The best of MWC 2014, from afar
Sadly, Mobile World Congress is now over. This year’s mobile show in Barcelona, Spain was one of the busiest, device-driven shows in recent years. We saw a boatload of handsets, a few tablets, some wearables, and a lot of future products that won’t be available for a while.
Needless to say, there was plenty for just about everyone to be excited about at least something: a new Galaxy S smartphone, three new wrist-mounted Gear devices, a new Sony flagship, new additions to the HTC Desire lineup, new Huawei devices, including a wearable, a new YOGA Tablet and smartphone from Lenovo, Nokia X series, additions to LG’s F series, and much more. It’s overwhelming, really.
But we here at Pocketnow, individually, get jazzed over different types of products. This is, through our eyes, the best of MWC 2014 from those of us who did not attend.
This year, the same phone impressed me as it did last year – the YotaPhone. It just looks hawt. The e-ink display is just what I’d love to have for many different scenarios – mapping, reading, geocaching. This year’s updated specs make the phone even more desirable even if the price tag is on the heavy side. But as the good Mr. Fisher points out, this phone needs to be available now. All the same if we’re measuring on content alone and no availability, then the YotaPhone is my call.
“Rebirth of the HTC Desire lineup”
Tens of thousands of people attended this year’s MWC in person, and countless more took part via articles and videos. From new wearables, gazillion-core processors, phones that look like adhesive bandages, and even a phone that can figuratively self-destruct, MWC 2014 sure had a lot to show.
When all is said and done, this year’s MWC will be remembered for the rebirth of the HTC Desire lineup, which is finally deserving of its name, and other phones targeted for emerging markets. We’ll also remember this year as the point in time when the smartwatch finally started to look svelte and sexy.
Unfortunately, some of the uglier things will be remembered, too. Such is the case with the Nokia X, the phone that looks like Windows Phone, runs Android, and won’t run apps from either one’s app store.
“Gear Fit, a little gem”
In a trade show marked by the usual boatload of iterative sequels, it’s Samsung that’s brought me the biggest surprise from MWC 2014. That’s thanks not to the Galaxy S 5, which despite being unfairly criticized is also somewhat unexciting. Rather, it’s Samsung’s newest and most peculiar wearable that’s captured my imagination.
The Gear Fit, the company’s fitness band/”smart bracelet,” is an important confirmation that Samsung is capable of -and willing to- step outside its comfort zone when it comes to new categories. Even as the company devotes resources to iterating on an unpopular design with the Gear 2 series, it shows it’s willing to keep experimenting with this little gem. And judging from the early reactions, that experiment is paying off: taking a quick look around, it’s tough to find initial impressions of the Gear Fit that aren’t glowing. (That includes my own reaction to the device, from which this excerpt is taken.)
For Samsung, the key lies not just in seizing upon this opportunity to demonstrate that it’s capable of the “surprise and delight” it so often attempts, but also to position the Gear Fit as more than a fitness device. It’s products like this which must become the core of Samsung’s smart watch strategy. Only then can the company fully leave behind the echoes of its embarrassing opening-salvo misfire with the Galaxy Gear just six months ago.
Chief News Editor
“I just didn’t get much of a sense of excitement from MWC 2014.”
Maybe it’s a consequence of being inundated by just so many new products and announcements, but I really didn’t find myself spending much time thinking about any one device; nothing this year really blew me away. Even with the high profile events we had to look forward to, I ended up feeling just the slightest bit let down; with the Nokia X family, I’m more interested in the confirmation of this hardware than I am excited to actually see it go up for sale, and despite the Galaxy S 5 coming through and delivering on a good number of the rumors, with the bar set as high as it was, it’s easy to feel like a half-effort by Samsung.
Don’t get me wrong – there were some great products out there – but so many just came up a little short. Like Sony’s Xperia Z2 Tablet: better processor and more RAM? Great. But extending those updates to the display panel’s resolution might have made the difference between a respectable update, and one worth getting excited over.
And that’s a word I’m thinking about more as I look back on the week: I just didn’t get much of a sense of excitement from MWC 2014. The new products we saw were evolutionary, not revolutionary – and that’s perfectly fine; you can’t reinvent the wheel every day. If I had to name a few highlights, I love the new HTC Desires, the news of super-cheap Firefox OS phones, and word from Microsoft of a new wave of Windows Phone OEMs.
“YotaPhone. YotaPhone. YotaPhone.”
I’ve been very enthusiastic about new and unusual products this year. Personally, I find myself more and more unmoved by uninspired, run-of-the-mill devices and manufacturers with no aspirations to push the market forward, into uncharted territory.
Any company and purchase wholesale parts from a component manufacturer and spec-bump with the best. The new Snapdragon 801, a 2K display, a 20-megapixel camera, and all the RAM in the world aren’t what make new smartphones so interesting to me. It’s the (true) innovation from OEMs, companies who dare to be different, and products that push boundaries or break from the mundane rut we call “the norm”.
Yota Devices out of Russia is one of the forerunners in that category. From the front, the new YotaPhone looks a lot like the bastard child of a Moto X and Nexus S. Flip it around back, and it has a low-power, e-ink display that comes with a swatch of helpful use cases, such as dramatically extended battery life, great sunlight visibility, and an always-on display for notifications and other pertinent information.
Yota Devices, Project Ara, and all the companies thinking outside the box – not simply adapting and improving existing concepts – is what speaks to me. And for that, I tip my hat to Yota Devices for the next-gen YotaPhone. Admittedly, however, Michael is right. I’d like to see this thing sooner rather than later. But I disagree that it will lose its luster by the beginning of 2015.
“The best of MWC 2014 was …”
What was the most exciting announcement from the show for you? What was the best of MWC 2014? Was it disappointing? Was it all you had hoped for? Take the comments below, readers, and tell us your thoughts on the show.