Mobile World Congress kicks off in Barcelona on Sunday, February 21st, with two flagship smartphone launches: Samsung's Galaxy S7 and LG's G5. Officially, MWC runs from Monday, the 21st of February, to Thursday, the 25th, but whatever else happens at the show in the coming week, one of these two Korean giants will walk away with the hype crown. Either Samsung, because it's the established Android leader, or LG, because its crazy modular concept resonates with consumers who have grown tired of the same old thing. Beyond the clash of Korean clans, Mobile World Congress will also be the launch venue for a host of other smartphones as well as future technologies, devices, and peripherals. Check back here for the highlights from the show as they come in.
Feb 26, 2016
Qualcomm is back with a vengeance
The biggest winner of Mobile World Congress 2016 wasn't a phone or a phone manufacturer, but a phone chip manufacturer: Qualcomm. Having endured a rough time in 2015 due to heat and power issues with its Snapdragon 810 flagship-class processor, the American chipmaker has returned to form with its new Snapdragon 820 generation. Practically every smartphone manufacturer in attendance at MWC had a Snapdragon-powered device to show off to the world.Read Article >
Samsung introduced its new pair of flagship handsets, the Galaxy S7 and S7 Edge, which will rely on the Snapdragon 820 in the United States. LG broke all its previous records for hype and excitement with the modular G5, which will be powered by Qualcomm's chip around the world. And Sony brought out a trio of new smartphones, with the Snapdragon-powered Xperia X Performance looking like an unofficial new flagship for the Japanese company. This is a total turnaround from last year, when Samsung opted to skip the Snapdragon 810 entirely and everyone else struggled mightily to fit it into the thin and elegant chassis of a modern smartphone.
Xiaomi's Hugo Barra says the company wants to be known as a design leader
Xiaomi just announced its latest flagship, the Mi 5, and we got a chance to sit down with vice president Hugo Barra following the phone's introduction. Barra is the company's public face, having previously served as one of the leaders on Google's mobile team, and he exudes both the vast ambition of his current employer and the quiet confidence of his former company. The big thing he wanted to get across today was that Xiaomi's attendance at Mobile World Congress is mostly an ambassadorial mission. The company isn't announcing new markets for its products — it's still focused primarily on China and building out its operations in neighboring countries in Southeast Asia — but it does want to establish a global reputation and expand its name recognition.Read Article >
In order to be taken seriously around the world, Xiaomi will first have to shake its reputation for being one of the Chinese copycats that Apple has in the past criticized for ripping off its iPhone and other products. The Mi 5 achieves that with aplomb, showing off design hallmarks that Xiaomi introduced with its Mi Note, and looking nothing like Apple's aluminum-clad flagship. Some might argue that Xiaomi has shifted to copying Samsung, owing to the similar lines of the Mi 5 to Samsung's Galaxy Note and Edge devices, but Barra is definite on that point: Xiaomi's Mi Note was first out of the gate with the 3D-curved back now featured on the Mi 5. It's evident that the company has invested heavily in its design, and Barra anticipates a time when people will recognize phones that look similar and say "hey, that looks like a Xiaomi phone!" It's a fittingly bold ambition from one of the mobile industry's fastest growing companies. Watch our full interview with Hugo Barra for more on Xiaomi's plans for the future.
