As the big European news at IFA 2014 was the new BSH oven platform, the Koreans did not disappoint neither.
For the first time Samsung had a full hall for themselves. The newly built CityCube, at the south side of the fairground, allowed Samsung to group all the product groups together instead of separate locations for electronics and white goods. The new hall was one of the reasons that Whirlpool was at the fair for the first time: before they could not get a proper space for their German Bauknecht brand.
Interesting was the fact that both LG and Samsung showed cordless canister vacuums for the first time. This is not a new product as such, as Miele tried this a few years ago and found out that customers ignored the product, mainly because they found 700 euro for a vacuum hard to digest. Where normal canister vacuums go for 100 to 200 euro’s, that is not difficult to understand. And the premium vacuum brand is still Dyson; their products are much more recognizable for consumers who go for a conversation piece.
The Samsung Motion Sync Cordless has about 200 watt suction power, a running time of 20 to 40 minutes, an inverter motor and a bagless cyclone dustbin.
Now that they had their own hall, they went all the way: 4K TV’s, mobile products, white goods and other products as printers and computer peripherals were all conveniently close by. The decorators did do a good job: there were several sophisticated visualizations which obviously didn’t come cheap.
The big news at Samsung however were two products: a new robot vacuum and a new dishwasher. The vacuum might be a formidable challenge for the competition, as it is a totally new design which addresses the main problem with these kind of appliances: low suction power. You feel sorry for Dyson. Samsung just started all over again; the casing is about twice as large as before and it has a much bigger battery and an inverter motor, as well as bagless cyclone technology. According to Samsung, the suction power is now 30 Watt, much more than the 0.5 to 1 Watt (!) of other designs. You can guess the chagrin at the other booths, as this more or less disqualifies all existing competitors. It has the well known Visionary Mapping, which uses straight lines instead of random patterns. Users do not like these random patterns as it looks indecisive. Also the wheels are also a lot bigger and have suspension, which makes it easier to ride over carpets or obstacles. A fun feature is Point Cleaning: a pointer in the remote control allows the user to point at areas to be cleaned and the robot will follow the laser point on the floor, the same way your cat used to do. Just be sure your kids don’t go and play with this feature.
The other news was a new dishwasher with a unique new lower rack spraying method: not circular but rectangular.
The spray bar, mounted over the full width of the appliance, moves back and forth and thus sprays evenly, also in the corners. Now before you worry about too much moving parts: the water is first sprayed horizontally (back to front) and then redirected upwards through the moving reflector. First spray pressure is 6 bar and reflected pressure is 3 bar. It might not be a revolutionary design change, as there are other competing designs in the market, but it sure helps Samsung to an innovative reputation. It has an optional function: high water pressure on the left side, for pots and pans, and lower pressure on the right side for delicate large glasses. It is named Water Wall and there was a large model in the hall, attracting a lot of attention. You could see in it a mini-version of the Las Vegas water fountains, if you wanted. Samsung is so confident in the reliability that there is a 10 year guarantee offered.Eye catcher, but not totally new, was also the high end washer Crystal Blue WW9000. This model, with a super sleek appearance and touch screen operation, is a direct attack on premium washer maker Miele. The touch screen is combined with remote control by tablet or smartphone, and there is automatic detergent dosing. But Samsung might find out that a 2000 euro appliance is a more difficult sell than a 400 euro-model. Premium washer consumers are very aware of the strong reputation of Miele, and 2000 euro is a lot of money for a washer; it is much more than even Miele normally asks for its products.
The cordless canister vacuum from LG, the CordZero, has a 80 Volt lithium-ion battery pack, providing 200 watts of output suction power, allowing for 17 to 40 minutes cleaning time, depending on power setting. It has an inverter motor, as well as the existing but unique RoboSense feature where the vacuum follows the user through motorized wheels. Another LG feature is Kompressor technology which compresses the dust in the dustbin through a motorized arm, for more hygienic disposal. LG showed also their existing technologies which only they offer: remote diagnostics through audio signals (works with any phone), hybrid dryers which combine heat pump and faster conventional heating, 6 Motion Direct Drive in washers for special drum movements, the Lightwave oven with the Charcoal Lighting Heater for more deep heat radiation and UV sanitation in dishwashers.
This Dutch conglomerate (consumer electronics, small appliances, lighting and medical products) has been through a tough restructuring in recent years. Their TV business, once a technology leader, suffered a lot from Japanese, Korean and Chinese competition. Philips suffered extra because they were always a bit up market, for example with their AmbiLight system which creates additional light effects behind the television; and they were less important outside Europe. Many say that it is still a miracle that they survived, as most European CE brands have disappeared. Now, their loss-making video and audio activities are gradually transferred to US Gibson Brands (yes, the guitar makers) which is establishing a consumer electronics portfolio, with brands as Onkyo and TEAC. The medical and lighting divisions are profitable and healthy. In small appliances the big money makers are shaving and dental care. Both categories are personal care and fetch very good profit margins, because customers see it as luxury items such as make up and skin care. Many shavers and toothbrushes cost 150 euro, just as much as a vacuum cleaner. But Philips has always been very innovative in this category, with success products as the Senseo coffee pad makers and the AirFry air-based frying pan. They had one big gap in their product range: automatic espresso makers. That was solved with the addition of Saeco. And this take-over produced a fun product at IFA: an app to control your coffee maker. On the large screen of a tablet it is much easier to understand the different options of a top model coffee maker. You can easily set coffee and milk quantity, amount of coffee used, temperature, pressing force, and even the rhythm of the water pump can be set. Of course you can also choose between a large range of pre-set combination, with pictures.
There were more apps: a further development of a shaving app is now available. It takes your picture and overlays many types of beards so you can see the result. Then shaving tips appear, together with matching hardware (naturally).
A third app is to be used by children during tooth brushing: it displays the location to be cleaned, the correct time and rewards with a virtual new teeth. It might seem trivial but according to demonstrations the children really love it.
Last but no least: a new 9000 shaver series. The 3D movements allowing the shaver heads to follow skin and face contours are improved, in net effect as well as manufacturing simplicity. And the three heads now can be removed as one unit for easier cleaning. New is also speed control, and a new shape of the knives. They have a little hook on one side, catching more long hairs than before. Philips always has been improving their shavers continuously, thus allowing for a wide range in features and prices, as older models remain in production.
So what will we remember from this IFA? Probably the new BSH oven platform. And the many apps which were offered, whether they made sense or not. Also the re-launch of design pioneer Braun turned many heads. And what did we miss? Even Miele’s chairman dr. Zinkann admitted that the industry failed miserably in offering a standard for home automation. No one wants to install a different app for each appliance, even if it is relatively simple. But the next step, connecting your appliances to your solar panels or to the outside world, requires much better products than we have now. It seems that we never learn: we had the disastrous VHS/Betamax/V2000 video war, the BluRay/HDDVD and maybe another 4K disc format discussion, and still there are 43 home automation protocols. Really? And then we wonder why consumer interest is so low?
By Paul Roggema