, but allow me to elaborate on why I think that is.
Firstly, smartphones are inherently the biggest attraction at any tech show. Yes, OLED TVs can look stunning, and ultrabooks may wow with their thinness, and gaming rigs are often spectacular monstrosities. But it is phones that draw in the biggest crowds, because it’s phones that truly define our current moment in technological progress and time. Our most essential, most valuable piece of gadget equipment is the phone, and so we naturally gravitate toward devices in that category that look to be pushing things forward. Nobody’s stealing the IFA limelight with an especially smart new washing machine.
But why LG’s particular phone? Two reasons. One is that nobody else has made a major IFA splash in the smartphone space in the years since Samsung decided to move its Galaxy Note launches to dedicated events earlier in August. The Berlin show has lost its star attraction, and no adequate alternative has been put forward to take over.
I know Sony tries, valiantly, every year with new Xperia smartphone launches, but test yourself by trying to answer this without the assistance of Google: Which Sony phone was launched at IFA 2015? What about 2014 or 2013? They’re all a blur of disappointment, each of them exhibiting a refinement on a design that’s now grown out of date and out of touch. As much as I love the Sony brand after growing up with it as my marker for high-quality tech products, I can’t take the Xperia line seriously anymore. The 2017 models, which have of course leaked already, look as iterative as ever.
With Sony stuck in a rut, Samsung shifting its major launch away from IFA, and rivals like HTC and Huawei not investing money and effort into making big IFA announcements, there’s a void left to be filled by a globally known smartphone maker with a truly cutting-edge phone. That, I believe, is the LG V30. I’ve yet to lay my hands on the device to confirm my suspicions, but everything I’ve seen and everything I know about LG’s prior work tells me that the V30 will be a marvel of hardware design and engineering.
Like its predecessor V-series phones, the V30 will have advanced hi-fi sound that will make it a rival to dedicated music players. It will have LG’s most advanced camera tech, including the first f/1.6 aperture on a smartphone. But, unlike its direct forebears, the V30 won’t have a design-compromising second screen or a big and clunky footprint. The display will be large, at 6 inches, but its 2:1 aspect ratio and minimal bezels will keep it compact enough to still be a smartphone usable with one hand. In every way that I can see, the V30 is an improvement or a refinement on the LG G6 from earlier this year. This is shaping up to be LG’s true flagship of 2017 and potentially its best phone to date.
The V30 is also very likely to serve as the hardware foundation upon which Google builds its next Pixel XL, which is set to launch in early October. So, if you’re (rightly) wary about LG screwing everything up with its software, the V30 should still be high on your curiosity list because of what it will tell us about the shape of things to come from Google’s next major smartphone launch.
As it does every year, IFA will serve as the launch platform for an absolute cornucopia of new products and gadgets. (I myself am very much looking forward to trying the new Beyerdynamic Aventho Wireless headphones). But after the outpouring of press releases and announcements this week, the thing that we’ll keep coming back to from this event is most likely going to be LG’s V30. This new phone looks to have a combination of all the most desirable specs and design attributes, and being LG’s first major flagship launch at IFA, it will get a major boost from its maker to help make it a hype powerhouse.