Mobile World Congress has begun in Barcelona, with some of the biggest names in tech descending on the city to show off their latest products. We're going to be seeing new phones from the likes of LG, Huawei, and Sony. And although the usual news of Samsung's latest flagship is a no-show this year, we're expecting some new tablets from the South Korean tech company. Oh, and BlackBerry and Nokia will also be making appearances, for those of you who like their tech served with a side order of nostalgia. Stay tuned below to keep up with the biggest updates from this year's show:
Mar 29, 2017
This article was originally posted during Mobile World Congress earlier this month. The trend it addresses, of smartphone manufacturers sticking with the traditional audio jack, is even more prominent today in the wake of Samsung’s Galaxy S8 launch.Read Article >
In 2016 Apple removed the headphone jack from its iPhone, and in 2017 it seemed the rest of the mobile industry would follow suit, leaving us with only a choice between a Lightning or USB-C dongle. But a cool thing is happening at Mobile World Congress this year: Android phone manufacturers are shrugging off the jack-less fad and are forging ahead with the traditional 3.5mm headphone output intact.
Mar 3, 2017
I’ve made no secret of my deep and passionate love affair with the camera inside Google’s Pixel. The phone itself is nothing special, but the pictures I take with it are a whole new level of awesome that I’ve never previously experienced with any mobile device. So spending the week at Mobile World Congress in Barcelona and exploring a whole fresh wave of Android smartphones, the only thing I could think was "if only this thing had the Pixel’s camera."Read Article >
Oppo, for example, has a gorgeous red R9s limited edition that I would gladly lust after if I knew its camera were as good as Google Pixel’s. Huawei’s P10 is a very nicely designed phone, but I have my doubts it has the best mobile camera around. And LG’s G6 is practically the blueprint for what I desire from an ideal smartphone, which is why I’m afraid to even try its camera, lest it reveals itself to be less awesome than the Pixel’s. But here’s the thing: they all could have the same class of camera inside them. All it would take is Google giving away its camera algorithms in the same way that it gives away the core of Android for device manufacturers to build on top of.
Mar 2, 2017
At Mobile World Congress in Barcelona this week, the concept of 5G feels almost like a cult. Everywhere you look, companies are talking about the “transformative power” of a technology that hasn’t even been standardized yet. Industry reps preach about 5G’s greatness; booths are dedicated to showcasing its miracles; and visitors attend talks with titles like “The Future of All Things and The Creation of Time.” Mobile data has never felt so religious.Read Article >
It would be easy to dismiss all this as hype, but that’s not entirely fair: 5G will genuinely be transformative — when it finally gets here. Although a full technical standard has yet to be settled, industry bodies have published general benchmarks for the new technology. They cite download speeds of up to 10 gigabits per second (that would be 1,000 times faster than the current US 4G average); latency of less than a millisecond; and support for a million connected devices per square kilometer. These specs won’t just let you download a full movie on your phone in seconds, but will also enable all sorts of services that need reliable, high-bandwidth data to work — everything from remote-control surgical robots to live-streaming VR footage.
I’ve finally figured out Sony’s mobile strategy. The proud Japanese company understands that its competitiveness in the mobile sector is over. It knows it will never again speak the same language as US carriers, and it’s aware that European consumers have shifted their preference over to devices from Samsung, Apple, and a bevy of cheaper and better Android rivals. Ergo, Sony no longer gives a fuck and has decided to just go out in a blaze of glory. And that’s how we arrive at the newly announced Xperia XZ Premium, a phone that won’t be released for another four months and which was never designed to be used by mortals.Read Article >
Start with the XZ Premium’s glaring exterior: a perfect mirror-finish chrome that’s at once distractingly reflective and upsettingly ugly once it’s been touched. Having handled it a few times this week, I get the feeling it magnetizes fingerprints to its surface, rather than the way you sometimes activate a touchscreen by hovering your finger above it. This thing’s been made to sit on a pedestal and look pretty. And sure, in those circumstances, it’s very pretty.
I find it surreal to think that a company can be one of the top five smartphone vendors in the world while selling the overwhelming majority of its phones within just one country. But that’s Oppo and that’s the grand scale of the Chinese mobile market. For Mobile World Congress 2017, Oppo decided to announce not a new phone, but a new camera technology called 5X Dual Camera Zoom. I got to try it out at the show, and I must say it’s kind of awesome.Read Article >
Oppo has taken the biggest challenge of smartphone cameras, which is their inability to provide optical zoom while keeping the device to a slim profile, and thought sideways about it. The new system has one traditional camera sensor and one that’s been pivoted 90 degrees so that it doesn’t face the back of the phone but looks to the side instead. Then there’s a series of lenses to focus the light onto that sensor, which arrives into the phone and is pointed at the sensor via a mirror, or prism. Basically, it works just like a periscope.
