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Mobile World Congress: The year's best smartphone party

The annual event in Barcelona, Spain, will produce some of 2013's most exciting smartphone news. Join CNET as we cover the show, inside and out.

The Fira Gran Via is the new home of Mobile World Congress in Barcelona. Sarah Tew/CNET

As I write this, CNET writers from three countries are traveling to Barcelona, Spain, to bring you the best of the annual Mobile World Congress trade show.

If you're a smartphone fan, you probably know that Mobile World Congress (MWC) is a big deal. And if you don't know about it but still love gadgets and technology, there are very good reasons why you should care. I'll explain.

Full Mobile World Congress coverage from CNET

To put it simply, MWC is the most important wireless trade show of the year. It's bigger than CES (where, no offense to the esteemed David Katzmaier, phones tend to get buried by TVs), and it blows the doors off the U.S.-centric CTIA. It wasn't always this way, particularly when the show was still in Cannes, France, but when it moved to Barcelona in 2006, MWC went global and came into its own. Indeed, it was already huge when I first attended in 2008 and every successive year it's grown larger. More than 67,000 people from just about everywhere descended on Barcelona last year and I suspect that just as many will return next week. CNET, for one, is sending its largest team ever (look below for their names and Twitter handles) to bring you all the action.

Of course, a trade how is really about what happens. And in that respect, MWC hasn't and won't let us down. The above photo gallery will take you on a guided tour of the last five years, but a short list would include the launch of Sony's Xperia series and HTC's One family, powerful camera phones like Nokia's 808 PureView, the Samsung Galaxy S2, the Sony Xperia Play, and the second-oldest Android phone. Microsoft has used MWC as a global stage, as well. In 2010, it rolled out Windows Phone 7; in 2011, it sealed its partnership with Nokia, and in 2012 it unveiled Windows 8.

Google won't have a crazy booth this year, but there will be plenty of Android news out of Barcelona. Kent German/CNET

So, yes, a lot happens in Barcelona in February. Of course, the drawback of a big event like MWC is that announcements can get lost in the noise. That's why HTC decided to hold its own event earlier this week for the HTC One and Samsung is unwilling to share the stage when it releases the Galaxy S4. (Samsung will show other devices, though.) Google is scaling back its presence as well (sorry, pin collectors), but I promise that there will be plenty to savor. Consider that Asus skipped CES entirely last month to deliver a "metallic miracle" at MWC, and big players like Nokia, LG, Sony, and even Ford are planning press events. What exactly we'll see remains a mystery, but bigger screens, lots of Android, more powerful camera phones, and even a mobile OS from Firefox could top the headlines.

Here are the MWC press conferences that CNET is live blogging. Yes, an event may be the middle of the night depending on your time zone, but please join us for plenty of news and hands-on coverage with the new devices. Though technically the show runs from Monday, Feb. 25 to Thursday, Feb. 28, the fun really begins Sunday night.

Sunday, Feb. 24

The emerging Chinese manufacturer should introduce one premium Android device, and it could surprise with a few more.
Time: 2 p.m. in Barcelona (calculate to your time zone)
Follow CNET's live blog

Monday, Feb. 25

Nokia usually goes all out at MWC, and we expect a decent showing this year as well. Look for new Windows Phone devices.
Time: 8:30 a.m. in Barcelona (calculate to your time zone)
Follow CNET's live blog

As I mentioned above, Asus is bring a mystery metallic device to Barcelona. We can't wait to see what it is.
Time: 1:30 p.m. in Barcelona (calculate to your time zone)
Follow CNET's live blog

Also from China and an emerging player in wireless, ZTE promises a full gallery of new devices. Last year, for example, it introduced 15 handsets.
Time: 4 p.m. in Barcelona (calculate to your time zone)
Follow CNET's live blog

Of course, much more will happen. So to catch it all, be sure to bookmark CNET's coverage page. During the week, it will have tons of coverage including news stories, hands-on First Takes, photo galleries, and videos. I'd also encourage you to use Twitter to follow all of our editors on the ground. Here's the full list:

CNET - The best of everything at MWC.
Jason Jenkins, Editor, CNET UK
Molly Wood, Executive Editor
Roger Cheng, Executive Editor, CNET News
Stephen Shankland, Senior Writer, CNET News
Rich Trenholm, Crave Editor, CNET UK
Luke Westaway, Crave Editor, CNET UK
Brian Bennett, Senior Editor, Phones
Eric Franklin, Senior Editor, Tablets
Jessica Dolcourt, Senior Editor, Phones
Aloysius Low, Senior Writer, Mobile, CNET Asia
Lynn La, Associate Editor, Phones
Marc Ganely, Video Producer, CNET UK
Andrew Hoyle, Senior Staff Writer, CNET UK