Several dozen smartphones, along with a few tablets, were presented this week in Barcelona, during Mobile World Congress 2012, the biggest global mobile telecommunications show of the year. Some 60.000 industry insiders witnessed the show, who will remember three dominating features from this year's event – the launch of quad-core smartphones, the all-present Android OS 4.0, and great expectations for the upcoming Windows 8.
Thus, MWC trends were dictated from the background, but loudly, by Google and Microsoft, while the world's biggest manufacturers of smartphones were in the limelight: HTC, Huawei, LG, Samsung, Nokia, Sony, ZTE...
In order to present its new models, HTC hosted the biggest spectacle in Barcelona, introducing its One series that will come with an Android OS ICS upgrade of the Sense 4 user interface.The most interesting part of this user interface is the improved camera application, which enables turning the camera on and taking the first photograph after 0.7 seconds, HDR recording support, and the Dual Shooter mode for simultaneously taking photographs and recording videos.
The top model in HTC's new series is the One X smartphone which will include a lush screen with a 4.7-inch diagonal and a quad-core processor on a Tegra 3 chipset -- however, the version for the U.S. market will have Qualcomm's dual-core Snapdragon processor as well as LTE support. It will be 9.2 mm thick and include an 8 megapixel rear-facing camera, a recording angle starting with very wide 22 mm and aperture of f/2.0.
The same series also includes the One S, which will be HTC's slimmest smartphone at 7.6 mm thick. Also on the feature list is a dual-core processor and a 4.3-inch Super AMOLED display. HTC's One V will have a 3.7-inch screen with a rounded bottom part, and a 1 GHz single-core processor. I tested all three HTC devices, and Brighthand published my preview.
The most pleasant surprise of the show was Huawei, who has definitely confirmed with its presence what it hinted two months ago at CES – it's now in the big league of cell phone manufacturers.
This Chinese company announced the what many consider the biggest hit of the show, a quad-core smartphone called the Huawei Ascend D quad. The device will have a 4.5-inch display with a 330ppi pixel density, but will only be 8.9 mm thick and include Android 4.0 (Ice Cream Sandwich) on a chipset manufactured by Huawei itself -- which company representatives claim is the fastest in the world but at the same time is cheaper than the competition. I tried this device and Brighthand ran my first impressions.
Huawei has also unveiled the Ascend D quad XL, which will be two millimeters thicker, but come with a battery with more capacity. There was also the Ascend D1 with a dual-core 1.5 GHz chip, with which the company is planning to conquer the mid-range device segment. Furthermore, it presented a 10-inch tablet called MediaPad FHD which will come with the same chipset as the Ascend D quad model and be 8.8 mm thick. This device is also going to use Android 4.0 as its software platform.
LG was the third manufacturer to unveil a quad-core smartphone at this year's Mobile World Congress, naming its model the Optimus 4X HD. It will use an Nvidia Tegra 3 chipset which, actually, has 'four plus one' cores – the fifth takes over background processes when the phone is on stand-by mode in order to save battery life. Optimus 4X HD is going to have a 4.7-inch screen and Android ICS. You an also read my first impressions of this super-fast smartphone on Brighthand.
LG also used the tradeshow to announce the Optimus 3D's successor called Optimus 3D May. The phone will have Android OS 2.3 (Gingerbread) which will soon be upgraded to Ice Cream Sandwich. It will use LG's 3D user interface, familiar from its older model. 3D imaging can be seen without special glasses on the 4.3-inch screen, which will be covered with Gorilla Glass. The smartphone will have a dual-core 1.2 GHz processor from Texas Instruments.
Furthermore, LG took the wraps off a series of mid-range devices that will run Android OS 4.0: Optimus L7 and L5 with a 4.7-inch and a 4.3-inch display respectively, as well as the Optimus L3 entry-level smartphone with Android 2.3 and a 3.2-inch screen. The Optimus L7 is going to have a dual-core processor while the remaining will two have a single-core processor.
