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IFA 2022: What to expect from Samsung, LG

Europe’s biggest home appliance trade show back in person after two years of hiatus

Samsung Electronics flags are installed near the Messe Berlin, the main venue for the IFA trade show, in Berlin on Thursday. (Samsung Electronics)
Samsung Electronics flags are installed near the Messe Berlin, the main venue for the IFA trade show, in Berlin on Thursday. (Samsung Electronics)
BERLIN -- IFA, Europe’s biggest tech show, is being held in person again after two years of pandemic disruptions, with South Korean tech rivals Samsung Electronics and LG Electronics among the largest exhibitors.

The annual gathering will kick off in Berlin on Friday for a five-day run.

After years of virtual business meetings and product launches, there may be skepticism about attending a giant face-to-face business event in this enduring pandemic era. But the IFA is ready to host more than 1,900 exhibitors and over 240,000 attendees, both record figures in the event’s nearly 100 years of history.

The number of South Korean firms joining has also almost doubled to 160 from the last pre-pandemic event in 2019.

IFA comes at a crucial juncture for Samsung and LG, top sellers in the TV and home appliance markets, respectively.

After posting record sales in recent months, largely buoyed by pent-up demand during the protracted pandemic, tech firms are expected to see their sales fall in the latter half of this year amid high inflation.

The Korean duo, among the biggest sponsors of IFA, will pour resources into promoting their latest appliances at IFA to lure belt-tightening consumers in Europe, the second-largest home appliance market.

Enhanced connectivity beyond brand

Samsung has touted its vast product lineup from smartphones to home appliances as a competitive edge in leading the internet of things trend. Still, the lack of compatibility with other brands and devices has limited the expansion of the Samsung ecosystem.

During the IFA show, Samsung plans to unveil its upgraded smart home platform, SmartThings, which controls not just Samsung appliances, but also those of 13 other brands, including GE, Haier, LG and Arcelik.

Samsung will demonstrate how the smartphone app works effectively with eight appliances from its Swedish rival Electrolux for the first time.

SmartThings is key to Samsung’s new smart home initiative, the Home Connectivity Alliance, launched in August last year. Samsung aims to invite more players to join the alliance and nurture it as a wider industrial standard.

The Samsung-led smart home platform faces the competition of Matter, another connectivity standard for smart homes led by the Zigbee Alliance, with the participation of Apple, Google and Amazon. However, Samsung is also a member of Matter, whose market debut is expected to come later this year.

While Matter focuses more on connecting smaller devices like bulbs, switches, lighting and door locks and can be implemented in new products only, HCA connects larger appliances and smart hubs.

TV war looms

The decades-old TV rivalry between Samsung and LG has entered a new phase as Samsung returned to the organic light-emitting diode TV market early this year after a nine-year absence.

Samsung, the world’s largest TV maker dominating more than 30 percent of global sales, has focused on upgrading liquid crystal displays for better profitability, while its smaller rival LG has poured resources into developing OLED, which is considered the most advanced display technology in the market, but whose production is tricky and costly.

Currently, LG’s market share in the OLED market stands at 62 percent.

Amid slowing TV sales overall, their latest battlefield is the fast-growing and more lucrative premium segment priced at $1,500 and above. In Europe, the world’s largest TV market, OLED models have already exceeded half the sales of the segment.

Samsung still sells a limited number of OLED TVs in select markets due to its still low yield rate in the earlier stage of production, with its marketing activities focusing on its Neo-QLED LCD TVs.

There is keen interest focused on whether Samsung will display its OLED TVs at IFA for the first time to the public.

In the meantime, LG seeks to cement its leadership by unveiling the world’s largest 97-inch OLED TV at IFA. Set to be released in the fourth quarter this year, the OLED evo Gallery Edition is the latest addition to LG’s OLED lineup ranging from its smallest and bestselling 40-inch models to bigger models with gigantic screens.

Colorful pitch

Europe, home to big names like Miele, Siemens and Electrolux, is a strategic market for Samsung and LG. While its European rivals stick to white or silver options for their luxury appeal, the Korean duo have been experimenting with more colors recently.

LG will debut the industry’s first color-changing refrigerator, the LG Dios Objet Collection MoodUP, at the IFA show. Using the company's ThinQ smartphone app, users can change the color of the refrigerator, which is equipped with specially designed LED panels. For the four-door models, the number of possible color combinations comes to more than 170,000.

LG has offered its premium Objet collection in diverse pastel hues, extending the coloring strategy to other appliances, including the latest fancy shoeboxes using its Styler steam technology.

Samsung’s Bespoke, launched in 2019, has reshaped the company’s home appliance strategy. Its unique modular concept allows users to customize the material, color, size and door configurations of home appliances.

Taking IFA as a marketing launch pad, the company plans to further expand its Bespoke lineup in Europe, where sales of its flagship refrigerators surged sixfold over the past year alone.

Its new premium Infinite Line using high-end materials also makes its European debut this week.

By Lee Ji-yoon (jylee@heraldcorp.com)

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