Next week, the city of Barcelona will again play host to the world's biggest telecommunications expo, Mobile World Congress (MWC), and, as you'd expect, CNET Australia will be there to bring you all the latest news and announcements from the biggest players in the mobile space.
So, what can we expect in 2012? This year's show is already off to an unusual start, with mobile heavyweight Samsung deciding against making a keynote presentation for its products, and LG spilling the beans early on what many think will be the company's big releases. Interestingly, this might be the year that some of the newer names in smartphones make the biggest noise, with Huawei and ZTE queueing up new handsets and tablets for the event.
Renowned as much for its leaks as it is for its great products, HTC's last month has been rife with speculation about what it has up its sleeve for MWC. From what we have heard thus far, HTC has at least two big phones to launch, plus an updated version of its Sense UI — now up to version 4.0.
HTC One X (previously known as Endeavour, Edge, Zeta)
Hotly tipped to be one of the world's first quad-core smartphones, the One X is also a break in the HTC tradition of only using Qualcomm processors, this time turning to Nvidia's 1.5GHz Tegra 3. HTC will plant this tech behind a 4.7-inch HD-resolution display, an 8-megapixel camera and the new version of the Sense UI. Early reports suggest that the One X will ship with 32GB of internal storage, but that HTC won't include a microSD card slot to expand this memory in the future.
HTC One S
As the less-exciting letter S might suggest, the One S is the baby brother of this duo, running a dual-core 1.5GHz processor and packing a qHD-resolution 4.3-inch AMOLED screen. In fact, if the rumours are true, then the Ville should look and feel a lot like the HTC Sensation XE, but with newer software and a nicer display.
What we'd like to see
Although the latest rumours we've heard suggest that HTC will launch a music-streaming service, we'd prefer the company to focus on gaming and its investment in OnLive. A quick scan of the local music-streaming landscape suggests a pretty packed marketplace, but streaming games remains untouched. If HTC plans on delivering a quad-core phone, it'd be nice for it to put those cores to work on a task that requires the processing power available.
As we mentioned earlier, Samsung has decided not to hold a keynote event as MWC, and will instead announce its flagship smartphone for the year (which many are already calling the Galaxy S III) at a private conference at a later date. This doesn't mean that Samsung is missing out on MWC altogether, though.
Galaxy Note 10.1
Like the answer to an elementary mathematical equation, Samsung's latest tablet looks to be one part Galaxy Tab 10.1 and one part Galaxy Note. Samsung will reportedly improve on its success with the 10.1 last year by adding a stylus and a range of stylus-friendly apps. It is also releasing an SDK for developers to get in on the act of making apps for its S Pen input device.
We also heard earlier that Samsung would pip Apple to the post and reveal a tablet with a Retina-like display, sporting a resolution of (approximately) 2048x1536 pixels, but we're not sure whether this titbit applies to the Note 10.1, or whether Samsung has a second tablet to unveil.
This week, Samsung officially announced the Galaxy Mini 2 and the Galaxy Ace 2. If history is anything to go by, then these won't be the only low- to mid-tier Galaxy-branded smartphones on display at the Samsung booth.
What we'd like to see
Samsung's phones and tablets were a bit light on connectivity features in 2011, relying on the Apple model of offering a single, all-purpose port and charging extra for important adapters for TV-out and memory expansion. We'd like Samsung to follow the lead of the computer manufacturers, especially when it comes to tablets. The more ports, the merrier.
With its Ericsson partnership behind it, this could be Sony's year to really stand out of the pack. All it needs is the hardware; as much as we loved last year's Xperia range, especially its software, you would not describe the hardware as being on the bleeding edge.
The Xperia family
You'll remember that Sony announced the Xperia S at CES in Las Vegas earlier in the year, and we expect the S to be matched by a couple more bearing the Xperia brand. The Xperia U is the hot tip — a smaller version of the S in design, with a 3.5-inch screen — but what's most interesting about the Xperia U is that it might be the first phone to run on the Ericsson-designed NovaThor processor.
What we'd like to see
Now that Sony is out on its own, we want it to own hardware the way it does in the gaming space. The newly released PS Vita handheld console is everything we want in a smartphone, but designed for a different purpose. We can only imagine how successful a Sony-branded smartphone with a 5-inch OLED display and a quad-core processor could be.
LG has all but ruined the fun for us, beating out our predictions deadline with official announcements for six new handsets before MWC. If you visit the LG booth at MWC this year, expect to find the new 5-inch Optimus Vu smartphone tablet, a trio of Optimus L phones (the L3, L5 and L7) and two new models with 3D displays: the Optimus 3D Max and the Optimus 3D Cube.
But let's not forget that LG is planning a keynote event for the night before MWC officially kicks off, so you can be sure that the Korean tech giant has one or two rabbits to pull out of its hat.
HTC won't be the only manufacturer with a quad-core beast at MWC, if the rumours are to be believed. The X3 (or Optimus X3) should be every bit the showstopper that we expect the HTC One X to be, with a 4.7-inch HD display, an 8-megapixel camera and 16GB of storage. We've also heard that LG intends to include a whopping 2000mAh battery in the X3, which should hopefully keep you connected for more than the typical single day that phones can manage these days.
What we'd like to see
LG seems to be getting left behind while the other major players create rich content offerings to support their portable devices. Sony, for example, has the Entertainment Unlimited platform, with music streaming and video rentals, plus PlayStation Certification for gamers. LG needs to think about similar value-adding services for its range before it is left too far behind.
Unlike much of its competition, we're actually more excited about Motorola's software than we are about hardware rumours. Last year, the Webtop concept blew us away, even though it failed to live up to its original promise. This year, we hope that things are different.
Motorola's two unique offerings come in the form of its software offerings across its range. Whether you buy a Moto phone or tablet, you should get a standard docking connection and access to both Webtop and MotoCast.
Webtop is the software that Motorola developed to simulate a desktop-computer experience when your device is docked in a compatible accessory. Webtop gives keyboard and mouse functionality and a full desktop web-browsing experience. We'd love to see this concept taken farther, with more functionality and an SDK for developers to build apps specifically for Webtop.
MotoCast may not seem very exciting on the surface, but it could prove to be a real game changer. MotoCast is both a server you install on a PC or Mac and an app on your phone or tablet that streams media and files between the two devices. As long as you have an internet connection, you really needn't have your music stored locally on your smartphone. Now that this service is established, there is a lot of room for growth. Imagine if Motorola started streaming games over the service, or gave you the option to subscribe to a remote server loaded with content rather than your own PC. MWC might reveal the next big thing in the evolution of this great software.
Nokia will be hoping to make a triumphant return to MWC this year, after having nothing new to show at last year's event. There have been suggestions that Nokia will announce as many as six new handsets at the show, including new high-end Windows Phones and what is being dubbed as its last Symbian handset.
Nokia N808 PureView
Whether or not this is Nokia's last roll of the dice on the Symbian platform is yet to be seen, but what we are confident of is that this should be Nokia's best camera phone to date. Earlier rumours suggested that the PureView would include "Nokia's largest image sensor ever", so we're guessing that we'll see a 16-megapixel camera in this bad boy. Matched with the latest improvements to the Symbian platform, the PureView could be the sleeper hit that no one expected from Nokia in 2012.
There's also a good chance that we'll see a couple of new Lumia-branded handsets announced by Nokia at MWC, as well. There are suggestions that Nokia will unveil a 4G Lumia 900 for parts of the world outside the US, and a cheaper Lumia 610 for the prepaid market.