The appliance part of IFA Berlin, being a German trade and consumer show, has always been dominated by the German brands. Only a few years ago Samsung and LG joined, and their booths got bigger every year. Now, Turkish brands Beko and Vestel also expanded, and since this year the German brand of Whirlpool, Bauknecht, had a separate hall. That became possible after IFA built a new hall, the CityCube, where Samsung moved their electronics as well as white goods neatly in one hall. So the traditional balance has shifted quite a lot.
The main news this year was the new oven platform from BSH brands Bosch and Siemens. In a spectacular introduction a whole new platform was announced, not completely by surprise, as competitors AEG/Electrolux and Miele also offered new designs in recent years.
For both brands it is a wide range of products, where the top model is an oven with fully integrated steam and microwave functions. The goal was to make this combination, which is too complicated to understand for many customers, easier to operate through a new programming system. There is a new user interface, using touch buttons for program selections and options, and rotary knobs for time and temperature settings. Siemens translated this into a strictly linear, reduced model where Bosch uses a large rotary knob, providing a clear visual identity, in combination with a three-part touch screen. Both are quite simple to operate, where it helps that most users already worked with smartphones, so the interface feels familiar.
There are several main choices to be made. First you choose a height: traditional 60 cm or compact 45 cm. Next you select the main type of oven: traditional, additional steam, additional microwave, or both. Then there are the existing steam-only models which are normally sold as a second oven.
The combination ovens have less space for steam generators, so these offer 30, 60 or 90 percent steam levels. The steam-only oven goes up to 100 percent.
A novelty is the baking sensor: it measures the oxygen level in the oven, and from there it determines the moist level (more moist means less oxygen). BSH engineers found that you can determine the state of the baking process by computing the moist level. The baking programs are now fully automated, including steam and microwave functions.
For meat you can use the temperature probe, which now has three sensors and the lowest measurement is used. So meat preparation is also automatic. For all others types of food you need some manual input like weight, and then built-in programs are used based on large quantities of test measurements. There are assist functions to suggest the desired actions and values.
Several additional tricks were designed; for instance, many programs need no preheating. Convection is combined with upper- and lower heating elements. After pre-heating is finished the convection usually takes over. The fan can rotate in both directions, provide a more even heat distribution. The fan motor is direct-drive and some models have connection features for operation through smartphone or tablet. For Bosch the line is called Series 8, and Siemens named them iQ700. In the brand profile the Siemens brand stands for speed and technology, where Bosch focuses more on partnership and reliability, while maintaining almost the same feature set. It was said that this was the largest and most important introduction in the history of BSH.
Normally modest, Miele, the largest global premium appliance brand, announced that they would show us the world best washing machine ever. And they did. Their last year’s W1 model, then already the most advanced washer due to a special, two-stage detergent dosing system, was improved with a touch screen user interface (just a few months after Samsung stole the show with a similar top model) and a even improved water addition system which allows for shorter washing time using the full 9 kg load. Of course the long washing time is the main disadvantage of European horizontal-drum washers. And, the name of the washer says it all: Prestige.
Miele, which surprised everybody last year with this new platform, improved this machine further by adding a touchscreen as well additional water circulation functions. The touchscreen is not in color but manages to appear quite simply to operate with a simple look and feel. It has the Miele trademark white characters on a black background. Still, one can expect the next upgrade to be a color screen resembling the highly successful user interface on the oven line. Still, the platform with the unique two-phase detergent dosing (tensides/surfactants and enzymes are separated from bleach, avoiding interference) is clearly the most advanced. Therefore Miele can claim that this is ‘the best washer in the world’ and thus deserves its new name: Prestige.
When showing their connected solutions, Miele was refreshingly honest in admitting that the industry should worry about the lack of interconnectivity, and that could be one of the reasons for the low demand for home automation products. Miele should know, as they have been offering connectivity products for many years.
This famous brand, whose top designer Dieter Rams and his colleagues created many groundbreaking designs from the fifties on, saw its relaunch with a new small appliance range called Identity. Braun was the first company to take the modernistic design principles from architecture into household products as audio, video and small appliances. They started on the same IFA, back in 1955, with groundbreaking audio equipment in white and plexiglass, totally different from the wooden, furniture-like radio’s from those days. For many years Braun was just as hip as Apple now, but Braun was the original creator and Apple let themselves ‘inspire’, at least for the look, not for the software. For instance, the first iPod was visually a copy of the Braun T3 portable radio from 1958. And Jony Ive, Apple’s desigh chef, is a self-declared Braun fan, just as most industrial designers all over the world.
The appliance business of Braun was sold to Italian de’Longhi, two years ago, and many observers were happy because a fast consumer goods mother as Proctor & Gamble cannot match an owner who is really in the heart of the appliance business. The rationale for de’Longhi is obvious: if you are an Italian company you need a German brand if you want to sell in Northern Europe. This has been proven for many years by German brands Krups and Rowenta as they are part of French GroupeSeb.
The new products may technically not revolutionary, but their design hits the sweet spot: clearly a Braun product but still new. Geometric, sophisticated, but updated in the sense that they are somewhat more reduced in their shape, less rounded. Next to the new Identity line there is the Tribute collection: a series of slightly redesigned existing products which pays homage to the sixty years of Braun design. When seeing the actual products many consumers will remember that Braun always had the best looking products in the store. And you feel that de’Longhi made a smart move: there still is a lot of sympathy for a design original.
We had to wait for years and years, but it finally happened: Whirlpool attends IFA. Not with the grandeur they normally show in Milan, but through their German Bauknecht brand. Due to the extra space in the new hall, Bauknecht now had one of the smaller halls for itself. And, we missed them. How can you have an appliance fair without the largest company? Ok, Bauknecht is present at the spring fair in Cologne, but IFA is the real stuff.
