With March now upon us, the early year expo season has drawn to a close, as first CES and then MWC delivered their one-two punch of new hardware, services, accessories, and as much mobile news as we could handle.
With Anton D. Nagy and Jaime Rivera on the floor in Barcelona, we had dozens of great opportunities to check out all the new Mobile World Congress gear for ourselves, while our team back in the States brought you word of the latest product announcements as they broke, while also swinging by New York City to check out the US side of Samsung’s Unpacked event. While the whole week is still fresh on our minds, let’s take a look back at what MWC had in store for us:
It makes sense to get started with LG, if only because LG positively couldn’t wait to share news of its latest handsets with us, making the majority of its announcements in the days leading up to MWC proper. That all started with news of the G Pro 2 coming in a little over a week early, followed shortly by word of some new L Series III models – though not all of them, as at least a couple were new to us when we got to go hands-on at MWC itself. The last LG hardware to go official pre-show was the announcement of the G2 Mini.
Once MWC was underway, we learned that LG would be returning to work on future Windows Phone models, and saw the company reveal some new F-Series phones. We also went hands-on with the G Pro 2, G2 Mini, those L-Series phones, and did some device comparisons.
ZTE was another OEM that couldn’t wait for MWC, talking about its Grand Memo II LTE handset and the Open C Firefox OS phone. Like LG, it’s also going to be releasing Windows Phone models. During the show, we got to go hands-on with the Grand Memo II LTE, and later got a much-overdo run-in with the Nubia Z5S Mini.
Huawei put together a nice spread for its MWC announcements, and in addition to tablets and wearables, those included one new smartphone, the Ascend G6. Later, we saw the phone in action and compared it against the HTC One Mini.
Nokia managed to live up to the rumors, and not only unveiled the Nokia X, but also the X+ and XL Android-based smartphones. We shot video of all three models, and saw how these new Nokias compared to the Lumia 1020.
Sony brought along a few new products, including a pair of smartphones. The Xperia Z2 was the star of the announcement, but the Xperia M2 sounded like a solid enough mid-range model. We got to check out both the Z2 and the M2 in hands-on videos, put them up against each other, and compared each with some models from other Android OEMs.
Lenovo may be getting more headlines now for its Motorola purchase than any of its own phones, but it still had a few new ones to show off, its S660, S850, and S860 Android handsets. The specs aren’t really anything to write home about, but at least the prices are relatively low. We didn’t give any one of them a very in-depth hands-on, but brought you a general overview of what Lenovo had out on display.
HTC is waiting until late March to share the all new One with us, but it still had a little something ready for MWC, introducing the Desire 816 and 610. We gave you a hands-on look at the 816, compared the model to all the phones in HTC’s One series, and even brought out a Galxy Note 3 for good measure.
Yota Devices had a follow-up to last year’s innovative YotaPhone, bringing us a souped-up model with flagship-level specs. We swung by after that announcement to go hands-on with the phone (and both of its displays).
For many of you, we’re sure MWC 2014 was about one phone in particular: the Galaxy S5. Samsung turned the spotlight to the GS5 at its Unpacked launch event, revealing the flagship with its integrated heart rate monitor. We may not have gotten the 2K display that had been rumored, or the metal body, but by this point we were just happy to see the phone go official. We compared the GS5 with a good number of its peers, and of course spent some time with the GS5 itself.
Beyond the GS5, we also got to finally see the new Galaxy S 4 Black Edition, with its Note-3-inspired backplate.
Security and privacy really became hot-button issue for smartphones last year, and manufacturers are looking to capitalize on our concerns. To that end, we saw the new Blackphone handset, running a custom Android build with enhanced privacy controls.
BlackBerry may not have brought its new phones along to demonstrate, but it took advantage of the MWC’s timing to announce its new Z3 smartphone as well as the Q20, which won’t be arriving until much later this year.
Alcatel had a few new devices to hawk, hitting a bunch of low-end notes. The One Touch Idol 2 and One Touch Idol 2 Mini were the more traditional offerings, but we also saw the One Touch Pop Fit, a “wearable” that seems more like an Android-based media player with an armband.
