IFA 2023: the coolest phones and smartwatches we’ve seen

IFA 2019 logo in front of building | What to expect
The IFA conference in 2019 IFA

It’s the first week of September, so it’s time for the 99th edition of the Internationale Funkausstellung Berlin — more commonly known as IFA. This trade fair is focused on consumer electronics and home appliances and is being held at the Messe Berlin. The five-day event attracts thousands of visitors and leading technology manufacturers each year.

Although IFA is not as significant for mobile devices nowadays, a few smartphones and wearables are receiving attention at this year’s event. Though these products probably won’t rise to the level of the upcoming Google Pixel 8 lineup or Apple Watch Series 9, they look interesting nonetheless.

Of the announced new products at IFA 2023 (so far), we already have a growing list of ones we hope to learn more about over the coming weeks. Here are some of the coolest smartphones and smartwatches of IFA 2023.


TCL 40 NXTPAPER LTE only smartphone with ePaper like color display.

The TCL 40 NXTPAPER and TCL 40 NXTPAPER 5G smartphones promise a display as fluid as LCD or OLED, yet as soothing on the eyes as e-paper screens. These phones come equipped with a 50MP main camera, plus a 5MP ultrawide camera on the 4G model and a 2MP macro camera on the 5G one. The TCL 40NXTPAPER series phones come with Android 13 and are promised an upgrade to Android 14. Both models feature NFC support and side-mounted fingerprint sensors. Unfortunately, these phones are only launching in Europe — at least initially.

The 4G model has a 5,000mAh battery and a 33-watt fast charger. On the other hand, the TCL 40 NXTPAPER 5G features a 5,010mAh battery, but does not support fast charging, which is a weird decision. It can charge up to a peak speed of 15W, but TCL only provides a 10W charger in the box, which is another head-turner.

Specs aside, the real draw of the TCL 40 series is its proprietary “NXTPAPER” display technology that was previously launched on TCL tablets and laptops. It’s supposed to help with eye strain from looking at your phone too much. TCL added this antireflective layer to reduce glare and even included a sensor that adjusts the color temperature based on the time of day and lighting conditions. It’s actually supposed to be pretty comfy to look at.

We’ve yet to test the phones for ourselves, but if the NXTPAPER devices really can deliver a Kindle-like viewing experience with the fluidity of an LCD smartphone display, that sounds like a combination worth paying attention to.

Fairphone 5

Two people holding a Fairphone 5 each.

The Fairphone 5 is the Dutch company’s latest sustainable and ethical smartphone. Like its predecessors, it has been designed for easy repair, which helps to extend its life span. What’s more, the Fairphone 5 guarantees software updates until the year 2031, which is unprecedented for both Android and Apple devices. The Fairphone 5 also has a unique modular design that allows you to change 10 components without the assistance of a professional technician.

Besides its sleek design, the phone boasts a 6.46-inch OLED display with a 90Hz refresh rate. It also has 8GB of RAM. For storage, there’s only 256GB onboard, but there is a MicroSD card slot for additional storage. The Fairphone 5 uses a 4,200mAh battery, which supports 30-watt charging and NFC. It also offers dual-SIM functionality and features a trio of 50-megapixel cameras for high-quality photography. The phone comes preloaded with Android 13, which you’ll be able to update at least five times!

The Fairphone 5 will be launched first in Europe, with a possible release in the U.S. at a later date. The Fairphone 4 was eventually released in the U.S, so there’s hope the Fairphone 5 receives similar treatment down the road.

Garmin Venu 3

Official product renders of the Garmin Venu 3 smartwatch.

Garmin has always been attentive to people’s needs with its fitness- and health-related wearable devices. Its latest smartwatches, the Venu 3 and Venu 3S, offer many new features compared to the previous models. One of the most significant features is the ability to track workouts explicitly tailored for wheelchair users. The watch comes with built-in microphones and speakers, allowing you to take calls and respond to text messages directly from your wrist — making it a more convenient option for users who are always on the go.

The latest watches are equipped with other exciting new features. For instance, they come with a sleep coach that helps you keep track of your sleeping patterns and suggests the best times to exercise and rest. What’s more, the updated Body Battery feature provides more comprehensive insights into your energy levels, including how they are influenced by sleep, daily activities, naps, and stress.

New Body Battery details on the Garmin Venu 3.

With a battery life of 14 days between charges, the Garmin Venu 3 series models are an excellent alternative for those who don’t want to use an Apple Watch or a smartwatch with Google’s Wear OS, such as the Mobvoi TicWatch Pro 5 or the Samsung Galaxy Watch 6.

The Garmin Venu 3 and Venu 3S are launching at various retailers worldwide now. The 45mm Venu 3 launches in two colors, while the 41mm arrives in five different color combinations.

Withings ScanWatch 2 and ScanWatch Light

The range of Withings ScanWatch 2 smartwatches.
Withings ScanWatch 2 Withings

Withings is once again making noise on the health and fitness wearables front. Its latest two products, the ScanWatch 2 and ScanWatch Light, offer something for everyone.

The Withings ScanWatch 2 is available in two different case sizes — 38mm and 42mm — and features both physical hands on the dial and a 0.63-inch grayscale OLED screen. A sapphire crystal protects the dial, and the case and crown are stainless steel. The smartwatch has an upgraded 16-channel PPG sensor, a new TempTech 24/7 temperature sensor, an upgraded accelerometer, and an altimeter.

At launch, the 42mm Withings ScanWatch 2 model will come in two colors and features integrated lugs. The smaller version launches with a bar-style lug and will eventually come in five color combinations.

A person wearing the Withings ScanWatch Light.
Withings ScanWatch Light Withings

The less expensive Withings ScanWatch Light comes in a 37mm case made of stainless steel. Instead of sapphire crystal, it’s protected by Gorilla Glass and has the same OLED screen complication. On this ScanWatch version, you’ll still find an accelerometer and a PPG sensor (an older version), but no TempTech 24/7 sensor.

The Withings ScanWatch 2 and ScanWatch Light promise an exceptional battery life of 30 days between charges. These watches are resistant to water up to 50 meters. Unlike the Samsung Galaxy Watch 6, which requires an Android-based device, and the Apple Watch, which needs an iPhone, the Withings watches can be paired with iOS and Android devices.

Both the ScanWatch 2 and ScanWatch Light are expected to launch in October.

Plenty to see at IFA 2023

Apple is set to unveil the iPhone 15 lineup, Apple Watch 9, and Apple Watch Ultra 2 in September, followed by Google’s Pixel 8 and Pixel Watch 2 in October. It’s great to see the industry fill the void by announcing other mobile devices beforehand. Some of the new goodies, such as the TCL 40NXTPAPER, were unexpected, while others, such as the Withings ScanWatch 2, were more predictable since they followed the success of previous models.

IFA 2023 officially runs through September 5, and if we come across any other cool phones or smartwatches that deserve to be on this list, we’ll be sure to add them.

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