MWC: All the phones, all our thoughts
The dust has well and truly settled on Barcelona and Mobile World Congress is now over for another year. The big manufacturers have displayed their devices, hoping to capture customer enthusiasm and be the next big handset.
In total the trade show saw over 32 smartphones launched over the course of 4 days from 11 different companies.
Here Stuart Miles, Chris Hall, and Rik Henderson give their brief thoughts on each handset and which one we think is the overall winner of the show.
Acer launched just the one phone at Mobile World Congress, while teasing that its Windows Phone 7 offering was coming later this year. Its other announcements focused on its Iconia tablet range.
Acer Iconia Smart
This is a 4.8-inch, Android 2.3 (Gingerbread) machine that has a 21:9 cinema-style aspect ratio on board that Philips would be no doubt happy about. Watching video on it was amazing, but we suspect you’ll have trouble fitting this beast in your pocket. While it’s a novel idea, we can’t really see this being anything more than a niche product especially as Acer doesn’t have any network partners in the UK.
HP had already announced its Mobile World Congress offering before the show at an event in San Francisco, but that didn’t stop the company bringing it’s two new webOS devices to Europe for the first time.
The Veer is an incredibly small smartphone powered by webOS 2.0 and designed to appeal to those who want a smartphone, but are not really fussed about looking at stuff on it 24/7. It’s a strange move given every other manufacturer is going for bigger and bigger screens, but it might just pay off. For us though that slide out keyboard is just too small.
If the idea of the Veer’s screen is too dinky, then the HP Pre3 takes it to the other extreme with a large 3.6-inch screen that then sports a slide out keyboard. It’s big, like really big. Build quality has been massively improved from previous outings and the phone felt punchy enough when it came to performance. Now all HP has to do is convince app developers to develop cool apps for it.
HTC launched the most smartphones that were new at Mobile World Congress as year-in year-out HTC continues to use the show as its major launch platform. 2011 saw five smartphones debut.
HTC Desire S
A well made device that will serve anyone who buys it well over the term of their contract. It doesn’t really move things on from the Desire of 2010, however with an improved shell, improved software, and improved specs you can’t really complain either. Whether it will have enough oomph to take on the competition from others however is yet to be decided. This is a phone for those who missed out on the original rather than a must have for Desire owners to upgrade to.
HTC Wildfire S
Like the Desire S there isn’t much new here apart from an improved screen and slightly better specs. That improved screen over the original Wildfire will make a difference in usability and this will be a solid performer when it launches. The Wildfire S feels nice nestled in the hand and we’re sure that many will be attracted to its cute curves and compact nature.
HTC Incredible S
New to the UK, this is the HTC Incredible from the US having been refined and tweaked. The specs are more powerful than the Desire S, and the screen bigger, but the design slightly more “funky” suggesting it won’t be everyone’s cup of tea. Strangely HTC has also only stuffed it with Froyo rather than Gingerbread. Of course the great thing about the Incredible S is that it gives you a raw design that’s a little different from the unibody curves the rest of the range displays.
It’s the Facebook phone complete with a dedicated Facebook button that will let you tell the world what you’re thinking or where you are checking in. The keyboard looks nice and easy to use and the screen small but good enough to see what you are doing. How Facebook will be integrated into the Sense UI is still yet to be fully seen. Expect the teenagers in your life to be begging you for one.
The Salsa is like the ChaCha, but a touchscreen device. Don’t panic, you still get the dedicated Facebook button and you still get a silly name. In terms of specs it's pretty much the same as the Wildfire, not the Wildfire S, however that means that it’s going to be cheap as chips and no doubt birthday and Christmas present fodder on a PAYG offering.
Chinese phone manufacturer Huawei is trying to emulate HTC and break out of the OEM business, making smartphones for networks like Orange, and making them for themselves. MWC for it saw the launch of the X3 and the European unveil of the Ideos X5, first seen at CES.
The Ideos X3 wasn't as readily available to play with at Mobile World Congress as it's bigger brother the X5. Huawei chose to exhibit the phone spinning in some sort of display instead. However, it's entry-level specs reflect a step-up status from the 2010 Ideos phone the company launched. The custom skin - like the X5 - does switch things around a little but is easily reverted to stock Android. At the moment we don't know whether we'll see this phone in the UK, or if it will still be an OEM device.
Huawei Ideos X3 spinning on the stand (video, YouTube)
The new X5 has a 3.8-inch capacitive touchscreen, with multi-touch support. It’s basic but still feature packed with the most exciting element probably being the 5-megapixel camera that can also shoot 720p HD video.