And the news is that you could see the famous induction oven (an oven with a removable induction hob inside the oven, for faster heating) in action for the first time. The cook explained that you do need to change your habits somewhat: you can now heat your oven dish directly from the bottom through induction, but you need to balance this with the existing oven functions. Still you can cook faster and thus save time and energy.
There were several interesting other products and features. In laundry there was UltimateCare: a new air flow in the dryer, from the bottom up as well from the back, so you have a kind of air cushion for your most delicate fabrics. The bottom air inlet pushes air into the drum in a twice-a-second frequency. Combined with
new, more rounded paddles in both washer and dryer, and the new drum pattern in the washer which creates water cushions, you can wash and dry even the most delicate fabrics .
A four-door SBS with illuminated handles makes it easier to find your drink in the dark, maybe one of the hidden desires discovered by customer research. It also has two freezer compartments which also can be set to cooling. There is also a standard European width model offering a chiller compartment: it has two extra fans for faster freezing (almost two-thirds).
The Zen horizontal-axis top loader washer (a very European product) is the quietest in the market due to a direct drive motor. In dishwashing, the existing Whirlpool innovations PowerWash (extra sprayers from the back, you can place your pans vertically) and PowerDry (forced moist removal during drying) were shown, just as in Milan this spring.
Just as in the U.S., Samsung is a very strong competitor for the established market parties. You could see this reflected at IFA in the fact that they had a full hall for themselves. The new CityCube hall was large enough for all the product groups: mobile, televisions, white goods and a miscellaneous section.
The decorators clearly had budgets: there were some spectacular visualizations of product features, and the large space really accommodated them. One of the biggest was the model of the new WaterWall: a new sprayer for the dishwasher. It creates a rectangular pattern and thus should be able to reach in the corners of the lower basket. First, the water is sprayed under the basket, horizontally, from back to front, and then a reflector, which moves forward and backward, reflects the water streams upwards. The first sprayers have a 6 bar pressure, the reflector has 3 Bar. Although there are other spray systems as alternatives to the classic model, this is a new approach, which supports the innovative image Samsung wants to project.
The other news was in vacuums. The new robot vacuum addresses the biggest problem in existing designs: low suction power. Remedy: make it bigger. Samsung doubled the size of the robot, used a much larger battery, a direct drive motor and a cyclone dust reservoir, and the suction power jumped from 0.5 to 30 Watt (!). This a serious blow to the competition; and we’ll have to see how long it takes before they catch up. One would assume that it won’t take long for LG and others to follow suit. The existing Visionary Mapping is used, and there is a fun feature: Point Cleaning. You point at the dust with the remote control, which has a laser pointer, and the robot will follow. Great fun for the kids too, and for scaring your cat.
Both LG and Samsung showed cordless canister vacuums for the first time. Not quite new (Miele had them in Berlin a few years ago) but the 700 Euro price was too much, even for Miele customers. 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.
The cordless canister vacuum from LG, the CordZero, has 17 to 40 minutes cleaning time, depending on power settings, 200 watts of output suction power using a 80 Volt lithium-ion battery pack, an inverter motor and the existing but still unique LG RoboSense feature where the vacuum follows the user through motorized wheels. LG also has some other unique technologies: hybrid dryers which combine heat pump and faster conventional heating, remote diagnostics through audio signals (works with any phone), 6 Motion Direct Drive in washers for special drum movements, UV sanitation in dishwashers and the Lightwave oven with the Charcoal Lighting Heater for more deep heat radiation
In small appliances the big money makers are shaving and dental care. All the other products are much less profitable, unless you create something unique: Philips enjoyed tremendous success with their fatless fryer AirFry. At IFA there was an upgrade to their shavers: the 9000 shaver series have improved and simplified movements in the shaving heads for better face contour following. They are also easier to open up and clean; as well as easier to manufacture. The knives are improved with a little hook on one side, catching long hairs faster.
Philips had tremendous success with their Senseo coffee pads (low pressure) but they never had proper espresso makers, not good if you are the second-largest in small appliances, after French GroupeSeb. When Italian espresso maker Saeco was for sale a few years ago, they did not hesitate. It was a good match: Philips got a famous Italian brand and manufacturing tradition, and Saeco got a strong mother, offering things such as worldwide distribution and better R&D budgets. Now they offer an app to control your coffee maker. On the large screen of a tablet you can easily see the different options of a top model coffee maker. Coffee and milk quantity, amount of coffee used, temperature, pressing force, and even the rhythm of the water pump can be set. There are also many standard recipes.
Philips is keen on apps: a further development of a shaving/beard clipping 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 designed to help children during tooth brushing: it shows what to do and gives out rewards. Children seem to love it, Philips found out during demonstrations.
Premium vacuum maker Dyson could be the prime victim of the new Samsung robot cleaner. Their brand new robot vacuum, the 360 Eye, was presented and has some fun features: caterpillar track wheels, a new 360 degrees camera system, the famous Dyson D2 digital motor for much more suction power and the inefficient rotary sweepers are replaced by a brush bar over the full width of the vacuum. The company has been working for years because they did not want to rely on Korean designs, but we can only hope that the product will catch on now against the powerful Korean competition.
So what were the highlights this year at IFA? Definitively the new BSH oven platform. And the rebirth of Braun, surely in the mind of Northern European lovers of modern design.
And what could we have done without? Yes, all the apps for any function you can think of. Just as websites for dog food during the internet hype, you have the feeling that many apps are just me-too creations.
And what did we miss? Standards for home automation. There are more than 40 standards and it really a missed opportunity of the industry, just as the troubles with VHS vs. Beta, BluRay vs HD-DVD and iOS vs. Android vs. Windows Phone. Do we never learn? And do we want to sell products?