Samsung Galaxy S7 vs. LG G5: two of 2016’s biggest phones face off
Samsung's two new smartphones and LG's one phone with a clique of Friends accessories have stirred up most of the hype and excitement around Mobile World Congress this year. It's actually been a terrific show for improved industrial design from all manufacturers, and we've seen more interesting concepts and ideas than usual this year. Still, the biggest interest has been reserved for the two giant chaebols from Korea. Samsung's Galaxy S7 and S7 Edge are the latest iterations of the most successful line of Android smartphones to date, while LG's G5 is a massive leap forward and a legitimate attempt at dethroning Samsung's incumbency. It's an exciting prospect to look forward to for the next few months: two truly compelling, truly high-end smartphone propositions that are different in substantial ways and offer users meaningful differences in experience.Read Article >
Feb 24, 2016
LG’s new virtual reality headset has a problem: too much reality
As part of LG’s range of peripherals for its new G5 flagship smartphone, the company has created a lightweight virtual reality headset: the LG 360 VR. Like Samsung’s Gear VR, it’s powered by a smartphone. But unlike the Gear, it doesn’t use your smartphone’s screen as a display. Instead of slotting the G5 into the back of the headset, you attach it via a USB-C cable and use the 360’s own internal screens. This has the advantage of making the headset super light (just 118 grams), but that’s about the only good thing this thing has going for it.Read Article >
First look at Xiaomi's Mi 5 flagship
One of the biggest names in China's smartphone market has come to the world's biggest mobile show to debut its next flagship, the Mi 5. Today, Xiaomi introduces itself to a global audience on the Mobile World Congress stage as it details its latest top-of-the-line Android smartphone.Read Article >
Feb 24, 2016
Xiaomi announces the Mi 5, its latest flagship phone
Xiaomi has officially announced the Mi 5, its latest flagship device, at events in Beijing and Barcelona today. The Mi 5 follows the Mi 4 launched 18 months ago. It is a 5.15-inch smartphone with Qualcomm's Snapdragon 820 processor, up to 4GB of RAM and 128GB of storage, a 3,000mAh battery, and what Xiaomi is calling a "3D ceramic" body. It has a similar design language to last year's Mi Note and Samsung's Galaxy Note 5, with a metal frame, front and rear glass panels, and a fingerprint sensor integrated into the home button. The Mi 5's camera is a 16-megapixel unit with four-axis optical image stabilization.Read Article >
The Mi 5 runs Xiaomi's MIUI 7 interface on top of Android 6.0 Marshmallow, and comes with weekly software updates from Xiaomi's community. It's the first phone that ships with Xiaomi's Mi Video Calling app, a new cross platform video chat app that includes live video effects and multitasking modes. The phone will be available starting on March 1st and will be priced at $354 (2,600RMB) for the high-end 128GB model and $262 (1,999RMB) for the entry-level 32GB version, keeping in line with Xiaomi's tradition of offering a lot of specs for a low price. The Mi 5 will come in black, white, and gold color options. It will come to China first, followed by India and other markets Xiaomi sells its devices in.
Feb 24, 2016
Watch Xiaomi launch its new flagship phone live at Mobile World Congress
Buzzy Chinese smartphone company Xiaomi is making its first major appearance at Mobile World Congress in Barcelona this year. The company is set to unveil the Mi 5, its latest flagship smartphone, in what it calls a "Global Launch Event." Could that naming, along with the event's location, hint that Xiaomi might be looking to expand its borders further beyond Asia? It'd be a long shot, but you can tune into the live stream above to find out.Read Article >
Xiaomi rose to prominence a few years ago as one of the first companies to sell competent smartphones at extremely low prices, gathering a large user base with the intention of hooking people on a broader ecosystem. Hype around the company peaked in late 2014, when it was valued at a staggering $46 billion.
Feb 23, 2016
Hanging out with the adorable Starship delivery robot
Picture this: You're hungry, so you order some food online. But when it comes 30 minutes later, it's not being handed to you by a human. Instead, you pluck it out of a robot.Read Article >
It sounds weird, but some of the founders of Skype want to make it a reality. So Ahti Heinla and Janus Friis started a company called Starship Technologies. Their concept is an autonomous delivery robot that drives on sidewalks and looks like a small cooler on wheels.
