Mobile World Congress 2011: What You Need to Know

Maximum PC Staff

Top stories from Mobile World Congres 2011:

Tablet Analysis: Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1 vs TouchPad vs iPad vs Xoom vs PlayBook

Shootout: Samsung's Galaxy S2 vs. LG Optimus 3d

First details on Windows Phone 7 Update

Windows Phone 7 + Kinect = ??

Hands On: LG's Optimus 3D phone

Hands On: LG's Optimus Pad

The Samsung Galaxy S II, Galaxy Tab 10.1, LG Optimus 3D and Sony Ericsson Xperia Play grabbed the big headlines at Mobile World Congress 2011. If you thought CES was fun, the annual Barcelona event will have had early adopters reaching for their wallets and breathlessly hunting for preorder opportunities.

CES and MWC set the trend for the year ahead in mobile technology. So we should expect thinner, dual-core smartphones a-plenty, more vibrant displays, bigger displays, 1080p video, 3D video, LTE, HSPA+ and Near Field Communications (NFC).

Tablets will be similarly specced, providing a big screen experience that even a 4.5-inch phone can’t hope to match. Android 3.0 looks to be a good match for Apple’s iOS on the iPad.

So who did what? Why? And when? Here are TechRadar’s highlights of MWC 2011…

LG

LG used CES 2011 to good effect when it showed off the world’s first dual-core smartphone, the fantastic LG Optimus 2X , as well as one of the slimmest handsets around – the Optimus Black .

It’s didn’t disappoint tech-watchers at MWC 2011 either, announcing three more Optimus-badged devices – the LG Optimus 3D , the LG Optimus Pad and the LG Optimus Me .

Defined by the presence of two rear-mounted, 5 Megapixel digital cameras, the new Optimus 3D runs Android 2.2, packs a dual-core processor and features a roomy 4.3-inch display. Whether its 3D capabilities are a advantage or just a sales gimmick remain to be seen.

The LG Optimus Pad, meanwhile, finally breaks cover with an 8.9-inch (1280 x 768 pixel) display, dual-core Tegra processor, 3D camera and Android 3.0. Another great alternative to the original iPad.

As for the LG Optimus Me, it’s far less noteworthy. Aimed at the budget end of the market, it has a 2.8-inch capacitive touchscreen featuring a (mere) 320 x 480 pixels, with a bog-standard 3MP camera and 2GB of internal memory.

Motorola

Motorola played its biggest mobile cards at this year’s CES. Who could forget the ‘ooh’s as it released the world’s most powerful mobile phone in the shape of the Motorola Atrix ? While the sight of its Android 3.0-powered dual-core Motorola Xoom still fondly lingers. Look at it… Mmmm, lovely…

Consequently, there were no gosh-wow announcements from the ‘Hello Moto’ camp this time.  The resurgent US mobile-builder has unveiled the Motorola Pro for Europe. Based on the Droid Pro, it’s a mid-range candy bar handset with a 3.1-inch display and QWERTY keypad, running Android 2.2.

Tablet fans also take note: Motorola has also revealed the launch date for the Xoom in the UK.

Samsung

Samsung had been quiet recently, content to see out CES with an updated Galaxy Tab (a Wi-Fi only model) and taking the plaudits for building Google’s impressive Nexus S , which showcased Android 2.3 and NFC.

The Korean giant hit the ground running at MWC 2011, announcing five new handsets (including the Samsung Galaxy S II), two good-looking PMPs and a bigger-screened version of the Galaxy Tab.

The new Samsung Galaxy S II (pictured above) is the real eye-catcher here. Rocking Android 2.3, it excites with a 4.27-inch, 480×800 Super AMOLED Plus display, a dual-core processor, plus 8MP/2MP rear/front cameras. Samsung has also worked closely with Cisco to beef up the phone’s enterprise friendliness.

Rather than use a Tegra 2 CPU, the Galaxy S II will use Samsung’s own Exynos dual-core chip. Formerly known as ‘Orion’, Samsung says its processor offers “unsurpassed functionality and density for faster downloads, quicker multi-tasking, a smoother UI, snappier streaming and highly efficient gaming.”