Feb 28, 2017
Update Mar 01st, 00:48 AM: Google reached out to The Verge to clarify remarks made to TechCrunch. “It's not ‘no plans,’ more precisely it's ‘we don't have any plans to discuss at this time.’”Read Article >
The Pixel laptop is no more. At Mobile World Congress, Google’s senior vice president for hardware Rick Osterloh said the company will stop making Chromebooks under the Pixel name, which has recently become more synonymous with the company’s flagship smartphone. According to TechCrunch, Osterloh said Google may still use the Pixel branding for future products that integrate Google’s software with its own hardware, but that is unlikely to come in the form of a laptop computer.
Self-driving racecars sounded ridiculous to me the first time I heard about the idea. Why not just televise CPU vs. CPU Gran Turismo races while we’re at it? But at Mobile World Congress this week, Formula E boss Alejandro Agag and Roborace CEO Denis Sverdlov unveiled the Robocar with a compelling pitch: it’s all about trust.Read Article >
If we’re ever to get to a point where all cars are electric and autonomous, demonstrating that robots can drive themselves around complex tracks at 200 mph without exploding would seem to be as good a way as any to convince the public at large that these machines can be safe and reliable. It’ll also probably help if the car looks as ridiculously beautiful as the Robocar.
Feb 28, 2017
Ford unveiled a new concept at Mobile World Congress in Barcelona today: an electric self-driving delivery van that can launch a fleet of drones to pick up and drop off packages in hard-to-reach places. The automaker said the idea fits into its self-styled “City of Tomorrow,” a high concept vision of the future involving autonomous vehicles, ride-sharing, and a bevy of other transportation buzz words.Read Article >
“Autolivery,” as the concept is called, is geared toward solving the last-mile challenge in delivery, specifically the last 15 meters between the delivery truck and the drop-off. The drones will come in handy when dealing with deliveries in dense, urban areas, where parking is impractical and people live in high-rise apartment buildings. And as more people shop online, the pressure to improve the efficiency of delivery services will grow.
At Huawei’s Mobile World Congress event on Sunday, CEO Richard Yu couldn’t stop saying one particular phrase when talking about the P10’s camera: “Leica-style portraits.” Huawei has put portrait modes into its cameras for a while, and started its Leica partnership last year, but with the P10 the company is making a concerted technical and promotional effort to push the feature.Read Article >
Like the iPhone 7 Plus, the P10 uses a combination of software and a dual-camera array to simulate the shallow depth of field you typically need expensive gear to achieve. I find this technology fascinating, and it’s clear that similar techniques are going to be a big part of photography’s future. But Huawei and Apple’s implementations are actually very different, each with pros and cons.
Over the past couple of years, few companies have made as much progress on the global stage of mobile technology as Huawei. Better known for providing networking infrastructure for most of its history, Huawei is quickly becoming a household name in the West, just as it’s well known in its native China. But still, this old engineering giant has a few things to learn about the proper way to present its products.Read Article >
Back at IFA in September, Huawei’s Nova series launch featured a 20-minute selfie masterclass from a random Instagram user. It was peculiar, it was patronizing, and it was perplexing. It also made me completely forget about the Nova phones that we were supposedly there to see. Here is but a quick highlight reel of it:
There’s a trend among Android phone makers that I’ve seen reach its apotheosis at this year’s Mobile World Congress. The capacitive touch buttons that have been a signature of Android devices for many years are now all but entirely deprecated. LG and Sony long ago moved to on-screen software buttons, aligning themselves with Google’s preference and advice, but the intriguing thing at MWC 2017 is the addition of a new type of interaction that has neither capacitive nor software keys — it just relies on one pseudo-button.Read Article >
Huawei and Moto have both moved to a new type of home button, which isn’t really a button but rather just a touch-sensitive surface. So far, so familiar, but the novelty is that they’re now combining gestures and taps to turn the trio of Android shortcuts — Back, Home, and Recent Apps — into a one-button user interface. Huawei’s approach is one tap to go back, long press to go home, and a swipe to bring up the multitasking menu. Of course, this wouldn’t be Android without fragmentation, so Moto’s method is slightly different (swipe left to go back, right for multitasking, and a tap to go home), but having tried both of them, I can say that they’re improvements on the status quo and I’m glad the change is happening.