The Vive can save HTC
At this year's Mobile World Congress, the HTC Vive virtual reality headset has been adorned with an aggressive $799 price and a few small aesthetic tweaks to finalize its consumer edition look. It has also wowed and amazed everyone who has tried it, myself included. HTC is rapidly speeding toward becoming a one-product company with the Vive, but on the evidence of what I've seen and experienced today, I don't think anyone at the company should be too afraid of that prospect.Read Article >
I've just come out from a demo of the Vive Pre at HTC's booth — whose performance is equivalent to the upcoming consumer edition — and all I can say are good things. Of all the VR headsets out there, the Vive is the only one that truly works for me. With the Oculus Rift, Gear VR, and even LG's new 360 VR headset, I spend most of my time in a futile battle to adjust the optics so that my eyes can focus on what's presented in front of them. It's enough to make me think I might need glasses, but then I pop on the HTC Vive and everything is crisply in focus without me needing to mess around. All these headsets are about immersion, first and foremost, and the Vive achieves it most instantaneously and realistically for me.
Up close with the HTC Vive consumer editionRead Article >
It costs $799 and it can be preordered next Monday for delivery in April. It's the Oculus Rift's closest and sternest competitor, and today at MWC, it makes its public debut. The consumer edition of the HTC Vive virtual reality headset is being shown off for the first time at the Taiwanese company's booth. It's not dramatically different from the HTC Vive Pre introduced at CES, but that's to be expected given the short time that's passed since then and the mature design that HTC was already working with. The company has only made a few ergonomic tweaks and optimizations, so you'll have to look closely to spot the differences. For that purpose, we've prepared a full gallery for you to explore.
Feb 23, 2016
MasterCard unveils 'selfie' security checks, says heartbeat authentication could follow
MasterCard says it plans to bring "selfie pay" security checks to more than a dozen countries. Last year, the company started trialling the technology — which uses facial recognition to authenticate users' identity — but now says it has firm plans to roll the feature out to users after positive reactions from testers.Read Article >
LG's Rolling Bot is like a drunken, headless BB-8
If there's one thing that Sphero's BB-8 droid has proven, it is the extreme adorableness of spherical remote-controlled bots. So when LG announced at Mobile World Congress that its flagship G5 smartphone would have an accompanying Rolling Bot that works much like a Sphero robotic ball, we simply had to go and spend some quality time with it.Read Article >
Alas, the LG Rolling Bot is nowhere near as mature as the BB-8. It's operated using an app on the G5, though it doesn't seem to respond to all commands and sometimes only reacts after an elongated delay. This is because the software and the bot itself are still very much under development — LG anticipates having the G5 in stores by early April, but the Rolling Bot is still five to six months away. As such, its presence here at Mobile World Congress is primarily as a proof of concept and as a cute accessory to join the cast of so-called Friends that LG is preparing for the G5.
The most powerful Ubuntu phone is still not good enough
If there's one thing tech enthusiasts love more than an underdog, it's an underdog with high specs. The Meizu Pro 5 Ubuntu Edition is just such a device. It's powered by the same 14nm Samsung Exynos processor as the flagship Galaxy S6. It has a 21-megapixel camera with laser-assisted phase-detect autofocus and a Hi-Fi audio chip from ESS. Clad in an aluminum unibody shell and sporting an AMOLED display, it's as modern and good looking as any smartphone out here at Mobile World Congress. But it runs Ubuntu, and that makes it too much of an underdog.Read Article >
FlexEnable has created a screen you can wrap around your wrist
Sometimes, it seems like the tech world is inexorably bending towards a future full of curved devices. At MWC in Barcelona, we saw yet another prototype display, this time from English firm FlexEnable. Now, this isn't a working device of any kind — it's essentially just a screen running a demo — and neither is FlexEnable a consumer electronics company. But the firm says its technology is ready to go, and it's apparently in talks with unnamed hardware partners who want to make this sort of device a reality. How long until we see fully-fledged wristbands like this on the market? Eighteen months is the optimistic guess from FlexEnable's Paul Cain.Read Article >
These smart shoes fixed my awful golf swing in two minutesRead Article >
The Internet of Things has infected another formerly benign product that we use every day: shoes. Iofit, a company that was recently spun out of Samsung's new startup accelerator, is here at Mobile World Congress to show off their soon-to-be-crowdfunded smart fitness sneakers.
