BARCELONA -- By any measure, 2015 was a banner year for the world's largest and most important mobile show. Mobile World Congress drew in over 90,000 attendees and roughly 1,900 exhibitors, all vying to make their mark.
It's a lot to digest, which is why we break down the most significant news, impressive gadgets, kooky startups and biggest themes below.
The biggest news
Google's senior vice president of products, Sundar Pichai, surprises everyone when he admit that the search giant is getting into the wireless service business. Expect a partnership with carriers that blends cellular and Wi-Fi networks.
Samsung Pay works with merchants' magnetic card readers to easily pay for things from your phone.and .
Chairman Tom Wheeler shouts "No, no, no, no!" The new regulations won't dictate carriers' rates, impose tariffs or meddle with their business.
The e-commerce giant has been behind Apple and Google in the app store race, but steps to improve its offering are starting to pay off.
The most important gadgets
Made of metal and glass, the pair of thin, high-end handsets broke Samsung's mold of plastic phones --. The doubly curved particularly makes a statement that .
The HTC flagship phone is noteworthy for what it isn't. The One M9 disappointed fans hoping for a different design, but the luxurious aluminum handset did update its camera tech and internal processing speeds.
Now, this really was HTC's breakout device. Our experience using the Vive VR was nothing short of incredible. Here's a hint: virtual walls.
A surprise entry from Huawei, the company's first smartwatch has a scratch-resistant sapphire crystal display and runs Android Wear.
and : Android or WebOS
The Urbane LTE superwatch crams LTE (for phone calls!) and mobile payments into a sporty design that runs WebOS. Meanwhile, the regular Urbane is a glossy Android Wear specimen.
Beautiful and ultra-portable, Nokia showcased the slate that's been selling out in China since November.
What just happened here? A BlackBerry executive whizzed out a no-name upcoming phone with a curved screen like the Samsung Galaxy S6 Edge and a slide-out keyboard -- and pocketed it in the blink of an eye.
A fuel cell turns salt and water into electricity, and this small gadget does it in style, charging your phone from its recyclable cartridges without a plug socket in sight.
The can't-miss kooky stuff
What kind of phone won't let you make phone calls without a Bluetooth device? The same on that also looks like a pocket watch. This wacky, high-end prototype is too singular to miss.
Like the idea of roll-a-board that tracks its own whereabouts and even weighs itself? Us too.
A goofy baseball cap may not be your idea of the perfect way to collect your heart-rate, but LifeBeam thinks it's easier than wearing a chest strap all the time, and more discreet.
A mechanical watch with a sort of head-up display on top is a unique angle to the omnipresent wearable.
There's nothing to rile up the fanboys and fangirls than 124 special-edition pins of Androids in all shapes and personalities. Collectors and traders went crazy for the little guys, scrambling during the show's tense final hours.
The food for thought
Samsung's Galaxy S6 Edge wasn't the only handset introducing something new. We also saw phones with eyeball-scanning and a toggle for pro camera modes.
"5G" was a mongo saliva-inducing buzzword everywhere at the show. Demonstrations at Mobile World Congress show the growing momentum toward the launch of faster, more responsive mobile networks in 2020.
Firefox's $40 Orange Klif for Africa and higher-endare just two of the phones we saw. The $23 Cherry Mobile Ace took "budget" to an extreme, while the and are much more feature-packed, in the $200 range.
For work or for mobile payments, vendors demoed more accurate fingerprint scanners that useor , and the new secure handset and . Samsung and BlackBerry also expanded their relationship to include the latter's celebrated security software on .
The take-home message
There is no doubt that Mobile World Congress remains a big-deal show where captains of industry break news and launch innovative products big and small. It's all too often that a trade show produces a lot of commotion about products and announcements that don't amount to much. The sheer volume of interest-piquing gadgets and big-name speakers proves that the mobile industry is still evolving in critical ways.