Porsche Design has announced its new 2-in-1, called the Book One, today at Mobile World Congress and it sure reminds us of a Surface Book. The device runs Windows 10 Pro and includes a 5-megapixel camera with an infrared sensor for logging in through Windows Hello. Here’s the rest of the specs:Read Article >
The Book One also supports a digital stylus that sticks to the right side of the device magnetically. It’s worth noting the notebook’s hardware was likely done by Quanta, a company that also helped manufacture Amazon’s Fire tablets.
A funny thing is happening at this year’s Mobile World Congress: a show defined by its future-facing announcements and innovations essentially ground to a halt to gawk at Nokia rewinding the clock a decade and a half with its launch of the Nokia 3310. The 2017 edition of that true classic of a mobile phone stays faithful in almost all respects to the original. It’s devastatingly simple, adding only a handful of useful functions — like a calculator, flashlight, media player, and camera — to the basic capabilities of texting and making calls. Oh, and it plays Snake.Read Article >
SanDisk announced at Mobile World Congress today that it’s beefing up its iOS flash drive line. Both the iXpand Flash Drive and Connect Wireless Stick are now capable of holding 256GB-worth of data. The iXpand includes a Lightning and USB 3.0 connector, so users can transfer data between their iOS device and Mac or PC. It’s already available in 16GB, 32GB, 64GGB, and 128GB. The 256GB version costs $197.50.Read Article >
The Connect Wireless Stick accompanies SanDisk’s companion iOS app, which users can access to stream music or movies from the stick. The app also streams content via AirPlay to the Apple TV. The new 256GB version costs $279.99. Both devices are available through the usual retailers, including Amazon, Best Buy, and B&H.
Oppo has announced a new camera technique designed to enable 5x zoom even in thin smartphones. The company’s “5x Dual Camera Zoom” technology gets around vertical height constraints — the biggest design challenge in smartphone cameras — with a periscope-style lens array that runs horizontally along the top of the device. The system appears to be based around a secondary longer prime lens like you get with the iPhone 7 Plus — the innovation here is in shrinking the module size while increasing the degree of image magnification.Read Article >
The optically stabilized telephoto lens is offset by 90 degrees, focusing light onto an image sensor after it travels through a prism. While the lens has a focal length 3 times longer than the primary wide-angle camera, Oppo claims “lossless” 5x zoom through a “proprietary image fusion technology for digital zoom,” which we’ll believe when we see. The module is only 5.7mm thick, meaning it should be possible to include on smartphones without requiring a large camera bump.
Samsung introduced some tablets at Mobile World Congress last night. I was there, I listened to the whole thing, and I can’t really tell you much about them other than they exist and they’re technologically advanced. What swept me up in real emotion, however, was the Korean company’s deal with German pencil maker Staedtler to issue an S Pen styled to look like a classic pencil. It was a simple implement of digital writing that immediately triggered a flood of awkward adolescent memories for me.Read Article >
I’ve never found any great utility in Samsung’s S Pen or Apple’s Pencil, even while I recognize their technical brilliance, but I feel drawn to this digital pencil that’s built exactly like an analogue pencil because it’s so familiar and intuitive. Samsung and Staedtler call it the Noris digital.
Feb 27, 2017
Over the decades, Peugeot has earned a reputation for developing zany concept cars, like the Jetsons-like 1986 Proxima, the rocket-shaped Asphalt, or Moovie — an urban two-seater that looks more like a computer mouse than an actual car. The French manufacturer's new Instinct concept, unveiled at Mobile World Congress today, doesn't look as wildly futuristic as some of its previous creations — but according to Peugeot’s design team, that’s exactly the point.Read Article >
"In the future, maybe you will have cars that can be only autonomous, and it will be forbidden to drive anymore,” says Matthias Hossann, head of concept car and advanced design at Peugeot. “But this transition will be very long, and what we wanted to illustrate here is part of this transition, because this will take time.”
Last month at CES HTC announced the Vive Deluxe Audio Strap, a Vive accessory that adds integrated headphones and improves the VR headset’s comfort, and today at Mobile World Congress the company is revealing details on availability. The Deluxe Audio Strap will sell for $99.99 and ship in June, with preorders opening on May 2nd.Read Article >
HTC has also provided more details on the Vive Tracker, an accessory that can be attached to real-world objects so that they can be used in VR. The tracker will cost $99.99, too, and will go on sale to Vive developers on March 27th; availability to consumers will follow later in the year.
