The Star Wars droid you’ve been looking for, plus phones galore from Berlin tech show IFA
Sphero Star Wars BB-8
The amazing ball-balancing robot from the trailers for 'Star Wars: The Force Awakens', in toy robot form available now. The BB-8 features the same head-balancing-on-top-of-rolling-ball movement as its big-filmic sibling, but in tiny tabletop size. Bluetooth app control from smartphone, 60 minute battery life and 30m range are the basic specs. Add on top ‘adaptive personality’ that evolves as you interact, including by voice control; ‘autonomous behaviour’, so it explores, including a ‘patrol mode’; and augmented reality ‘holographic communication’. As Sphero’s tagline reads: “This is the droid you’re looking for.”
Huawei Mate S
Here’s one in your eye, Apple. Huawei announced the Mate S at IFA scant days before Apple dropped its iPhone 6s Plus. The specs of the Mate S? It’s a unibody, aluminium 5.5in Full HD/1080p screened smartphone. Like the new iPhone. It has a 13MP camera with RGBW sensor and optical image stabilisation (iPhone 12MP). And perhaps best of all, the Mate S features a pressure-sensitive screen - like Apple’s new 3D Touch system. Both phones even now come in rose gold, although the Mate S is all over, not just the back. Elsewhere, the Mate S totes octocore processing, 3GB memory, 2700mAh battery etc.
An Android Wear rival to Apple’s premium Watch? Huawei’s similarly simply named offering certainly has the pricetag and arguably specs to do it. “Inspired by Swiss timepieces”, the Watch is 42mm in diameter, like traditional non-smart-watches. The big spec is the 1.4in touch-sensitive AMOLED 400x400 display. That makes it the most vibrant and sharpest resolution Android watch so far. On top of that there’s heart-rate monitoring, six-axis motion-sensing and a 300mAh/1.5 day battery. Its styling also steers closer to classic watches than before. The Watch was announced originally six months ago, but IFA saw pricing, October release date and final designs revealed.
Acer Predator 6 and 8
Acer used IFA to announce a new pair of Android gaming devices. The Predator 6 is a 6in smartphone that will “dominate any games you throw at it”. Decacore (yes, ten-core) processor, 4GB memory, 21MP camera, four speakers and directional vibration or haptic feedback - in other words, the phone rumbles on the left or right side depending on what’s happening in the game. Also announced (and pictured here) was the Predator 8 8in mini-tablet. Supercharged processing comes from an Intel Atom X7-Z8700 processor that’s more normally found in Surface 3 devices. Macho styling, of course, comes with the territory.
Sony Xperia Z5 Premium
The world’s first full 4K UHD display in a smartphone. Sure, some smartphones have claimed 4K before, but they’ve actually been Quad HD - in other words, 2,560x1,440. The Z5 Premium features a 5.5in, 3,840 x 2,160 display - so it’ll play 4K content at native resolution. On top of that, and to facilitate it, the specs are strong: 64-bit octocore processor, 3GB memory and 23MP camera with f2.0 lens, with the “fastest autofocus in a smartphone” too at 0.03 seconds. And it’s got 3,430mAh up to two days battery, plus it’s waterproof to boot.
Everyone and their dog has a VR headset in development it would seem. But this open-source effort, backed by Razer, made two impressive announcements at IFA. First, it’s now shipping Hacker Development Kit model v1.3; secondly, it’s supported by a good spread of the key VR stores - including Steam, WearVR and Boondogl. OSVR is open source in terms of the hardware schematics being openly available, plus the software APIs and plug-ins all being open source too. As well as Razer, OSVR is backed by Intel, Leap Motion, Unity and Unreal.