Announced just days before Mobile World Congress and shown behind closed doors, INQ also touted two Facebook-savvy phones at the show in Barcelona.
INQ Cloud Touch
The INQ Cloud Touch will be the first to hit the market from hte UK-based company and offers a granular Facebook integration to Android. We've been impressed with the attention to detail from INQ and rather than just offering a "social networking" app, the entire user experience has been considered and adjusted. The tech specs won't blow you away, but the Spotify music player, smart on-screen keyboard and funky features might just.
INQ Cloud Q
The Cloud Q targets the young BlackBerry adopter, offering up a socially aware Android phone with a QWERTY keyboard. Again the experience has been based around Facebook, with customisations are pretty much every level. Due later in 2011, it's an innovative device and priced competitively could fly off the shelves.
Having spent most of 2010 launching phones in the mid-level, LG has started 2011 by bringing out a series of handsets that are definitely top of the range. At Mobile World Congress that meant the first 3D glasses-free mobile phone and the European debut of a number of smartphones launched at CES.
LG Optimus 3D
It’s all about 3D, well it is where the Optimus 3D is involved. Here you get a 3D dual camera around the back and of course that 3D glasses-free screen on which to enjoy your 3D content be it games or movies. The best thing of course is that LG hasn’t messed around with the main functionality of the phone just to shoehorn in the 3D elements - heck you can even turn it off.
LG Optimus 2x
Launched at CES in January, Pocket-lint has been one of the lucky few to actually get a fully working model of the device to play with for review ahead of most of the competition. The dual-core Tegra 2 processor means this is no slouch, however with a handful of bugs that we’ve been told will be fixed before launch, this is a phone that could have been the one to have for 2011. As it currently stands we s aren’t too sure.
LG Optimus Black
The highlight here is the The 4-inch Nova display that is eye-poppingly bright and packing in IPS technology meaning great viewing angles and colours. Exactly why you don't get this display on higher models we can't quite fathom: it seems to be a case of "the one with the 3D", "the one with the dual core processor", or "the one with the display". Still if you’re looking for something impressive, but not as powerful as the 2X, this is the one to get.
LG Optimus Me
The Optimus Me is a starter smartphone that will be coming to Orange in the UK. It's fairly basic with little to get excited about if tech specs and uber-impressive features are your thing, but could follow-on the success the LG Optimus One enjoyed in 2010.
LG Optimus Chat
Like the Optimus Me it's fairly basic in its approach and should be fairly inexpensive when it comes out. Build quality is good, and the keyboard is spaced out enough to be comfortable to send a message on although the space bar is pretty small.
Motorola had a fairly quiet MWC as far as launches are concerned instead using MWC to debut its announcements in the US earlier in the year for Europe. With no press conference it was left to a press release to announce the Pro's arrival.
Another phone that saw a US release first (under the Droid Pro moniker) and now heading to Europe to offer QWERTY keyboard fans a chance to go Android (Froyo to be precise). The build quality is good and the configuration means this is basically a BlackBerry Bold wannabe. Still with a touchscreen and QWERTY keyboard, if you like buttons this will probably be right up your street.
First debuted at CES, the Motorola Atrix or M-Atrix (get it) got it’s European showing at MWC in Barcelona. There was little else on show at CES that surprised as much as the Atrix. It’s a brave move for the mobile phone manufacturer to craft something a bit different from the norm, and if they can bring down the price of the accompanying laptop docking station they might just be on to a winner here.
Samsung opted to launch some of its smaller, more run of the mill, handsets in before Mobile World Congress so it could leave the show to unveil the big guns, and that it did with the Samsung Galaxy S II and its Galaxy Tab 10.1 tablet.
Samsung Galaxy S II
There is very little that the Galaxy S II doesn't do. This might be due to the fact that it appears not long after the launch of the original Galaxy S, which is still a competitive device. Not only will it give you a huge screen, dual-core power and advanced technologies like NFC, but it's all packed into an unbelievably skinny frame. This will be a hot seller in 2011, we're sure.
Samsung Galaxy Gio
The Galaxy Gio sits alongside Samsung's other "affordable" handsets offering a minor variation on the affordable Android theme. The Gio offers a low res small screen, but it's a decent looking handset. The processor, at 800MHz could potentially offer a smoother ride than some lower spec devices, but there is little to separate it from it's compatriots here.
Samsung Galaxy Fit
The Galaxy Fit isn't a sports phone, but you do get a bearable 3.31-inch screen, even if the other specs line this up as a basic handset. It looks smart enough, but don't expect too many surprises from this one.
