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Android pin collectors battle against time on the last day of MWC

As supplies of the coveted collectibles dwindle, enthusiasts besiege the Lollipop pop-up booth at Mobile World Congress in a last-ditch effort for complete satisfaction.

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Collectors are trying to trade for the last few pins needed to complete their collection. Aloysius Low/CNET

BARCELONA -- It's the last day of Mobile World Congress, and as the clock ticks away to the close of the show, Android pin collectors are quickly gathering around the Lollipop pop-up booth located between the halls of Mobile World Congress.

Their aim? To complete their collection of 124 pins before the curtain falls.

It's not an easy task, and I know that from experience. Scattered across the eight halls of Mobile World Congress, the Android pins were only obtainable at the booths of certain vendors -- who were Android partners -- and depending on the booth, were either given out freely or rationed out sparsely.

You had to do quizzes about products to earn a badge, while some required a scan of your Mobile World Congress pass. Heck, there were a few booths whose staff ended up as traders, trying to complete their collection without leaving their post.

Some designs were restricted only to the vendor, which meant if you missed out on it on the first day of the show floor, you wouldn't be able to find it again -- unless you got lucky at the Lollipop pop-up, which gave out random pins throughout the course of the four days.

It's a treasure hunt system designed to stoke a collector's mania for completion, and it worked. By the fourth and last day of the trade show, supplies of pins had dwindled, with most booths emptied of badges. The only way to finish your collection was to trade for them, and collectors quickly gathered at the tables around the Lollipop pop-up, extra badges on the table, hoping to luck out for their final pins.

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All out. Aloysius Low/CNET

Gotta catch them all

I spoke to one such trader, who told me he had already amassed 101 pins, so he needed 23 more to finish his collection. He didn't seem too fussy about what was being traded for the badges on the table -- as long as I gave him one in return, I could pick something I didn't already have.

The guy on the left has amassed a well-stocked collection, but he's still looking for his last 23 pins. Aloysius Low/CNET

Given the fact that I have writing assignments as well as a job covering the show floor, it's likely I will never be able to even break 100, or complete my collection without trading. And that's likely to be very difficult once MWC ends -- unless I'm willing to spend a ton of cash on shipping badges worldwide. I don't have any extras to trade either, as I've passed the spares over to CNET's Crave team for a giveaway.

This isn't the first time Google has done a badge-collecting spree -- three years ago, it did the same thing at Mobile World Congress, but with only 86 pins, with designs like Marilyn Monroe and Elvis. Attendees went crazy trying to grab them all.

Featuring designs such as Bob the Cop and an unnamed Stan Lee lookalike, the pins were diverse in gender, race and national identities. And to help attendees catch them all, Google launched a site where users could track their collection in their quest.

Game over

As the doors close on the show floor, I spot a few attendees leaving with lanyards festooned with badges. They'll probably never be able to finish their collection now, but if Google does this again next year, I'm pretty sure these guys will probably have the know-how to get a head start. While it's the same for me, I likely won't be able to spare the time to channel my inner Pokemon trainer, though I could hire a pintern...