CES may dominate the technology calendar in the United States, but for wireless at least, Mobile World Congress is the trade show that matters. No event is more important, and as the calendar turns to February, you can bet that the entire industry will flock to Barcelona, Spain, to outflank and outshine the competition.
Of course, no gadget show would be complete without a gaggle of tech journalists scurrying to cover the news and the flood of product announcements. And as we've done over the past few years, CNET was on the ground in Barcelona to bring you the scoop on the show. It was a staggering amount to cover, from the moment we arrived in town last weekend to the hour that the show ended on Thursday. Here are the winners and losers as we saw them.
Yes, you would read that correctly. Fresh on the heels of its with the award-winning
When talking about Nokia's Spanish expedition, you have to start with its new. Sure, it's a bit of a Frankenphone and the Symbian OS caught some people off guard (and may have angered others), but never before have we seen a 41-megapixel mobile. So not only did Nokia shove aside the 8-megapixel shooters that have long defined the upper end of the camera phone technology, but also it took that limit and pushed it into the stratosphere. As , the 808's PureView's resolution wasn't a random call, but rather an attempt to develop a lossless digital zoom. That's an impressive feat for a device that's built primarily to make calls (or these days, send a text), but that's what Nokia did. We'll have to wait until we get a review unit to see if the 808 PureView is worth the hype, but there's no denying that Nokia pulled a new trick out of its hat.
Our Finnish friends also delivered the. Though not unique in features or design, I appreciate the effort the of Windows Phone 7 with an entry-level device. I also liked two of the handsets in the company's . The Asha 202, for example, awesomely accommodates two SIM cards, whereas the Asha 302 takes a comfortable keyboard and Microsoft Exchange support and packs them in an uncomplicated package.
Another device that dares to be explained, the morphs from a smartphone into a tablet into a notebook. Totally original and completely absorbing, the Padfone is one of those devices you have to see to believe. Again, it's not about what the phone can do, but about what you can do with it. Indeed, Asus deserves credit for taking its already excellent
Quad-core chips, Ice Cream Sandwich, and NFC
As I said in my , the show promised an Ice Cream Sandwich with quad-core chips. Though not every new device came through on that prediction, there were enough to make both features a solid trend. Most of the handset manufacturers introduced such a phone with Sony being the obvious and disappointing exception. Support for was popular, as well, with a decent selection of new devices supporting mobile payments technology.
Somewhere along the line, Microsoft decided that Mobile World Congress was the show to make splash. Two years ago it debuted Windows Phone 7, last year it highlighted its Nokia partnership, and this year of Windows 8 (see Seth Rosenblatt's for a close analysis). That gave us a lot to ponder outside the world of smartphones that normally dominate the Barcelona proceedings.
Sorry, Sony, but after with the
I debated putting Moto here since the company has never made an effort in Barcelona. That's certainly its call to make, especially after the long-lasting
Let's call it a draw
There's been a lot of talk about HTC , but at Mobile World Congress it . Of that the company unveiled, the gave us the most to savor. It offered both Ice Cream Sandwich and a quad-core chip plus Sense 4.0, Beats Audio, and an upgraded camera. It's frustrating, though, that for the U.S. market the One X both with LTE and the quad-core processor. HTC's other announcements aren't quite as thrilling, but the and bring Ice Cream Sandwich. Gingerbread be gone.
In my previous four years at Mobile World Congress, Samsung arrived in force so I was surprised when the company for later this year. Heck, it even chose not to hold a press conference in Barcelona. Of the products that it did unveil, the gets some points for sheer novelty. As CNET's Jessica Dolcourt wrote, we've been taking about pico projectors for years, so it's nice to see Samsung make a device almost consumer-ready (and the demo is pretty cool). Sammy's other products from the show, of the
Sammy's Korean rival took a different track by announcing to the Optimus family before Mobile World Congress began. At the head of the pack is another Android smartphone with Ice Cream Sandwich and a quad-core processor, the
On the other hand, I have mixed feelings about LG's entry into the new phablet space, the
Similarly, while thehas an eye-popping display, the 3D capability still hasn't won me over. Without any gimmicky features, the company's handsets are strictly middle of the road. Ice Cream Sandwich saved the L7 and L5 from complete obscurity, though the L3 faded into the background.
Until next year, that's it from Barcelona and Mobile World Congress.