Mobile World Congress (MWC) Highlights

MWC 2013 Highlights

Taking place in Barcelona, Mobile World Congress (MWC) is the year's largest mobile phone event and presents the industry with an opportunity to show off their latest wares, network and discuss what will be making headlines at next year’s event.

The organisers have confirmed that over 72,000 people from more than 200 countries attended MWC, which is a new record for the four day event. 

With every major manufacturer clamouring to showcase their latest handsets, and even Samsung stealing the limelight with its Galaxy S4 news, it’s difficult to know where to look and what to look at. In fact, more than 1,700 companies exhibited at the show, covering 94,000 net square metres of space. 

So with so much going on, here we cover the show’s highlights and combine the news, pictures and videos that you’ll need to know in order to get the full lowdown on what’s hot and what’s not…

The HTC One is a game changing mobile phone

We got to spend some quality time with the new HTC One smartphone and came away head over heels in love with it. The team, with two resident Apple lovers in tow, unanimously declared the HTC One as their favourite device on display at MWC and there really is a lot to love about it.

Its BlinkFeed is a new concept in home screens and provides you with direct access to your latest news, social media updates, emails, weather and even favourite TV shows from one place. No longer do you have to go into individual apps to get the latest info, or simultaneously run apps side-by-side, with BlinkFeed, everything is one place.

Other things we loved about the One include BoomSound, which features dual frontal stereo speakers. This produces the level of sound quality you’d normally expect from speakers, let alone a mobile device.

HTC has also introduced Zoe, not a personal assistant rival to Siri, but the name given to its new camera. With a headline figure of only 4-megapixels in the camera, HTC were keen to demonstrate that less really is more. Ultrapixels allows more light into the camera’s lens by reducing the number of megapixels and this produces some really clear images.

What’s most interesting is that the concept of taking an individual snap has completely disappeared. Instead, each time you take a photograph, the camera records 20 still images and accompanying sound, which lasts for three seconds. This results in a live image gallery and lets you create sequence shots that display frame-by-frame action.

This is only the tip of the iceberg with the HTC One and really does position the device as the smartphone to beat in 2013. 


Firefox OS gathers pace

One of the busier, and more colourful stands at MWC was Firefox and here we were treated to a full hands-on demo of their new Operating System.

In the same week that Sony released an experimental build of their new OS for the Xperia E phone, the buzz around the stand suggested that they were gaining some genuine momentum.

The OS is open and built completely in HTML 5, which makes it easy for the majority of developers to work with. Christian Heilmann, principle evangelist for Mozilla, gave us a full walk through using the ZTE Open handset and this demonstrated the power of the OS (full video to come soon). 

Of particular note is the dynamic search function, which allows you to search for anything in a browser and receive results that include apps as well as those from the web. So for example, Christian searched for U2 and brought up a list of results including Soundcloud, Wikipedia and YouTube.

Firefox OS on the ZTE Open

We found the OS extremely easy to use and the ZTE Open was a funky and simple handset to demonstrate its qualities. The OS is being rolled out for launch in Brasil, alongside other emerging smartphone markets, and it does feel like the Mozilla Foundation have a strong strategy in place to continue this growth.

Nokia launch two new Lumia devices

Perhaps the busiest team at MWC is Nokia, announcing a number of new handsets. Among these are the Lumia 520 and Lumia 720, which both use the Windows Phone 8 OS. These will be hitting European shores during the second quarter and should be priced at around £220 for the 720 and £120 for the 520. For the specs, this is a great price and makes it a real contender for the entry-level market – something Microsoft is keen to dominate for WP8.

Nokia brings two budget devices to market

Not content with launching two new reasonably priced Lumia handsets, Nokia also announced two phones targeted at the bottom-end of the market. The Nokia 105 will be available at the stunning price of just €15 and the phone’s specs do reflect that. It’s a basic text and call only handset, although does feature a nifty LED flashlight. This is being positioned as a secondary handset or for use in remote locations where battery time is more important than access to Facebook.

The second budget device is the Nokia 301, a basic mobile phone available at just €65. It’s not quite a smartphone, and the device’s specs are low-end, but it does have some cracking features including a 3.2-megapixel camera wth a panoramic feature and self-timer. What was particularly interesting about this device is that it supports two sim cards.  There are a number of dual-sim handsets on show at MWC and the Nokia 301 is one of the cheapest.

Huawei announces the world’s fastest smartphone

The Ascend P2 is the first phone to use an LTE Cat 4 chip, which could offer 4G download speeds of up to 150Mbps. I say could, because reaching these speeds depends on the amount of bandwidth offered up by networks. Either way, this is an impressive device with a 1.5GHz quad-core processor that features, 1GB of RAM and 16GB of internal memory. This sits inside a device with a 4.7-inch screen with 315ppi, a whopping 13-megapixel camera and running of Android 4.1 Jelly Bean.

Samsung steals the limelight on day one

With all eyes on the vast halls of the conference centre in Barcelona, Samsung threw a curveball by announcing the reveal date of its new S4 Galaxy device for March 14.

Samsung reveals Galaxy Note 8 tablet

With the king of Android handsets choosing a private media reveal in New York of its new Samsung Galaxy S4, it gave the MWC limelight to a new tablet. The Galaxy Note 8 appears to be the larger cousin to the Note II, with similar styling, the latest S-pen stylus and its updated version of Jelly Bean that features split screen multitasking abilities. 

Samsung Galaxy Note 8

DTS Headphone:X to render expensive headphones redundant

DTS is teaming up with Qualcomm on its new Snapdragon 800 processor to bring 7:1 surround sound to your mobile device. In one of the more impressive demos of the show, DTS demonstrated how its stunning Headphone:X technology enables mobile phones running with Snapdragon 800 to feature almost cinematic quality sound through any set of headphones.

Using post-processing techniques, your ears are tricked into thinking that you’re surrounded by speakers and because this all happens device-side, you can hear the results in any set of headphones.

When I was first treated to a demo, I was given the full 7.1 surround sound treatment via speakers in a quiet booth away from the noise of the show. I was then given a set of headphones and treated to Headphone:X. I genuinely thought the DTS team were playing a trick on me as I couldn’t tell the difference between the two, the sound quality was that good.

With handsets set to feature Snapdragon 800 from late 2013 and early 2014, we’ll have to wait a while before we can try out this awesome tech at home.

Article by Damian Carvill.

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