LG's most unusual device at Mobile World Congress was the Optimus Vu, a smartphone that will sport a 5-inch display, a side ratio of 4:3, and a 768 x 1024-pixel resolution. It is a bit reminiscent of Samsung's Galaxy Note, especially because it is just 8.5 millimeters thick, but it does not use the S Pen. It includes Qualcomm' dual-core Snapdragon processor running at 1.5 GHz and Android OS 2.3.
Part 2 of this multi-page article covers the announcements made at MWC2012 by Nokia, Sony, and Samsung.
Together with Microsoft, Nokia was in the limelight during the second half of the Barcelona show. What Europeans expected from CES actually happened – the arrival of Lumia 900 on the global market was officially confirmed, after its entrance on the U.S. market. Furthermore, the Lumia 610 was also presented, the cheapest smartphone ever with Windows Phone which was promised to cost some 150 euros in Europe. It will have a 3.7-inch display covered with Gorilla Glass and an 800 MHz processor. It will be sold in various colors.
Nokia has also presented a device with Symbian Bell OS and a camera with an unbelievable resolution of 41 megapixels! This model is called 808 PureView and has a 4-inch display with a very low resolution (360 x 640 pixels) and a 1.3 GHz processor. The camera has 38 effective mega pixels of resolution which actually takes high quality photographs in lower resolutions through the so-caller oversampling (from 5 to 8 mega pixels). These photographs can later be digitally zoomed in without any loss of quality, which has not been seen with any other smartphone in the world. Still, we 'only' have Symbian Belle, thus this unusual smartphone with a special camera has not stolen that much attention as Nokia must have expected.
Microsoft has provided some attention to Nokia's rather inconspicuous presence at MWC at the end of the show, presenting the Consumer Preview version of Windows 8 on the last day of the event. Everyone knows that this is the first version of windows prepared for computers, tablets and smartphones at the same time and it is no wonder that Microsoft chose Barcelona for this important step of delivering the eighth Windows.
Interesting smartphones, mostly with Android ICS, were also presented by ZTE, which appeared with eight new models, Fujitsu Toshiba Mobile with a quad-core smartphone and one model with Windows Phone and Asus with a cheaper version of the Transformer called Transformer Pad 300 Series, as well as Padfone, which was announced at CES. Panasonic, Alcatel and other companies are planning to break through to the global market with new devices presented at MWC. When it comes to revealed smartphones, this was the richest MWC yet and the next show is announced for the end of February 2013.
Sony has prepared the launch of Xperia S for the global market during MWC (it was presented at CES), as well as two new phones: Xperia P and Xperia U. Both devices will have a dual-core processor running at 1 GHz, and use Android OS 2.3 (Gingerbread) which will soon be available for an upgrade to Ice Cream Sandwich. The first one is going to have a 4-inch screen, while the later will include a 3.5-inch display.
Samsung did not present any spectacular smartphones in Barcelona, breaking its habit of the past few years, leaving us daydreaming about what Galaxy S III will include. Clearly, South Koreans wanted to see what their biggest rivals would display and now their top product of 2012 will have to outperform what HTC, Huawei, and LG have prepared. Still, they have not applied the same "wait and see" tactic when it comes to tablets, thus before iPad 3 was presented, they announced the Galaxy Note 10.1.
As the name hints, this will be a 10-inch version of Galaxy Note, i.e. a tablet than comes with the S Pen. It will use Android OS 4.0 improved with the TouchWiz user interface, and the pre-installed Adobe Photoshop Touch for Android, along with a dual-core processor running a 1.4 GHz clock. You can find my first impressions of this device on TabletPCReview.com.
In order not to be present at MWC without at least one relevant smartphone, this company announced the Samsung Galaxy Beam which will come with a built-in projector. The phone is going to have a 1 GHz dual-core processor, a 4-inch display, and Android OS 2.3.
Hardware-wise, these two smartphones won't be that special compared to the rest of the competition presented in Barcelona, but these are two most beautiful smartphones I had the opportunity of seeing at MWC, which is surely have a positive feedback from a certain part of the audience – the rest of the exhibitors who came to this tradeshow with their new devices (with the exception of HTC, partially) did not show they cared for design at all.
More MWC 2012 Product News and Coverage