The lights of the main hall at CES 2013 may well have only just gone out, but the tech world is already looking forward to what the next event on the horizon has in store: Mobile World Congress 2013. The annual Barcelona-based phone-centric tradeshow has, in the past, provided a stage for the great and good of the mobile tech world to showcase upcoming products, be they hardware, software or services. And considering that CES was notable for a lack of launch activity from major players such as Samsung – this year seemed to have gaming and tablets as its main thrust – all eyes are on the Catalan capital in anticipation of the unveiling of key devices. Here, we take a look at what could be making an appearance from the key manufacturers this time round…
Sony’s flagship Xperia Z took all the headlines at a CES that presented as barren a landscape as the Nevada desert in terms of handsets, and so it’s highly unlikely that the Japanese manufacturer will add to its high-end roster at Mobile World Congress 2013. However, if previous release schedules are an indicator of Sony’s intentions, we could well see a smattering of low-key announcements to compliment the full HD, quad-core and fully waterproof Xperia Z. Indeed, last year’s Xperia S launch plan saw the flagship unwrapped at CES and followed by derivative Xperia P and Xperia U handsets at Mobile World Congress and it’s likely that Sony will repeat this trick again.
Major Android player and world’s biggest smartphone manufacturer Samsung eschewed this year’s CES as a potential launch pad for new devices, instead choosing to concentrate on showing off newly developed flexible OLED screen technology, the eight-core Exynos 5 Octa processor. And Android-powered fridges. Apart from an underwhelming announcement of the Galaxy S II Plus via an almost covert press release during the event, very little materialised from the Korean firm, something which may have disappointed those hoping to catch a glimpse of the much-vaunted Galaxy S IV but isn’t particularly surprising given that the S III was announced neither at CES 2012 or the Mobile World Congress that followed. Last year’s MWC saw the unveiling of the Galaxy S Wi-Fi media player and curious projector phone, the Galaxy Beam, with Samsung opting to launch its flagship Galaxy S III at a separate launch event post-MWC. If the manufacturer sees fit to take this approach again, we could see nothing more that the dual-SIM Galaxy Duos that is tipped to show up.
Despite Windows Phone enjoying a groundswell of sales in Q4, Nokia’s Lumia range has only made up 4.4 million of these and its budget Asha series has outperformed the flagship strain considerably (9.3 million units sold compared to 4.4 million Lumia devices). Could this mean that the Finnish firm will be looking to use Mobile World Congress to give its high-end range a boost, possibly by unveiling a new Lumia? Not likely as the Finnish firm has a penchant for launching new devices at its own dedicated events, much like rival Samsung. Indeed, Nokia used last year’s trip to Barcelona to unveil the 41 megapixel camera laden Nokia 808 Pureview and the Windows Phone-powered Lumia 610. However, whilst the flagship Lumia 800 was launched at Nokia World 2011, the Lumia 900 followed at MWC 2012 just a few months later, so there is a chance that Stephen Elop and co could take the wraps off something in Spain.
A good portion of 2012 was dominated by talk of RIM’s BlackBerry 10 platform, taking in everything from delays and development problems to leaks and speculation about the devices that will run the metaphorical basket that many say RIM has put all of its eggs into. This year has started much brighter for the maligned Canadian smartphone manufacturer with no further reports of set-backs and a healthy stream of leaks and positive PR appearing in the public realm ahead of the company’s scheduled 30 January BB10 launch event. With six BlackBerry phones said to have been pencilled in to hit shelves throughout 2013 and the imminent arrival of BB10 launch device, the rumoured BlackBerry Z10, Mobile World Congress could be critical for Thorsten Heins et al if only because it provides the perfect opportunity for BlackBerry to ingratiate itself with the hoards of assembled tech journalists looking for a hands-on with the new OS. Whilst it is possible for new hardware to show up, the onus is most likely to be on BB10 and its associated devices.
CES saw the Chinese manufacturer up its exposure levels even further following a successful year which saw the launch of the Android-powered Ascend P1, announcing the Ascend D2 and Ascend Mate in Las Vegas just last week. Whilst each of these devices made their début at CES 2013, it’s expected that Huawei will use MWC to extol the virtues of the full HD Ascend D2 and quad-core ‘phablet’ even further, especially as at the previous year’s event, the company failed to capitalise on the excitement generated by the impressive Ascend D Quad by following it up with an unveiling of a 10.1-inch version of its MediaPad tablet. Neither of these devices eventually managed to garner an official UK release, so here’s hoping that Huawei showcases some hardware that will make it to these shores. There’s also been talk of a follow up to its super-slim P-Series device and confirmation from CEO Richard Yu that the firm will be joining Samsung in the octo-core CPU race, so expect details of those to be presented too.
LG gave interested consumers and industry commentators alike a taste of what it had in mind following the somewhat lukewarm reception afforded to its last wave of Optimus devices and the Prada Phone mid-way through 2012 when it uwrapped the LG Optimus G. That particular device, minus LG’s Android skin, went on to be upgraded to the Google Nexus 4 and the quad-core powerhouse has enjoyed success amongst the mobile-buying public. Because of this, and the relatively short time that has elapsed since launch, it’s hard to imagine that the Korean manufacturer will be showcasing a sequel at Mobile World Congress as speculation suggests.
More readily associated with mid-range, budget handsets as opposed to high-spec premium devices, Chinese interloper ZTE has generally enjoyed fruitful appearances at Mobile World Congress in terms of getting products seen and talked about. Sadly though, much of 2012′s haul failed to make the kind of splash ZTE would have hoped for, and only one – the Mimosa X, rebadged as the ZTE Grand X - actually hit UK shelves. The 4.5-inch dual-core Snapdragon S4 powered ZTE PF112 launched at MWC 2012 is still yet to go on sale, and the device announced at the very same event, the 4.3-inch quad-core ZTE Era is presumed missing in action. Despite a past record that doesn’t bode well for expectant phone fanatics, pre-MWC hype has already begun circling the manufacturer fuelled mainly by the announcement of the ZTE Grand S at CES last week. The 5-inch, full HD, quad-core chip sporting handset looks set to go up against the likes of Sony’s Xperia Z and the Huawei Ascend D2, should it ever see a full release.
Amongst the stands of the big hitters at Mobile World Congress can be found several concessions from so-called ‘niche’ manufacturers who can actually count Taiwanese multinational computing giant Asus and tablet and laptop exponents Acer, amongst their number. Both these firms have used MWC to great effect in previous years, with the former using the show to exhibit its Liquid Glow series as well as the Acer CloudMobile and Liquid Gallant. This time round though, both Acer and Asus are expected to concentrate their attentions on the tablet market with Asus tipped to make a big fuss about its Google Nexus 7 competitor, the Asus MeMo Pad.
Another name not so synonymous with the smartphone sector is Lenovo, although with the recent announcement of its 13 megapixel camera and full 1080p HD screen-sporting K900 at CES, expect to be regaled with further details about this handset also. Samsung may well expand further on its intentions for the Tizen operating system and there’s always a chance that some of the more established brands will spring a few surprises, the biggest one being if Apple decide to attend. We’ll be covering each day of Mobile World Congress 2013 when it begins on 25 February, so be sure to visit the Dialaphone blog for all the latest news, views, and reviews.