Samsung Galaxy Ace
The Galaxy Ace looks like Samsung's best attempt at a mid-range device. With a showstopping headline act, their range of supporting phones is always going to fade into the background. The Ace does at least offer you a reasonable range of specs, the obvious downside being the low screen resolution from that 3.5-inch display. It might appeal if priced right, but but it obviously a step-down model.
Samsung Galaxy Mini
The Galaxy Mini lives up to its name, with a 3.14-inch display, although at this size it isn't as mini as some other Android handsets we've seen. Specs are kept firmly in the realms of budget handsets and again, there isn't too much to get excited about with this model.
Samsung Wave 578
The Wave 578 was the only launch in Barcelona - and a rather subdued one at that - to sit on Samsung's Bada platform. It's fairly basic phone, but has one trick up its sleeve, or rather tucked into the back: NFC. Coming to Orange in various European countries, this will be their affordable handset if you want contactless services, but we're yet to see when any services will appear.
After months of waiting, teasing, rumours, and more Sony Ericsson finally launched its PlayStation phone to kick of Mobile World Congress. Of course it wasn’t just about games. The Neo and Pro offered a mid-range Android option. While the Arc made its European debut too.
Sony Ericsson Xperia Play
Fusing PlayStation and a mobile phone has been talked about for an age. The hardware seems right, it sits in the hands comfortably enough and the gaming experience we’ve see so far is pretty good. However you’ll really have to want a mobile gaming device to accept the compromise that comes with having a slide-out gaming pad on your phone, and without the content this isn’t going to work. The Xperia Play is one to watch, it’s an exciting idea, but we get the feeling that selling the Play to people on a contract is going to take a lot of hard work.
Sony Ericsson Xperia Neo
Once you’ve fondled the Xperia Neo, it will become obvious that it is really just the Vivaz 2. The form factor is similar, the design is comparable, the aims seem to be the same. They are mid-range phones, or perhaps sub-flagship, as they still offer fairly high specs and good build quality.
Sony Ericsson Xperia Pro
The Xperia Pro on the other hand, picks up on Sony Ericsson’s assumption that professional people need a keyboard on their phone. The keyboard feels good enough and it joins that fairly niche group of Android handsets that offer a physical keyboard along with the full touch functionality. Again, it gets a bit fatter, but it does at least offer you choice.
Sony Ericsson Xperia Arc
The Sony Ericsson Xperia Arc is an impressive handset. It might not be packing a dual-core processor, but it has the body and the screen to make it a hot model. Packing in Sony's Exmor R sensor for the 8-megapixel camera, it promises performance the likes of which we've not seen before. The screen is mightily impressive and the less intrusive customisation of Android makes it much more compelling that the X10 that it replaces ever was. We think this will be Sony Ericsson's best seller.
ViewSonic's only real launch at the show was the ViewSonic V350 with its other announcements either being tablets or things that we had seen at CES.
This is going to be great if you’re a boarder hoper or a frequent traveller as you’ll be able to use one SIM for your regular number and another local SIM for data surfing without racking up massive bills. ViewSonic might not have been a handset maker you are aware of to date, but it’s certainly one to watch.
ViewSonic ViewPad 4
Packing a Qualcomm MSM 8255 1GHz chip, 512MB of RAM and the ability to shoot HD 720p video as well as playing it back via the HDMI-out, it's a mean, lean, fast smartphone machine (well maybe not as fast as the LG Optimus 2X) and should serve the middle ground well.
ZTE launched have mostly been a white label, or OEM, manufacturer. Their most recent success in the UK was the Orange San Francisco, known to the Chinese company as the ZTE Blade.
Launched at Mobile World Congress, the ZTE Skate is the latest device to roll off their line. We'd expect it to be appearing under another name - perhaps the Orange Blackpool given the company's penchant for renaming handsets. It isn't the most powerful phone, but with a 4.3-inch display and rocking out the shop with Gingerbread, if priced right it will certainly turn some heads.
Our pick of the bunch
It has to be the Samsung Galaxy S II. We've picked this smartphone because its the most sophisicated handset, it's an advancement in design from Samsung, and it hits all the specs that you want from a high-end smartphone.
However that doesn't mean that it's going to be the best handset for you. With so many different phones coming out over the next couple of months, offering so many different features, unfortunately you'll have to make the final decision as to which one will best suit your needs.
But fear not dear reader we will make sure that we bring you full reviews of all these phones as and when they launch.