Mobile World Congress (MWC) is a very big deal - especially now that smartphones are outselling PCs. As more and more of us do our computing on portable devices, MWC is a kind of crystal ball showing what we'll be using in the months and years to come. So what were the stars of MWC 2011?
The most exciting news at this year's MWC was tablet-shaped. This year's crop of devices actually exist, and there are some belters. Samsung showed off its Galaxy Tab 10.1, a bigger, faster version of its Galaxy Tab; HTC took the wraps off its first tablet, the Flyer; LG had its Optimus Pad; HP the TouchPad; and Motorola showed off its Xoom. Acer unveiled its Iconia Tab A500, while Viewsonic showed off the dual-booting Android/Windows 7 ViewPad 10 Pro. It was nice to see RIM's BlackBerry PlayBook too, as cynics were beginning to think the tablet only existed in promotional videos.
Smartphone fans weren't disappointed either. Many firms used their display technology to differentiate their products from rival offerings, so for example Samsung's Galaxy S II has a gorgeous Super AMOLED Plus display that's lickably good, while LG's Optimus 3D delivers 3D without the need to wear 3D glasses. It's unclear whether 3D is going to take off or if it's just a gimmick, so it's perhaps just as well that the Optimus 3D is a powerful smartphone in its own right. Android champion HTC unveiled refreshed versions of its flagship phones too, with updates to the HTC Desire, HTC Wildfire and HTC Incredible S.
HTC had another idea up its sleeve: Facebook phones. The HTC ChaChaand Salsa have Facebook baked into their operating systems instead of providing it via a stand-alone app, and the idea is that Facebook will be as much a part of your phone as your address book. What you make of that depends on how sinister you think Facebook is.
Sony Ericsson's back on form: its Xperia Playis a well-specced phone with a PlayStation hidden inside it, while the Xperia Arc offers a "reality display" that's incredibly thin. Then there's the Neo, essentially an Xperia Pro with a touchscreen instead of a keyboard and a camera with an incredible 8 megapixels, LED flash and HD video recording.
As ever, the really big news happened away from the MWC stalls: the Friday before MWC, Nokia boss Stephen Elop announced an incredible tie-up with Microsoft. Symbian is effectively a dead operating system walking: going forward, Nokia will be using Windows Phone 7 as its smartphone operating system.
The Nokia/Microsoft partnership could go one of two ways. By bringing Nokia's superb hardware to the Windows Phone platform - a genuinely good mobile OS - it could be a win/win situation producing a range of must-have smartphones; however, by bringing two extremely big firms with very different corporate cultures together it could be a lose/lose situation producing some truly terrible smartphones that the entire world laughs at. We're hoping it's the former, but it'll be a few months before anybody sees the first fruits of the collaboration.
Apple wasn't at MWC, but it still hung around like a big hangy thing. Every tablet launch was tempered by the knowledge that Apple is about to announce the iPad 2, and Apple managed to overshadow some of the phone news too: in a not-leaked-at-all-by-Apple bit of news, The Wall Street Journal reported that the firm is working on an ultra-small device dubbed the iPhone Nano. The Nano is still very much a rumour - the source stressed that the device could still be delayed or scrapped altogether - but we're sure the inevitable headlines really annoyed Apple's rivals.
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