CES may be the go-to convention for all the latest consumer technologies in general, but for a detailed look at mobile-specific trends, technologies and devices for the year, Mobile World Congress - which kicked off yesterday in Barcelona - is the place to be. Here are some of the big developments.
Bigger and better screens
Smaller-screened smartphones and tablets will continue to make up the budget end of the market, however the showing at Mobile World Congress indicates that larger screen sizes will dominate the mid-tier and high-end mobile devices over the coming year.
Sony Ericsson unveiled the Xperia Pro and Xperia Neo, both of which have 3.7-inch 854 x 480-pixel screens, as well as the flagship Xperia Play smartphone with a 4-inch display. Samsung upped the ante slightly with its 4.27-inch AMOLED Plus Galaxy S II, while LG had the last laugh with the Optimus 3D’s impressive 4.3-inch glass-less 3D display.
Tablet vendors seem to have all but abandoned the 7-inch screen size in favour of displays that are closer to the iPad’s. Samsung's newest tablet, the Galaxy Tab 10.1, has a 10.1-inch display, while the LG Optimus Pad has an 8.9-inch display – both with increased screen resolutions of 1280 x 800 and 1280 x 768 respectively.
Read our hands-on report of Samsung's Galaxy Tab 10.1.
Let me entertainment you
We knew that dual-core processors were going to be running the bulk of high-end smartphones this year - the question was how each device was going to take advantage of all that extra horsepower. It’s now clear that gaming and multimedia are the main angles for these new super-powerful smartphones.
Sony Ericsson is leading the charge with its Xperia Play smartphone – the first to have native support for PlayStation One games, with a slide-out gaming controller to further enhance the gaming experience. Sony Ericsson has promised 50 gaming titles at launch (expected in April-June of this year in Australia), plus a dedicated PlayStation Store for buying games.
Samsung is also gunning for the portable gaming market with its new Game Hub for the Galaxy S II, although details are thin on the ground as to what games and partners will be backing it. LG's Optimus 3D offers a glass-less 3D display, DLNA and HDMI, as well as support for four times more decoders than its rivals and double the graphics performance of its nearest competitor.
There are other players in the smartphone and tablet spaces besides Android, but you really wouldn’t know it at Mobile World Congress. Samsung, Sony Ericsson, LG and also Motorola (the latter of which made the majority of its mobility announcements last month at CES) have all thrown their considerable collective weight behind Google’s mobile platform, and have announced lots of impressive smartphones and tablets at MWC.
The next few months – when all of the new devices are expected to launch – is shaping up to be one of the most competitive time periods in the history of smartphones (let alone tablets) to date.
Which leads us to …
Nokia and Microsoft, sitting in a tree...
Nokia dropped a bombshell last week when it announced it would be switching to Windows Phone 7 as its primary smartphone platform moving forward.
Nokia CEO Stephen Elop took to the stage at Mobile World Congress and outlined the Finnish company’s strategy for remaining relevant in a world dominated by iPhones and Android devices, saying that the company’s number one priority was to beat Android.
By joining forces with Microsoft, he claimed it would effectively make the mobility market a “three-horse race”, and that Nokia Windows Phone 7 devices would start shipping in volume in 2012 (although there were hints that the first devices could be touching down as early as this year).