Here’s a brief look at the major announcements made at this year’s Mobile World Congress in Barcelona:
As expected, Samsung launched its flagship Android devices the Galaxy S7 and S7 Edge at the MWC. Similarly, Sony launched Xperia X, its latest smartphone as LG launched G5, a moddable smartphone. The G5 is the most interesting of the three as it offers various modules for audio, cameras etc., to modify the features of the phone, while Samsung went back a generation to reintroduce waterproofing on its flagship.
Ubuntu launched a high end phone as well, however, the reviews haven’t been too good. Speaking of high end, Xiaomi launched Mi 5, the next iteration of its flagship device, and for the first time, with a non-iPhone look. Another interesting smartphone launched is Cat’s S60, which features a thermal imaging camera. The phone, which will be available at $599, has otherwise ordinary specifications like a 720p screen.
On the lower end of the scale ex-Apple CEO’s John Sculley company Obi Worldphone launched the low cost WV1 smartphone priced at $149. Lenovo launched a $99 Android tablet as well as a $229 Windows tablet. Other than the tablet, Microsoft also launched a Lumia phone, but since the Nokia write off, these have been slowly phasing out to obscurity. Interestingly, Nokia mentioned at the event that it would like to start making its own phones again, although there is no timeline on this one.
OS maker Cyanogen launched a platform called MOD with a limited number of developers, that lets them access parts of Android that aren’t accessible in vanilla Android. Microsoft was particularly into the whole partnership, by integrating Cortana as a voice activated system of Cyanogen with commands like ‘take a selfie’ or ‘turn on airplane mode’.
Remix OS, an Android spin-off, that turns the mobile operating system into a usable system on desktops, announced a beta that will be available for free from the 1st of March. The Verge has a complete review. On the infrastructure side of things, telecom operator Verizon mentioned that it had started testing 5G wireless in the field.
Visa launched a new program for connected devices makers called Visa Ready, to let them integrate secure payment features into their products. These will include wearables and cars. Mastercard, which already has a wearables initiative, said it planned to launch a ‘selfie pay’ feature, that would let users perform security checks using a selfie.
Starship Robot, founded by Skype founders Ahti Heinla and Janus Friis, said it has started undergoing trials. The small robot is intended for travelling across town making deliveries for small businesses on its own. Vehicle manufacturer Volvo also participated at the event, and said that it would launch Spotify streaming in certain cars globally.
Sony announced a line of accessories like the Xperia Eye, a 360 degree camera, the Xperia Projector that projects touch enabled interfaces on walls and Xperia Agent, a voice and gesture controlled device. At the other end of the spectrum, Iofit, in partnership with Samsung, launched smart shoes that lets users analyse their foot movements. Oral B, the dental hygiene products manufacturer, introduced a smart toothbrush with location sensors, to let users know exactly which teeth or areas they missed brushing.
Google introduced a new way to navigate indoors using tablets and augmented reality. The tech does not require GPS or WiFi to work, but requires users to download maps beforehand. FlexEnable previewed a futuristic flexible touchscreen device that can be worn on the wrist. Instead of relying on OLED, the company uses plastic substrates and cheaper LCD screens.
HTC previewed the consumer edition of its Vive virtual reality headset. This version will come with two controllers, motion sensors, the headset itself and will be priced $799. A proper gaming PC will be required to make use of it. LG also launched a VR headset, but one that could work with its phones. However, the headset did not get much of a positive review.
While there were not too many VR developments announced at the conference, Samsung launched its Galaxy phone by giving everyone present a VR headset to wear. Mark Zuckerberg, who spoke about the promise of VR at the same event, uploaded a picture that speaks a thousand words.