It’s that time of year again — mobile nerds and enthusiasts of all stripes have begun to descend upon Barcelona for Mobile World Congress, and naturally a TechCrunch contingent has set up camp in Spain to cover it all.
Or, we’ll try anyway. MWC is a behemoth of a show, packed to the brim with enough phones, tablets, and apps that it’s enough to make even the more ardent mobile nerd’s heart go a-twitter. To say that we’ve got a busy week planned is quite an understatement, but here’s a brief look at some of the players that are in attendance and what (we think) they’re bringing to the table.
First, there are the earlybirds — the companies that wanted to get some of their big news out ahead of the show in order to avoid drowning in a sea of press releases. HTC will be around as it always is for instance, but it’s already made its big reveal during a pair of simultaneous events in New York and London. Personally, I’m hoping that an HTC Mini is floating around the show floor somewhere so I can finally try and figure out why it exists.
And then there’s Sony, who managed over the past few weeks to make some waves with its Xperia Z and Xperia Tablet Z. So far the company has done well to avoid raising any eyebrows in advance of its press event on Monday, but that hasn’t stopped the rumor mill from churning — Sony may announce that it’s bringing that Tablet Z to the UK (and hopefully beyond).
Those of you expecting a glimpse at a brand new flagship phone from Samsung will probably come away disappointed this week — the Korean consumer electronics titan seems to have stopped using MWC as a launchpad for its top-tier smartphones. The big Samsung announcement expected this week is that of the Galaxy Note 8.0, the S Pen-friendly tablet whose existence has been leaked so often that even HTC would blush. The latest? Slashgear obtained this image (above) taken at the Fira Gran Via earlier today, confirming that the GalNote 8.0 would indeed take the stage here in Barcelona.
Samsung may not be planning to show off too much in the way of high-end phone hardware, but eternal rival LG seems more than eager to fill in. Sure, its big ol’ Optimus G Pro may have already enjoyed its share of the spotlight, but I’m looking forward to some hands-on time with it. Also on deck are LG’s mid-range Optimus F series handsets — the F5 features a 4.3-inch qHD display and a 1.2GHz dual-core processor, while the F7 bumps things up slightly with a 4.7-inch 720p IPS screen and 1.5GHz dual-core processor. Maybe not the most exciting things in the world, but probably a damned sight better than last year’s Optimus Vu .
Meanwhile, as rumors of a super-svelte Catwalk Windows Phone continue to make the rounds, Nokia is seemingly gearing up to unveil a pair of new Lumias this week. A handful of recent leaks pointed to the existence of the Lumia 520 (left) and 720 (right), and now a set of leaked images from none other than EvLeaks (who, in case you were curious, has a rather solid track record with these sorts of things) have added even more fuel to the fire.
Nokia’s wallet-friendly device portfolio has also been pegged to grow this week with multiple new, non-Windows Phone handsets. Apparently, it’s all part of a plan to shore up the company’s presence in developing markets, which jibes rather nicely with the previously-stated goal of connecting “the next billion people.”
China’s ZTE has been awfully transparent about its plans this year — you can expect to see the company’s hefty Grand Memo (complete with 1.7GHz quad-core Snapdragon S4 Pro and 5.7-inch display), as well as one of the world’s first honest-to-goodness Firefox OS phones. Not exactly a shock considering that Firefox OS is being geared heavily toward making a splash in developing markets, but it’ll be neat to see what sort of hardware ZTE cooked up to match Mozilla’s web-centric OS. There’s even a spec sheet floating around now, thanks to some Engadget tipsters who managed to get into the MWC venue a little early:
Speaking of Chinese OEMs, Huawei has been keeping its cards close to its chest so far. It’s pretty obvious that the mid-range Ascend P2 and its 720p screen will be making an appearance very shortly, but the question is whether or not it’ll be alone — after all, Huawei did reveal two heavy-hitters during CES. There’s little doubt in my mind that Huawei knows how to make a good phone, but another question to mull over is whether or not this year will be the one that sees Huawei finally fit into the mainstream.
Sadly, this year attendees will have to do without the frozen treats and the scores of Android pins that Google brought to the show last time around. While the company hasn’t officially stated why it downsized its presence on the floor this year, we’ve got our own theories. In a slightly related vein, Motorola Mobility has never really had a big presence at MWC, so odds of a big X-Phone announcement are pretty much nil — sorry folks, better luck at I/O.
There have been persistent rumors that Asus intends to reveal its third-generation Padfone at MWC, which seem to have been corroborated by a recent (and incredibly corny) teaser video that pointed to a moment when “Pad and Phone come together” to form a “metallic miracle.” It would be a peculiar move given how long the older models have been around. The original Padfone is less than a year old for one, and the Padfone 2 was only released a few months ago. Subsequent teasers point out that whatever Asus plans to show off is Intel-powered too, so that strange FonePad is starting to look like a lock.
This may seem like a lot, but trust me — this is just a fraction of what Mobile World Congress has to offer. Be sure to keep up on all the latest news out of Barcelona by checking out our full event coverage here — the fun kicks off in earnest tomorrow.