Samsung also announced four mid-range handsets on 26 January, including the much-rumoured Samsung Galaxy Ace (which subsequently got the video treatment ).

Also announced and shown-off in Barcelona were the pint-sized Galaxy Mini , the Galaxy Fit and the Galaxy Gio (Italian for ‘jewel’, apparently).

Samsung also followed up the recent launch of the Wave II with the lower-end Wave 578 . This is a Bada-powered, NFC-equipped handset that features a 3.2-inch LCD.

Last, and by no means least, Samsung officially announced a bigger brother for the Galaxy Tab. As its name suggests, the new Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1 boasts a more luxurious (and iPad-beating) 10.1-inch display. It runs Android 3.0, has the muscle of a dual-core CPU and includes an 8 Megapixel rear camera. Read our exclusive ‘hands on’ here .

Sony Ericsson

Sony Ericsson is back. If you haven’t already seen it, the Xperia Arc is a storming smartphone that comes with a 4.2-inch ‘Reality Display’, 8 Megapixel camera, 8GB of internal storage and Android 2.3, all wrapped up in a sexy chassis that measures a mere 8.7mm at its thinnest point. That’s slimmer than the iPhone 4.

Amazingly, the Arc wasn’t the headline act at MWC 2011. That honour surely went to the Xperia Play (pictured above), which combines Sony’s PlayStation know-how and Sony Ericsson’s phone building skills into an ambitious gaming-focused device.

We pre-empted the MWC announcement with a sneaky hands on Xperia Play review in late January. Soon after, the company made the handset official with a Superbowl advert , while UK networks named April as the UK release date .

Check out our latest Xperia Play video .

We broke the news of the Sony Ericsson Neo in January and Sony Ericsson confirmed the specifications and let us have a play with the handset on the MWC show floor. Pictures here .

Finally, the new Sony Ericsson Xperia Pro boasts a 3.7-inch (854×480 pixel) display, slide-out QWERTY keyboard, 1Ghz Snapdragon processor, Android 2.3 plus an 8MP rear camera and a 2MP lens on the front for video calling.

Microsoft

Last year Microsoft officially unleashed Windows Phone 7 in a Barcelona hotel, with Steve Ballmer calling the announcement a ‘mile post’ in the launch of the company’s new OS .

Well, the launch has happened and the fanfares have died down – but that doesn’t mean Microsoft won’t have something up its sleeve for the Barcelona show, with a ‘big update’ apparently being detailed to offer some new features for the burgeoning OS.

On January 18th, Microsoft revealed some of the features we can expect to see in the first WP7 update, with the timing suggesting a possible Mobile World Congress release.

Microsoft will be hoping that their newly announced love-in with Nokia will reinvigorate the fortunes of both companies. But with the ink still drying on the agreement, its new partnership came too soon to bear any hardware fruit here. Nokia has been showing off a concept Windows Phone 7 device. But it would have been great to have seen a hacked N8 running Windows Phone 7…

Qualcomm

The mobile chip-maker unveiled new generation of Snapdragon CPUs with clock speeds boosted to 2.5GHz.  These include the single-core MSM8930 and dual-core MSM8960, while future tablets will enjoy the quad-core APQ8063 in 2012. The new chips feature an improved Adreno 320 GPU plus support for LTE, NFC and 3D video capture/playback.

Nokia

What a week. Nokia inked a strategic partnership with Microsoft, which will quietly exclude the Symbian OS from high-end smartphones and makes MeeGo look like a classic white elephant.

From here on in, Nokia will be flying the flag for Windows Phone 7, hoping to differentiate itself from Apple’s iOS and the attack of the Android clones by using software that’s not as good as either of them.

Nevertheless, Nokia has shown off a Windows Phone 7 concept at MWC (see above) and has hinted that its first Windows Phone 7 handsets could appear later this year .

Nokia has long been great at producing concept drawings that dream of future phones. Now it needs to be great at producing ACTUAL future phones.

Intel

Intel’s Anand Chandrasekher used MWC to talk up the ARM-beating potential of its forthcoming 32nm Medfield processor . But as with most of Intel’s previous mobile announcements, there was no serious partnership to talk of – only the promise that it was “sampling to customers.”