The G5 is LG's best ever phone and its Friends are the reason why
LG's G5 was only introduced yesterday, but I'm already convinced it is the most polished and complete smartphone that the Korean company has yet built. Unlike its forebears, the G5 grew smaller rather than larger, and LG added features judiciously rather than gratuitously. This could only be possible with the introduction of the plug-in G5 modules that LG calls its Friends. Those extras have freed the Korean company from its perpetual obsession with cramming everything into a single device and, simultaneously, given it the halo of being perceived as a true innovator.Read Article >
Sony's new Xperia X phones feature better cameras and thinner bezels
Sony's Xperia range of smartphones has always delivered attractive design, and a new trio of devices announced at MWC today are no exception. The Xperia X, Xperia X Performance, and Xperia XA all have the same premium-feeling cases and rounded glass fronts that have been the hallmarks of Sony's smartphones, with the XA — the lowest specced of the three — introducing a particularly impressive looking display with barely-there bezels.Read Article >
Feb 22, 2016
Sony's new 'smart' accessories borrow ideas from Motorola and Amazon
Sony announced a line of new accessories at Mobile World Congress in Barcelona today, with the Xperia Ear, a new wireless earpiece, chief among them. The Xperia Ear is similar to Motorola's Moto Hint: it's a small Bluetooth device that provides "useful information such as your schedule, weather and the latest news" in your ear. It can be controlled via voice commands to make calls, perform searches, dictate messages, or get directions.Read Article >
The Xperia Ear will connect to a smartphone via NFC and Bluetooth and is controlled with a companion smartphone app. An included case doubles as a charger, offering up to three full charges that provide up to four hours of talk time. The Ear feels like a well-made device, but the use cases aren't incredibly convincing. Simply being told when you're getting an incoming message isn't much less distracting than having it pop on your phone screen. Sony says the device will be available this summer at a to-be-announced price.
Remix OS, a desktop-focused version of Android, is coming to older PCs
Earlier this year at CES we saw Remix OS — an Android fork with desktop features that you can load on to pretty much any x86 computer. Now, the company behind Remix OS, Jide, has announced the release of the software's beta for March 1st, adding support for older, 32-bit machines. This means that if you've got a moldy laptop or PC kicking about that you want to bring some fresh life to, you can download Remix OS for free, chuck it onto a USB stick, and boot it up. The software adds a bunch of desktop features to Android, including mouse and keyboard support, a traditional windowed interface, a file manager, and a dock at the bottom of the screen for apps. And because it's Android, you can run anything you would on the regular mobile OS — from Instagram to Clash of Clans.Read Article >
Along with the extra support for 32-bit systems, the Remix OS beta has numerous bug fixes, dual boot support, and over-the-air updates. This last point, says Jide co-founder David Ko, will mean that users "can begin to rely on Remix OS for more daily activities without the worry of a new update wiping their data." Whether anyone is actually relying Remix OS for their daily workload is another question, and there are still challenges for users. For example, the beta doesn't come preloaded with Google Play Services or the Play Store (Jide says says Google is taking "the time they need to test the new operating environment"), and people will instead have to sideload these themselves to get the full Android experience. Still, it's a little effort for what looks like a fascinating project.
The MV1 is a cute and capable smartphone made for emerging markets
Obi Worldphone, the company started by former Apple CEO John Sculley, is adding a new phone to its lineup for emerging markets. The MV1 is an unlocked, dual-sim LTE smartphone with a 5-inch display that can run either Android 5.1 Lollipop or Cyanogen OS.Read Article >
Recently, the tech industry has been full of talk about the "next billion" people coming online. Obi itself released two phones last year that were squarely aimed at this market. But instead of selling supremely modest phones at bargain bin prices, like Mozilla once tried, Scully wanted to offer high-touch design at an affordable, if not completely cheap, cost.
