The yearly visit to Barcelona for Mobile World Congress is a highlight for anyone remotely interested in mobile technology. It is always a huge, extravagant affair with manufacturers flexing their muscles, and this year was no different. It took place from 25 â€“ 28 February, and now that itâ€™s over and we have had time to digest, we thought we would bring you an overview of some of the biggest newsmakers at the conference.
This year LG had a huge presence at the show. They showcased a plethora of devices, but without a doubt the LG Optimus G Pro was the highlight.
It is LGâ€™s newest flagship, taking over from the Nexus 4 and the Optimus G. This device will compete with Sonyâ€™s upcoming Xperia Z, the HTC One and the Samsung Galaxy S4 which is being unveiled next week.
The Optimus G Pro has a 5.5â€ 1080×1920 Full HD IPS-LCD screen, with a 1.7GHz quad-core Snapdragon 600 chipset and 2GB of RAM. It is larger than the previously stated devices, coming in at Galaxy Note II size, but it does not have a stylus.
In terms of midrange devices, they have new versions of the Optimus L3, L5, and L7 devices on its way (we reviewed the Optimus L7). There is also the new F series, which is likely to come in just about the L series.
LG also announced the LG Tab-Book, which is a Windows 8 powered slate with a 5-row sliding QWERTY keyboard aimed for people who need a portable device built with productivity in mind. It wonâ€™t be quite as portable as modern tablets, coming in at a weight of 1.25 kilograms.
Over the last couple of years Samsung have decided not to launch their flagship devices at MWC, opting to hold their own press conferences in a very Apple-esque fashion. So they didnâ€™t have a massive presence at this yearâ€™s conference as you might have expected.
The only new mobile device Samsung brought to MWC 2013 was the Samsung Galaxy Note 8.0. It was the first chance for people to get hands-on time with the device and first impressions are generally positive. The technology behind the S-Pen has been beefed up and seems to work much better than previous iterations of the Note family.
Other than the tablet, they announced the Samsung Know enterprise security system, and a Homesync Media Hub to use your mobile device in conjunction with other Samsung hardware.
The flagship Sony Xperia Z (successor to the Xperia T) smartphone was released a while before the conference, so it was not available at MWC. What was available, though, is the new Sony Xperia Tablet Z. This might be one worth checking out if you are looking for an Android tablet.
It looks like a true competitor for many reasons. It is very thin and light with a good build quality, for one. It also has a great screen resolution, coming in at 1920 x 1200 pixels, which also uses Sonyâ€™s Mobile Bravia II engine, offering great screen performance. It has a quad-core Snapdragon S4 Pro processor under the hood, with 2GB of RAM.
We are not certain about the release window as of yet, but we look forward to its release. The only negative we could mention is that the bezel of the tablet looks a bit excessive, but weâ€™re just nit-picking here.
Nokia chose to sit out in terms of high-end devices this year. That doesnâ€™t mean that they didnâ€™t have a very big stand, though. Nokia dove into the low- to midrange pool with a big splash.
The newest members of the Windows Phone 8 Lumia family are the Lumia 520 and the Lumia 720. We wouldnâ€™t say they are anything to make your eyes pop or your jaw drop, but we think they are a good addition seeing how much you get for the cost of the devices.
The Lumia 720 has a 4.3â€ ClearBlack LCD display with nicely curved glass. Nokia have added a very good camera, as they have been to the Lumia range, which is a 6.7MP, backside-illumination and auto-focus camera, built with a Carl Zeiss lens. The extremely large aperture of f/1.9 will allow for great low light performance. It also has a microSD slot, which is new to the unibody design.
They also showcased many feature phones, like the Nokia 105 and Nokia 301.
While the HTC One had already been announced, this was the first opportunity for the public to get their hands on the device for an extended period of time. In our opinion, it is probably one of the best looking devices HTC has ever made.
The One is one of the first smartphones to be powered by Qualcommâ€™s new quad-core Snapdragon 600 chip, which is backed up by 2GB of RAM. It has a 4.7â€ SuperLCD3 1080p screen. HTC are also boasting a new â€œUltrapixelâ€ camera assembly.
The 2,300 mAh battery will hopefully last a good while for us to play with this device without interruption. The HTC One will launch at the end of March.
Internationally, the Asus Padfone caused quite a stir when originally launched. While it didnâ€™t sell too well, the successor PadFone 2 fared a bit better, because of better build and performance. Now, Asus have expanded the Padfone brand, with the Padfone Infinity.
For those not in the know, the Padfone is an all-in-one device, combining a 10.1 inch tablet with a 5 inch smartphone which docks at the back of the tablet. Once the phone is docked, it automatically goes into sleep mode and all the functionalities become available on the tablet as well.
The smartphone, as mentioned, has a 5â€ 1080p display, with a quad-core Snapdragon 600 processor. It also has a 13MP camera in the lightweight aluminium body. The tablet piece has a 10.1â€ display with a resolutionÂ of 1920 x 1200. The two work individually, or in conjunction with one another.
Asus also announced a budget 7â€ tablet, the Fonepad (we agree, the naming could be confusing).
The Chinese company unveiled the new Ascend P2, calling it â€œthe worldâ€™s fastest smartphoneâ€, with LTE downloads speeds of up to 150Mbps. That is interesting, seeing as itâ€™s not quite a flagship device. It doesnâ€™t seem bad either, though.
It has a 4.7â€ HD 720p display, their proprietary 1.5 GHz quad-core K3V2 SoC processor, which they also claim to be â€œthe fastestâ€. Memory wise it has 1GB of RAM as well as 16GB of internal storage. It will also come with a 13MP camera capable of Full HD 1080p video recording.
We arenâ€™t sure if South Africa will ever see this device, but if it does, we wonâ€™t mind giving it a whirl as well.
This is another Chinese company making giant strides in the smartphone market. The slogan â€œThink LTE, Think ZTEâ€ was everywhere to be seen in Barcelona this year. They came to MWC 2013 with quite an interesting new device, the ZTE Grand Memo.
It is their new Android phablet powered by the 1.7Ghz quad-core Snapdragon 600 processor, and has a massive 5.7â€ 1280 x 720 pixel display. It looks a bit cumbersome, though, it is truly a very large device. Had the bezel been a bit narrower, it would have helped.
It also has 2GB of RAM, 16 GB of internal storage and a 13MP rear facing camera. It does have a large 3,200 mAh battery, which is needed for such a large device.
Mobile World Congress is always a highlight in the calendar for any techie, and this year was no different. Even though some of the big hitters now make their huge announcements outside of the show, there was still a lot to get excited about.
From low-end to flagship devices, MWC 2013 had everything. Software was also on show, with the new Firefox OS making its debut. It will only be available on low-end devices for the foreseeable future, though.
What did you make of MWC 2013? Let us know in the comments below.