On Day 1 of Mobile World Congress, here's what mattered

Nokia, Asus, LG, and ZTE were the stars of the show on press conference day, despite Samsung trying to steal their thunder by handing out invites to the S4 launch.

Katie Collins Senior European Correspondent
Katie a UK-based news reporter and features writer. Officially, she is CNET's European correspondent, covering tech policy and Big Tech in the EU and UK. Unofficially, she serves as CNET's Taylor Swift correspondent. You can also find her writing about tech for good, ethics and human rights, the climate crisis, robots, travel and digital culture. She was once described a "living synth" by London's Evening Standard for having a microchip injected into her hand.
Katie Collins
3 min read
Crowds flock to the Fira Gran Via as Mobile World Congress begins. Sarah Tew/CNET

The first official day of Mobile World Congress was riddled with exciting launches and delivered press conferences from some of the big guns of the smartphone world. Without Samsung and HTC to stand in their way, the likes of Asus, LG and ZTE threw down the Android gauntlet, and Nokia revealed the latest handsets in its ever-expanding range of Windows Phone 8 devices.

Despite the early hour, CNET staff were out in force with not a bleary eye in sight to cover Nokia's 8.30 a.m. press conference. A series of budget and midrange handsets were launched, chief among them the latest additions to Nokia's Windows Phone 8 range, the Lumia 720 and 520. At the budget end of the scale was the Nokia 150, a 15-euro phone, which with a 1.5-inch screen and weeks' worth of battery life in standby mode, harks back to the Nokia we know of old.

Watch this: Lumia 720 is a pared down 920

According to Nokia, its target demographic for the Lumia 720 are younger, trendier, social people who don't require the highest level of hardware technology, but who still demand quality. It sports a 4.3-inch LCD display and a 6.7-megapixel camera and will go on sale for 249 euros at full retail price, or about $338. Its little brother the Lumia 520 will be available for around 139 euros, or if you're in the U.S look out for it on T-Mobile in the guise of the Lumia 521 around late spring or early summer.

LG, determined to build on the success of the Google Nexus 4, unveiled a range of devices across the whole pricing spectrum. At the top end was the 5.5-inch "phablet," the Optimus G Pro, with the F7 and F5 aiming to offer LTE functionality to those on a midrange budget, and the L Series bringing up the rear.

Watch this: The LG Optimus G Pro in all its 5.5-inch glory

In a move that reinforced Samsung's position as a company that likes to set itself apart from other manufacturers of high-end Android phones, it did not deign to announce a premium phone at Mobile World Congress for the second year running. Instead it confirmed to CNET that it would unveil the Galaxy S4 at an event next week in New York. To keep Samsung fans happy, we managed to go hands-on in the meantime with the budget Galaxy Fame and Young, as well as the rugged and waterproof Galaxy Xcover 2.

You'll have to concentrate for this one, as Asus revealed the secret behind its "Metallic Miracle" trailer was not one, but two very different devices with almost, but not quite, identical names. The PadFone Infinity is a pricey 5-inch LTE smartphone that becomes a 10.1-inch tablet when docked into the Infinity Station. The Fonepad, on the other hand, is a $249 7-inch Jelly Bean tablet that makes calls. Got that? Good.

Asus press conference highlights (pictures)

See all photos

The last press conference of the day saw ZTE launch the Grand Memo, a 5.7-inch challenger to the Galaxy Note 2, and its first phone to run the new Firefox OS, the ZTE Open.

These devices represent the biggest, splashiest products of the day, but if you don't want to miss out, be sure to head over to our dedicated Mobile World Congress page, which is jam-packed full of first takes, slideshows, and hands-on videos. We'll be adding plenty more analysis and news about hot products throughout the week, so keep checking back.