Nokia, Sony and Samsung may suck up all the oxygen at Mobile Wold Congress, but they're hardly the only companies there. No, peer around the big booths on the show floor to find a long list of smaller companies eager to show their wares. Whether they're from China, Austria, or right here in Spain, they have a handset story to tell. And based on some of the handsets you'll see here, these underdogs are worth your time.
Made by tiny UK-based Kazam, the Kazam Tornado 2 (or should we say Kazam!) will only be available in Europe. It has a 5-inch 720p display, an octa-core MediaTek 1.7GHz chip, 1GB of RAM, 8GB of storage, and an 8-megapixel camera. Kazam also has a similar model with a 5.5-inch Full HD screen and a 13-megapixel camera.
French phone developer Wiko will be one of the first out of the gate with a Nvidia Tegra 4i-based device. It runs Android 4.3 and has a 4.7-inch screen with a 1,280x800 resolution, an 8-megapixel camera, and a front-facing 5-megapixel shooter. Yeah, I know you're asking how they came up with that name. Honestly, I can't tell you.
Geeksphone came to Mobile World Congress last year with a few Firefox phones like the Keon and the Peak. It's back this year with the Geeksphone Silent Circle Blackphone. The focus here is on smartphone security. The Blackphone gives you complete flexibility to decide which apps and services access your information and which don't. It also uses a modified Android interface called PrivatOS that brings all those security options directly to the forefront. Other security options include a two-year subscription to Silent Circle, which guarantees you encrypted phone calls and e-mails, two years of Disconnect anonymous Wi-Fi, and two years of SpiderOak anonymous cloud storage.
Yes, it is a weird name and it makes me wonder who Andy is or was. Made by Miami-based Yezz (a company with a strong presence in Latin America), the Yezz Andy AZ4.5 is meant for senior users. Permanently locked in "elderly mode" (ouch), it has an SOS button, an Android interface with large icons and a voice assistant that will repeat your commands. Those features are great, but the ability to lock certain apps with a PIN sounds more like something you'd want on a kid's phone. The AZ4.5 has a poor quality 4.5-inch display, dual-SIM capabilities, Android 4.2, 4GB of onboard storage, and a dual-core 1.2GHz processor.
Another Andy phone, the Andy A5QP is Yezz's first eight-core Android smartphone. On the outside it has a bold red color and a soft-touch material that gives the handset a good grip. Inside it has a 1,800mAh battery, 1GB of RAM, 8GB of onboard storage (which you can expand with a microSD card up to 64GB), LTE support, a MediaTek MT6592 octa-core 1.7GHz processor, and a 5-inch HD (1,280x720-pixels) IPS display.
This Meizu MX3 is different from the Android-powered MX3 that we've already seen (Meizu is a Chinese company). Rather, this MX3 will be one of the first devices to run Ubuntu, a new mobile OS developed by UK-based Canonical. On Ubuntu, you control the phone by swiping in from each side of the screen. You then scroll through all of your apps like you're turning the pages of a book. And once you're in an app, swipe up from the bottom for its menu.
A flip phone in 2014, really? Yes, that's exactly what the Emporia Connect is. And there's a very good reason: the Emporia Connect is made for seniors, as well. Actually, when you give it a closer look, the Connect's design is pretty modern, especially the two brushed metal stripes down its outside. It has a 2-megapixel camera with a flash, a 1,150mAh battery, Bluetooth 2.1, a microSD card slot, and a 2.8-inch TFT display. Hailing from Austria, the dual-band flip phone lacks the GSM bands used in North American markets.
Also designed for seniors, the Emporia Smart sticks to the basics with only essential features and a minimalist interface. Indeed, though it runs on Android 4.3, you'd hardly recognize it as such with all the clutter removed. Powering the device is a 1.2GHz quad-core processor, there's an 8-megapixel rear-facing camera, and the 4.5-inch display has a 940x560-pixel resolution. And in a nod to the early days of smartphones, it even has a stylus.
The second version of last year's YotaPhone (yes, it has the same name), the 2014 YotaPhone is rounder, a bit svelter, and incrementally smarter. Again, it's all about that second e-ink, or electronic paper display (EPD), display around back, but here it's larger (4.7 inches on back) than the previous model and it has a richer resolution (960x540-pixels). The Russian company also promises that the second screen is fully touch-sensitive to swipes and more accurate, it will run apps, and it will take advantage of creating new privacy profiles for work, play, and guests.
Another potential Ubuntu device, the Aquaris comes from Spanish manufacturer BQ. It's a 4.5-inch smartphone -- slightly smaller than the 5.1-inch Meizu device -- and it's powered by a MediaTek A7 quad-core chip, as opposed to the MX3's eight-core version.
Encased in a 5.5mm-thin metal frame, the Gionee Elife S5.5 packs a MediaTek eight-core 1.7GHz processor, a 2,300mAh battery and a 5-inch full-HD (1,920x1,080 pixels) Super AMOLED display. Gionee is based in China.