What mattered at Mobile World Congress, day 2: BlackBerry, Samsung's Galactic dominance, and plucky Kazam

All the latest from Barcelona for your phone-loving convenience, rounded up in one handy digest.

Blackberry, Blackberry Z3
We managed to snap a closer shot of the Blackberry Z3 at MWC 2014. Brian Bennett/CNET

BARCELONA, Spain -- Hard to believe it's only day 2 of Mobile World Congress, which already feels like it's been going on for months. The CNET team is now fluent in Catalan, cannot remember any food that isn't tapas, and has renounced all other religions for that of Lionel Messi.

With most of the main announcements out of the way, it's time for some of the smaller companies to share the limelight. Speaking of which...

CNET's full coverage of Mobile World Congress

BlackBerry unveils Z3 and Q20
Poor BlackBerry . Where once it would have merited a leading spot at MWC, the Canadian company is rather low-key here in Catalonia this year.

The Z3 is a 5-inch touch-screen phone running the latest version of BlackBerry OS, BB 10.2.1. It'll hit the market for around $200, unlocked.

Give it credit -- it's not giving up on Qwerty phones. The Q20, aka the "BlackBerry Classic", is a revised Q10, but specs were thin on the ground. We'll have more for you soon.

Adventures in Tech explains Samsung's Galactic dominance
Last night's Galaxy S5 launch attracted so many people there was a stampede for seats -- screams were heard -- and it started so late that embargoed previews from sites that were prebriefed (including CNET) went live before the event even began.

But how did the Korean company become so popular? Why does everyone want to cover its new gadgets? Our own Luke Westaway outlines his theory in today's new episode of Adventures in Tech, which includes a frankly glorious animation of every Galaxy product ever.

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HTC exec Jack Yang on why it's back in the midrange game
We spoke to HTC's South Asia president Jack Yang, one of the new faces at HTC who are steering the company back towards providing better midrange handsets -- like the new Desire 816.

Where previous gambles on gigantic marketing campaigns and high-end phones haven't paid off, it's going for a more nuanced strategy with different devices for different regions. "The shotgun approach just kills us, as we need to divert our resources," he said . "We'll pick and choose instead."
The new flagship of the Desire range packs a 5.5-inch display, 13-megapixel camera and satisfyingly sturdy plastic. Aloysius Low/CNET

Part of that may include the return of the SD card slot. "Expandability is the key to our consumers," he teased, meaning the ability to swap music and video between phones.

Kazam! The little company with big ideas unveils the octo-core Tornado 2
No one had heard of Kazam at MWC 2013, because it didn't yet exist. Formed in May last year by two former HTC execs, the UK-based company is launching its second range of phones this week, and it's flogging them throughout Europe.

Kazam's brilliantly named Tornado 2 has an octa-core chip and a 13-megapixel camera. Sarah Tew/CNET

Its flagship is the Tornado 2, joining the equally dramatically named Thunder 2 and Trooper 2. With an eight-core chip, a Full HD 5.5-inch screen, 2GB of RAM, expandable storage, and a 13-megapixel camera, it's not messing around.

Kazam said it was aiming for a 250 Euro price for the Tornado 2, which would be incredible value for this spec. It's not a bad-looking phone either -- rather reminiscent of the matte-black Nexus 5 -- and the company will replace the screen if you break it within a year. Definitely one to watch.

Deeper dives on the Galaxy S5
CNET's Jessica Dolcourt put together more thoughts on the S5's new features, including the fingerprint scanner and the heart-rate monitor .

Brilliantly, the heart-rate monitor uses the camera flash -- put your finger over it and it pulses light to see how fast your blood is flowing past! (That's what counts as excitement this far into a trade show.)

The fingerprint scanner, meanwhile, is along the bottom of the screen. Swipe across the sensitive bit several times and it'll remember that pinkie. You can use it to verify your identity to PayPal when you're buying stuff online, which sounds genuinely handy.

Incidentally, Shara Tibken found out that the Galaxy Fit doesn't run Android or Tizen, instead using an incredibly basic real-time operating system. This'll help its battery life last for days, but means it can't publish an SDK, according to Samsung's senior VP of product and technology, who rejoices in the name Seshu Madhavapeddy.

Sony's Smartband Brian Bennett/CNET

Sony logs your life with the, er, Lifelog
Not an ancient mystical wooden relic, the Lifelog is in fact Sony's new always-on camera. Just a concept at the moment, the Lifelog takes a snap when you move, creating a photographical record of your entire day.

Sony reckons in the future it'll work in concert with its SmartBand fitness tracker so you can easily see where you were when you were burning most calories, or have some record of nice things you've seen that you can't remember because you were hitting the wall at the time.

Hands-on with ZTE's Firefox phones
We caught up with ZTE for a look at its new Open mobiles running the supersimple Firefox OS. They're both cheap and cheerful and are aimed at developing countries where 3G is just taking off.

The Open C has a 4-inch screen while the Open II has a 3.5-inch display -- neither are anywhere near HD. Dual-core processors are more than enough for what Firefox has in mind for its system, which is based on its browser.

Tizen takes on more
A year after it made its first appearance, Tizen is back at Mobile World Congress for more. It's already running on Samsung's Gear 2 and the Gear 2 Neo, but as Andrew Hoyle discovered, Samsung and Intel want to take the OS beyond smartwatches .

For example, Tizen is powering one of Samsung's cameras, the NX300M, and it will be behind the software of next-generation in-car entertainment services in Land Rover cars, among others. And what about the Tizen-based phones that we've been promised? Well, they're supposed to debut later this year (that's all we know). What's more, the OS could appear in connected home technology like fridges to thermostats.

Ubuntu is up
Speaking of mobile OSes, Rich Trenholm talked with Canonical, the British company that's developing Ubuntu. Canonical doesn't have production-ready models yet, but Rich handled the Meizu MX3 and the BQ Aquaris. Though both are existing Android phones, they'll also run Ubuntu before the end of the year. Rich calls it an "elegant and intuitive interface" from what he's seen so far. You control the OS by swiping in from each side of the screen, with home screens replaced by customised and themed screens called "scopes".

As for the phones, he was partial to the Aquaris, as its subtly rounded corners, slim profile, and slablike, minimalist rear side give it more style. Meanwhile, MX3, which is based on an existing Android phone, is styled "somewhere between the Samsung Galaxy's curved glossy plastic and a classic iPhone."

More to come!
That's it from day 2 of Mobile World Congress. Come back tomorrow for even more mobile goodness from Barcelona.

 

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