2011
02.18

Mobile World Congress

Mobile World Congress is an annual trade show for mobile phones held in barcalona and it is happening this week, I thought I would share with you my favourite devices and the phones that I am most looking forward to in the coming months

Samsung
The latter part of 2010 was brilliant for Samsung. Their flagship phone, the Galaxy S really caught the spotlight as the device to aim for and while Samsung’s touchwiz interface and other tweaks to Android (such as the file system) dragged scores down in the reviews, it still caught on in the consumer space and the latest figures show that it has sold over 10 million Galaxy S phones up until January.
Yet it is MWC and so time for a refresh that being the Galaxy S II. This really does look the bees knees and if I had to put down money for a phone now, no doubt this would one of the few phones in the final decision. At 8.49mm thick it is the same thickness as my iPod touch and that doesn’t have all the phone, GPS and NFC radios. On the subject of NFC, or near field communications, it includes the same NFC hardware that is in the Nexus S and it seems more and more likely that the technology will make the push into western markets. (It is already a big thing in Japan.) Aside from that it also includes a 4.3 inch super AMOLED plus screen which should be very nice to watch videos and play games on. 1GB of RAM will also provide plenty of space for multitasking and the 8MP camera on the back will hopefully be a good shooter. As for the processor inside it, the dual-core, Samsung made Exynos processor has not been seen yet and so we will have to wait to see how it performs as this is its first device but if last years hummingbird processor is anything to go on it should be reasonably good.

HTC
After a brilliant start to 2010 HTC started to fade as the dominant Android manufacturer, particularly after the Galaxy S was released. The Nexus One/Desire really set the stage as to how to do android properly and the Desire is still a good phone a year on, especially with it’s declining price point. In September HTC released the Desire HD with updated specs and a larger screen but from personal experience around campus, I seem to see more Galaxy Ss than Desire HDs and HTC has been loosing market share to Samsung for it.
So, I was expecting great things from HTC to come back to their strong point, it was them after all who brought android to market in the form of the G1 and then improved it with the Hero. But it their offer seems fairly lackluster this year. The Desire S (not sure why HTC are going with the S moniker as that can really be attributed to Samsung), gets an updated MSM8255 1GHz processor with 768MB of RAM and ships with 2.4 Gingerbread. The Wildfire S is also updated and this one to an extent makes a lot more sense. The screen resolution has been increased from 320×240 to 480×320, which is what Android was originally designed for, and now means that developers should find it easier to write apps for the device.
As for the Incredible S, I was hoping this would be HTCs flagship phone to win back market share from Samsung but I am honest (I will be by saying I am a spec junkie) I don’t think it will. The MSM8522 is not quite outdated but it is still last years hardware and the same processor that is in the Desire HD. As we move to dual core processors occupying the mobile space, a single core processor is a disadvantage nevermind last years hardware. But, it may yet win out on price which will certainly not be as high as the Galaxy S II.

Motorola
Moto unveilled the Atrix at CES and it was undoubted one of the best devices of the show (the other one being the XOOM Tablet). Coming with an Nvidia Tegra2 processor and 1GB of RAM and a 960×540 qHD display, this phone is really blurring the line between a phone and computer. Still the amazing thing about the phone is the accessories that come with it, notably the laptop dock. When docked in the laptop dock the phone runs what Motorola call the Webtop with is in effect a small version of linux but the amazing thing is it runs it off the phone so the laptop dock is not necessarily a laptop it is more like a keyboard and large screen dock. I don’t feel like I can accurately describe how this thing works together so here is a video Engadget took at CES. As you may have seen, the other dock is a multimedia dock for outputting 1080p video to your TV.
This is going to be a really good phone for this year and is definitely going to give Samsung some competition.

LG
LG’s android offering in 2010 was mainly of the budget phone variety, the Optimus One selling quite well. Then late last year the Optimus 2X was announced followed by the Optimus 3D. The phones are powered by a Tegra 2 and TI OMAP 4 respective dual core processors. The 2X has been give to reviewers and many have found the phone to have good hardware but is let down by LG’s modifications to Android. The Optimus 3D includes LG’s glasses free 3D display which is used in the Nintendo3DS but it will be interesting to see how android works on a 3D display but early indications show that TI’s OMAP 4 processor is just as good if not slightly beefier than a Tegra 2.

Sony
The Xperia Play has to be one of the worst kept secrets in the tech industry ever. First it was rumoured, then engadget got pictures then a hands on all before the device was announced. Still the device is an interesting one, bringing a playstation style slide out control pad it is clear the device is aimed at the mobile gaming market but by being the only phone that has this hardware I think it will be unlikely that it will be supported in a big way by developers. Which in turn consigns the controls to the games specifically developed by sony to take advantage of them and sell the device with other developers using onscreen controls that will work with all phones. That is not to say that it is not a good phone bringing an 854×480 display and decent processing power it is still going to be good at gaming. The Xperia Arc was also shown again having being unveiled at CES and the Neo was also announced.
The problem I find though lies with Sony who, with their first android phones, had a horrible experience updating android and with the customisations needed to go into the Xperia Play to make the controls work, it is only going to delay updates again.

All things considered, the phones released over the next few months are going to have some serious power behind them and dual core CPUs will be the main consideration when it comes to choosing a high end device. If I was to put money down now for a phone it would have to be a Galaxy S II.