HTC adds a Micro Splash of color to new Desire smartphones
That HTC A16 you might have heard of turns out not to have been a successor to the HTC One A9, but rather the codename for a pair of new lower-tier smartphones from the company. It denotes the shared industrial design of the new HTC Desire 530 and Desire 630 devices, both running Android Marshmallow on a set of low-end components and encasing it in a fun, prettily designed exterior. They make their debut here at Mobile World Congress alongside a larger and more powerful Desire 825, rounding out a refresh of HTC's more affordable range.Read Article >
Feb 21, 2016
Mark Zuckerberg stole Samsung's Galaxy S7 show
Samsung didn't have many surprises left to announce with its thoroughly leaked new Galaxy S7 phones, so it decided to spring Facebook chief Mark Zuckerberg on an unsuspecting crowd. What Samsung itself might not have suspected, however, was just how raucous and frenetic the reaction would be.Read Article >
The setup was great: journalists were invited to watch a virtual reality demo using Samsung's Gear VR headsets, and when the time came to remove them, there was Mark Zuckerberg standing in the middle of the stage, wearing his familiar gray T-shirt. Cue a moment of confused gasps of excitement, followed by an escalating stampede of journalists and photographers toward the stage. Zuckerberg was there to talk up Facebook and Samsung's VR partnership, but his words went mostly unheard as everyone was too busy trying to capture an image of him. It was the tech celebrity equivalent of Bieber mania. And it was a little bit scary. Or maybe a lot, since Zuckerberg walked off the stage with sweat patches under his arms. In any case, the desired outcome of drumming up hype was achieved.
Feb 21, 2016
The world's first phone with a built-in thermal camera is kinda hot
The name Cat is usually associated with machinery, so it’s rather fitting that it has the world’s first smartphone with a built-in thermal camera. Announced earlier in the week, it’s on show at Mobile World Congress in Barcelona today, and it offers the first glimpse at this type of technology directly within a phone.Read Article >
Feb 21, 2016
Samsung’s Gear 360 camera looks like an eyeball and shoots 360-degree video
Samsung is entering the nascent 360-degree imaging market with a new camera called the Gear 360. The camera was announced alongside the reveal of the Galaxy S7 and S7 Edge this evening at the company's Mobile World Congress event in Barcelona, and it will be available in the second quarter of this year.Read Article >
The Gear 360 is a tiny, double-lensed sphere of a camera that's supposed to make shooting and sharing 360-degree photos and videos easy and approachable. (Let's just say it — it looks like an eyeball.) The bottom of the camera is flat, so it can rest on most surfaces, and it also features a standard tripod mount. The Gear 360 is mostly featureless on the outside, with just menu, record, and power buttons and a tiny monochrome PMOLED screen dotting the white plastic finish. There's also a slot for the microSD card (up to 128GB supported) and a swappable battery, both of which are hidden behind a small door. The camera is only splash-proof and dust resistant, though, so don't expect it to take a beating.
Feb 21, 2016
Samsung’s Galaxy S7 and S7 Edge bring refinement to a proven design
Samsung had something to prove with last year’s Galaxy S6 and S6 Edge. It wanted to show the world that it too could make high-end smartphones with great design and premium materials, just like Apple and HTC have done for years. And it succeeded: the S6 models were by far the nicest smartphones ever to come out of the Korean giant’s factories. The cheesy plastic was ditched and replaced with metal and glass. This move did wonders to shake Samsung’s bad rap for making cheap-feeling, ugly devices. But they weren’t without flaws: high prices, the removal of expandable storage and waterproofing, and poor battery life disappointed many reviewers and buyers, and the S6 line hasn’t turned around Samsung’s sinking mobile business.Read Article >
Now the company is launching its next volley, the Galaxy S7 and S7 Edge. The new S7 models don’t rewrite the book — they borrow liberally from the S6’s design and feature set. But they bring numerous refinements and improvements, and they restore features that went missing from the Galaxy S6 line. They are, very likely, the best phones that Samsung has ever made.