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What to expect from Mobile World Congress 2018

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The world’s largest phone show is set for Barcelona later this month, and it’s shaping up to be an interesting one — particularly in the wake of what amounted to an extremely lackluster CES last month. We’re still a couple of weeks out from the actual event, but the rumors have already started flying.

Few things are certain yet. It seems pretty clear that 5G will once again be taking center stage, and, unlike last year, companies may actually have more to offer on that front than mere talk.

Samsung announced its plans to launch its flagship at the event — bucking its recent trend of saving its big news for its own party. That’s a pretty tough act to compete with — as such, other manufacturers may well be keeping relatively quiet in Barcelona, so as not to get steamrolled by the S9.

Nokia and BlackBerry were surprise hits at last year’s show, courtesy of high-profile licensing deals, so expect more to come from that. Also, Qualcomm’s latest high-end chip, the Snapdragon 845, appears perfectly timed to appear on A LOT of flagships for the show. And Google, which made a big splash at CES and last year’s MWC, likely will be back to talk about the power of Assistant on mobile.

What follows is a collection of some of the most prominent rumors leading up to the year’s biggest smartphone show.

BlackBerry

The KeyOne was a surprise hit at last year’s MWC. It was a nice piece of hardware that managed to capture the BlackBerry magic, while updating it for the modern smartphone set. TCL (the company that licenses the BlackBerry name in most of the world these days) has a pair of new handsets on deck for 2018, so expect at least one to be shown off in Barcelona.

HTC

Not much to report here. HTC’s expected to stay pretty quiet this month. The phone maker is said to be keeping its powder dry for Mobile World Congress this year, as companies like Samsung dominate the show. The U12 is still on the horizon, but the flagship is now expected to launch closer to spring. No surprise, really — the company’s been intent on hosting its own launch parties of late.

LG

The company’s said to be bucking the trend of launching a new G series device at the show. Instead, the latest batch of rumors spearheaded by a report from The Korea Herald have the company launching an updated version of the V30, sporting enhanced AI features and the decidedly uncatchy name,“V30+’α’,” which certainly appears to have been dreamt up by some manner of robotic intelligence.

Nokia

Yes, Nokia. Well, HMD, actually. Last year’s show was a big one for the return of the once mighty brand under its newly licensed home. Last year, the company made a big splash with the launch — or, relaunch — of the 3310. The throwback handset captured the imagination of a public suffering from smartphone burnout. Also, it runs Snake. Given that this represented a sort of vindication for the licensing deal, I wouldn’t be too surprised if we see HMD attempting to capture lightning in a bottle yet again with another full-throttle embrace of retro hardware.

Beyond that, the company’s expected to post a whole load of new phones during a big press conference. Refreshes to the 6, 7 and 8 have all been floated, along with the arrival of the Nokia 9, a new flagship from the company, which, if nothing else, follows the company’s strict adherence to sequential numbers. Rumors give the new premium handset a 5.5-inch display, but beyond that, things have been fairly scattershot.

Samsung

Two weeks out, Samsung appears to have already won the show. The company actually managed to take some of the wind out of its own sails at CES by announcing that same week that it would be announcing its next flagship at Mobile World Congress.

Just in case there was any lingering doubt, the company has since sent out invites emblazoned with a giant number “9,” implying either the arrival the Galaxy S9/S9+ or the launch of DJ Koh’s new White Album-era Beatles cover band. Natasha wrote up what to expect, specifically focused on the handset, so here are a few key bullet points for those who hate paragraph formatting:

  • New camera tech. This is always a focus for the company, and this time out, added depth-sensing appears to be a big part of the equation. Also, improved low-light picture shooting.
  • All of that will be powered by the Snapdragon 845, the latest from Qualcomm (with an Exynos chip shipping in certain regions).
  • Fingerprint reader now located under the rear camera.
  • A battery increase is expected — baby steps on that front, however, for obvious regions.
  • Headphone jack, because Samsung’s just not ready to give up the ghost.

Given how much Samsung is investing in MWC this year, I’d anticipate additional hardware. A new version of the DeX docking station is expected, and given what a big show this will no doubt be for 5G, Samsung will probably be talking up networking until it’s blue in the face.

Sony

Sony loves to pile on the Xperia news at MWC. Last year, the company unloaded a bunch of handsets, and there’s no reason to expect that this one will be any different. Xperia XZ Pro is the name that’s been floating around since the middle of last month. The rumors give the flagship a 5.7-inch 4K display and the Snapdragon 845 that’s set to be all the rage at MWC. Naturally, however, the camera’s the thing here. After all, Sony’s handsets have always been as much about showcasing its camera technology as they are actually, you know, selling phones. The handset will supposedly sport a pair of rear-facing cameras.

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