Huawei brought a couple tablets to MWC 2014, the MediaPad M1 and X1. Being the higher-end of the two, we gave most of our attention to the X1, doing a hands-on with the tablet before comparing it to its competition on various platforms, but still had time for a quick once-over with the M1.
While Lenovo’s phones may have been ho-hum, it put on a much more impressive tablet showing, upgrading last year’s Yoga Tablet 10 to an “HD+” version with a 1920 x 1200 display. We stopped by Lenovo’s booth to get a look at it for ourselves.
After renders of the new Gear smartwatches leaked before the Unpacked event, Samsung decided to make the best of the situation and revealed the Gear 2 and Gear 2 Neo, one day early. Later, at Unpacked proper, we saw the Gear Fit wristband launch. We spent some time at Samsung’s NYC event looking at the Gear Fit, the Gear 2, and the Gear 2 Neo.
Huawei’s TalkBand B1 was one of the more unusual wearables to make an appearance, looking like a fitness tracker but offering a pop-out Bluetooth earpiece. In addition to looking at the wristband itself, we also checked out how it stacked up against the Pebble smartwatch.
Processors and SoCs
Qualcomm helped clarify some growing changes to its Snapdragon 800 SoC, announcing the Snapdragon 801. While we’d heard of both 801 chips before, we had assumed that they would be considered variants of the 800 itself, rather than pick up new branding of their own.
Samsung still isn’t quite ready to release any 64-bit Exynos chip, but that didn’t stop the company from having some new silicon to announce, going official with its 5422 and 5260 chips. The 5260 is particularly notable for being an odd hexa-core design, with two primary cores and four low-power ones.
While most of what we covered at MWC fit into one of the above categories, not everything was a perfect match. For instance, in addition to introducing those new Exynos chips, Samsung also had news about new camera sensors. And while many of us simply use our smartphones as wireless hotspots, Huawei had an interesting stand-alone unit, supporting some very fast next-gen LTE speeds. For those of you relying on microSD expansion to give your phone the storage you crave, we saw the introduction of 128GB cards from SanDisk.
MWC didn’t just bring us announcement of new hardware; it also presented us with the opportunity to comment on all this new stuff.
Joe talked about what Nokia’s doing with its Nokia X series of phones that makes them so different from capital-A Android handsets, then discussed the impact of fitness-related features on the evolution of wearables. He also had some kind words to say about those new Desire models from HTC. Turning his attention to the Blackphone, he looked at what tangible security benefits the handset might really deliver.
Adam tackled what Microsoft’s announcement of all those new OEMs means for where the company is headed next with Windows Phone, and later considered what place the Lumia name might have with the new Nokia-owned Microsoft. We also saw him drop a few thoughts about all the “features” on phones like the GS5, and how much utility they might actually provide.
Michael had quite a bit to say about the Galaxy S5, defending the phone against some of its early nay-sayers, and then looking closely at its new fingerprint scanning abilities. While pleased with what we saw from the new YotaPhone, he had to question the wisdom of announcing a device like this quite so far in advance of when it will ultimately be available. And in light of the BlackBerry Q20 announcement, he had some critical words to say about the return to previous-generation BB designs.
Taylor also joined-in on the Galaxy S5 commentary, taking a slightly more critical look at the lack of major improvements with this year’s model, and talking about the significance (or lack thereof) of Samsung getting its GS5 launched a month before HTC’s next flagship. He also set his sights on the LG G2 Mini, and why the phone doesn’t really feel like a G2 at all, before cautioning ZTE not to overwhelm the market with quite so many similar phones.
That does it for our Mobile World Congress 2014 coverage! We hoped you got to see the models you were most looking forward to, and even if you didn’t, we’re sure to revisit a lot of this hardware in the weeks and months to come.
As we put MWC 2014 behind us, you might to check out some of our blooper footage that didn’t make it into our hands-on videos. Even with no more expos this size on the horizon for the next few months, there’s still plenty of upcoming events that promise to deliver big mobile news, so keep checking back in with us here at Pocketnow to stay abreast of all the latest developments in smartphones, tablets, and wearables.