Nearly two months after ZTE announced that the Blade V8 Pro would be coming to the US, the company is adding two new devices to the line: the Blade V8 Lite and Blade V8 Mini. Both phones will only be initially available in the Asia Pacific and Europe, including Russia, Japan, and Germany. Let’s check out the specs:Read Article >
Blade V8 Mini:
Sony has a compelling vision for the future of computing, but it doesn’t always manage to follow through. Case in point, the company has announced at MWC today a new concept version of its Xperia Ear — a headphone with a built-in digital assistant (the Sony Agent).Read Article >
Sony says the technology is “hands-free, eyes-free, and ears-free.” And why ears-free? Because these headphones use something called “open-ear” technology that transmits sound “directly to the ear canal.” This has the same effect as the audio passthrough tech we’ve seen in other wireless earphones — allowing users to listen to music and interact with an assistant while still hearing noise from the world around them.
Over the past couple of years, Sony has shown off a number of experimental products designed for the home. Now, though, one of them is actually going on sale: the newly christened Xperia Touch — an Android projector that turns any surface into a touchscreen.Read Article >
Unveiled at MWC today, the Xperia Touch is meant to be more than just a projector, with Sony hoping it will act as a digital hub for families. The company has created its own user interface for the Touch, which puts a bunch of information in one place, including calendar events, real-time weather data, and a “memo board” anyone can doodle on. You can also access Skype video chat from this screen, or leave video notes (like “remember the milk!” or “I love you don’t die today!”) for other members of your family. You can check out a video of the prototype version of the Touch, then named the Xperia Projector, from CES below:
Feb 27, 2017
Sony’s just-announced XZ Premium isn’t the company’s only new smartphone debuting here at Mobile World Congress. Along with the Premium, billed as Sony’s “most ground-breaking smartphone to date,” three other phones are also being unveiled today. The first and most interesting is the Xperia XZs, which features the exact same, new 19-megapixel Motion Eye camera system that’s found in the XZ Premium. It can do the 960-frames-per-second slowmo. It’s got the same Predictive Capture feature that’s meant to prevent you from missing fleeting moments. And since it captures larger pixels, Sony says low light performance has improved as well.Read Article >
So the XZs has the same camera as XZ Premium — though we can’t assess Sony’s grand talk until we possess both phones. What the XZs doesn’t have is the flashy 4K HDR display. Instead, it’s got a 5.2-inch 1080p screen (also with 2.5D curved glass running over the top. Instead of glass on both sides, the XZs has a metal back, which a fair number of people might prefer once seeing all the fingerprints and smudges that instantly dominate the XZ Premium.
Speaking with one of Sony Mobile’s product planners ahead of today’s launch, I was told that in 2016, Sony just didn’t have much innovation in its smartphones. That candid admission is corrected in a big way today with the introduction of the mighty and shiny Xperia XZ Premium, which is a 5.5-inch smartphone with a number of world firsts.Read Article >
The XZ Premium has the world’s first 4K HDR (2,160 x 3,840, High Dynamic Range) display in a smartphone — it’s the most desirable new tech combo for TVs, and Sony’s crammed it into a mobile device. I previously saw nothing revolutionary about 4K on the Xperia Z5 Premium in 2015, but Sony now has a partnership with Amazon for 4K HDR content, and the HDR element truly does wonderful things for colour reproduction. In one of Sony’s demos against the Z5 Premium, the XZ showed off warmer, more natural yellows and a broadly more realistic and inviting reproduction of the streets of Lisbon. A Portuguese Sony rep was on hand to confirm, effusively, that the XZ Premium display was more faithful to the real Lisbon.
Movie studios and telecoms companies are always looking for new ways to control how audiences get hold of their content, and to make it easier to do so. Now, a new pilot program from Fox, Telstra, and Ericsson is taking a surprisingly direct approach — preloading films onto users’ devices, and then asking customers to pay to rent or buy the titles.Read Article >
The pilot was announced today at Mobile World Congress, and will last for one month while the companies involved gather feedback. It’s an interesting idea, and has some obvious pros and cons.
Feb 27, 2017
Lenovo surprised us with a $229 Windows 2-in-1 tablet last year, and it’s back at Mobile World Congress today to unveil the successor. Priced at just $199, Lenovo’s new Miix 320 is designed to be a really low-cost Windows-powered laptop. Just like Microsoft’s Surface, it’s not really a laptop and it’s not really a tablet, thanks to the screen detaching from the keyboard base.Read Article >
Much like last year’s model, the Miix 320 features a 10.1-inch full HD display with not the best viewing angles, up to 4GB of RAM, and up to 128GB of storage. Lenovo has made some improvements this time around, though. The biggest is the addition of a precision trackpad. Microsoft has been trying to convince Windows laptop makers to go precision for the past few years, and it’s surprising to see this at such a low price point. During my limited time with the device it felt fine to navigate around Windows, even if the trackpad and the device in general is a little small on the lap.