The chip giant also showcased an evolved version of the MeeGo tablet UI, keen to sidestep questions about its future after Nokia cuddled up to Windows Phone 7. “We’re open source [advocates],” said Renée James, senior vice president and general manager of Intel’s Software and Services Group. “It isn’t surprising that we would continue on with MeeGo on its own.”

INQ

Pre-empting the Mobile World Congress rush, INQ revealed its big news a few days earlier. And big news it is, with a Facebook-phone revealed as the INQ Cloud Touch . We swiftly got down and dirty with a hands on INQ Cloud Touch review . A QWERTY-toting sibling was also revealed as the INQ Cloud Q.

STILL TO COME DURING MWC 2011…

HTC

Ah, HTC. Often the headline grabbers of MWC, this year it needs to go some way to manage that feat again. The HTC press conference kicks off on Tuesday and we’ll be right there to cover it. In the meantime, what do we think HTC has up its sleeves?

The HTC Scribe , the company’s first proper tablet (or could it be called the HTC Flyer ?), looks very likely. Let’s face it, everybody is getting in on the act. Adding fuel to the speculative fire, apparent specs for the HTC Flyer tablet were leaked on 26 January; looks like it will ship with Android 2.3 .

Could we also see a tablet version of the popular Sense Android UI unveiled as HTC Sensation ?

We’re sure some high-end phones will be announced as per usual; we hope for a Desire and Desire HD refresh, as well as something to reboot the beautiful-but-overlooked HTC Legend. Surprisingly for the Taiwanese firm, leaks have been scarce this close to launch.

Scarce until 26 January, that is, when news of an official partnership with Facebook leaked, along with rumours that HTC will be revealing two Facebook-branded smartphones at the show. And then, on 27 January, Facebook denied the rumours , saying HTC was simply using Facebook’s APIs in “an interesting way.” We shall see.

An HTC Desire 2 was also spotted and snapped on the Taiwanese metro system, thanks to a keen eyed commuter, later it showed up in a German Vodafone inventory , thus somewhat confirming its existence.

And now we’re hearing word of something different – the HTC Desire 2 will actually be called the HTC Desire S and it will be joined by the HTC Wildfire S … could the S suffix be set for another showing from a new mobile brand? We also saw a sneak peek of the HTC Wildfire S pop up in an official HTC advert.

Google

Google needs to show off a little bit more of its Honeycomb ( Android 3.0 ) OS in the near future, as we didn’t get nearly enough from the search giant at CES.

Whether Eric Schmidt’s on-stage talk will reveal anything or a handful of tablets dotted around will do the job, the fact Google is releasing the Honeycomb SDK later this month means we should see a lot more in the near future.

RIM

RIM is traditionally quite quiet at MWC, although it will still have a presence this year.

This means that we should get some more time with the BlackBerry PlayBook , and hopefully some clue about its mysterious battery life – is it going to be as poor as some people are suggesting?

Since what looks like RIM’s entire BlackBerry line-up for the year was recently leaked (the BlackBerry Curve Apollo , BlackBerry Dakota , BlackBerry Storm 3 and BlackBerry Torch 2 all made an appearance), RIM could also take the opportunity to make some or all of these handsets official.

HP

Palm is dead, long live HP! That’s what HP is hoping for the brand, and the much-rumoured WebOS -powered PalmPad (Hurricane) HAS to step into the light soon, as the parent company will be desperate to see a return on its substantial investment.

On 9 February, HP officially retired the Palm brand name . So long, Palm.

On the plus side, it did unveil a couple of new WebOS-toting phones, including the HP Pre 3 (try saying that with a mouthful of marshmallows), the tiny little HP Veer .

The first pictures of the PalmPad emerged in late January, but HP is promising that more will be revealed on 9 February.And so it was, with the dawn of the long-awaited HP TouchPad .

Nvidia

After a presentation slide leaked on 24 January , we’re fully expecting Nvidia to whip the curtain off its Tegra 2 3D processors at the show, both an AP25 version for smartphones and a T25 version for tablets.

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