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MWC 2019: foldable phones, 5G, and other news from Mobile World Congress

The stream of stories from Mobile World Congress, the world’s largest mobile technology convention, can be overwhelming. In 2019, we can expect a deluge of 5G hints, announcements, teasers, promises, and stage-managed demos. The future connectivity tech is indeed exciting, but mobile companies are likely to overheat their marketing about its impact and effect in the here and now. A similar thing can be said of foldable devices, which are likely to grab even more headlines with their sci-fi aesthetic, though most are liable to remain behind glass for the near future. Beside those developments on the more distant horizon, MWC always plays host to a huge number of new phone launches and reveals, and you can keep track of all of the action right here.

  • Andrew Marino

    Mar 1, 2019

    Andrew Marino

    Vergecast: Mobile World Congress round table

    Photo by Becca Farsace / The Verge

    Mobile World Congress 2019 just wrapped up, and The Vergecast wraps up the coverage in a bow for you to ingest. With Dieter on vacation, Nilay and Paul bring in senior editor Natt Garun, reporter Chaim Gartenberg, and senior editor Dan Seifert to give context and detail to the new phones announced at MWC. We’ve got a very tall phone, a very fat phone, a very bendable phone, and whole lot more.

    We’ve also got some first hand experience with Microsoft’s new HoloLens 2, so keep listening for that exclusive content.

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  • Mar 1, 2019

    Vlad Savov

    The Punkt MP02 is Android minimalism at its finest

    It’s not every day that a tech CEO throws his phone down on the ground before my feet, so when that happened with Punkt’s Petter Neby this week at MWC, it’s safe to say I was intrigued. Punkt, stylized as “Punkt.” in the company’s wordmark, is about putting a full stop to the distractions and diversions of modern life. Its phones are the postmodern anti-flagship devices that suggest that maybe their users don’t need the internet with them every waking moment of every day.

    Nebby was talking me through the intent behind the Punkt MP02’s minimalist design when, without warning, he threw his personal phone to the ground, then picked it up, and texted his wife about Belgian potatoes. I’d heard of but never seen the original Punkt MP01, which the MP02 is (almost) physically identical to, and so I was both surprised and amused by the small stunt. The hardware design, Nebby tells me, is basically set. The company has no plans to change that, and upon handling and playing with the MP02, I can see why. The MP design combines ruggedness with character and a timeless minimalism that’ll look striking decades from now. The buttons and shape of this phone are pleasing to touch and to hold, and the overall construction has a high-end feel that belies the primitive hardware and capabilities contained within.

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  • Mar 1, 2019

    Vlad Savov

    The OnePlus 7 is looking unlikely to have wireless charging

    oneplus 6t
    OnePlus 6T, the current OnePlus flagship device.
    Photo by Amelia Holowaty Krales

    Comments made by OnePlus CEO Pete Lau at Mobile World Congress 2019 in Barcelona have cast doubt over the hopeful expectation that the next OnePlus flagship phone will have wireless charging. In speaking with CNET, Lau calls wireless charging “far inferior” to his company’s wired Warp Charge and the tone of the interview, via a translator, was apparently strong enough for CNET to conclude that the feature will definitely not be on the OnePlus 7. The sentiments expressed by Lau echo previous comments he’s made, saying that OnePlus won’t include wireless charging until it can be made as fast as the company’s wired charging, but fans of the brand will have been hoping to hear a different tune in the buildup to the company’s first release of 2019.

    I reached out to OnePlus, asking the company to confirm or deny the reported absence of wireless charging from its next flagship. What I received was something approaching an implicit confirmation: OnePlus reiterated its belief that the speed of Warp Charge is superior, noted that wireless charging adds thickness to a device, and also underlined that it could have adopted wireless charging a long time ago, had its performance been satisfactory. As much as I want to believe this spiel that it’s all an effort to provide the best possible customer experience, I more strongly believe that the best possible customer experience today must include wireless charging.

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  • Feb 28, 2019

    Vlad Savov

    The best phones of MWC 2019

    Photo by Vjeran Pavic / The Verge

    I don’t know if you’ve noticed yet, but the world of smartphones is going to look very different in 2019 than in the years prior. Instead of seeing incremental changes and improvements, silly notch size comparisons and feeble iPhone copycats, we’re seeing some genuine originality and creativity. Sony has stretched the phone, Nokia has riddled it with cameras, Huawei and Samsung have folded it, Energizer has fattened it up, and Nubia has bent it around the user’s wrist.

    These experiments aren’t all going to turn into great products, but the overall thrust toward exploring the boundaries of smartphone design for a winning new formula sure makes for an exciting show. Here’s our recap of the good, bad, and ugly debutants from Mobile World Congress in Barcelona this week.

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  • Chaim Gartenberg

    Feb 28, 2019

    Chaim Gartenberg

    Nokia 9 PureView will be available in the US on March 3rd

    HMD Global’s new Nokia 9 PureView — and all five of its rear cameras — may have just gotten announced at MWC 2019, but it’s hitting stores in the US really soon, with sales set to start March 3rd.

    To go with the launch, HMD is also offering a special limited time offer on the Nokia 9 PureView that will lower the price by $100 off the usual $699 price, bringing it down to $599 for the first week of sales. After March 11th, the price will go back up, which doesn’t leave a ton of time for customers to decide on whether they want to buy it. But if you’re planning on being an early adopter, the extra $100 off certainly can’t hurt.

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  • Natt Garun

    Feb 27, 2019

    Natt Garun

    Motorola confirms its foldable phone is coming, and it could look like a RAZR

    Image: Motorola Mobility LLC

    Following reports that Motorola would, too, get into the folding smartphone scene, the company today confirmed in an interview with Engadget that it is working on a folding device that would launch “[no] later than everybody else in the market.”

    That puts Motorola’s timeline at sometime this year at the latest, with Samsung due to launch its Galaxy Fold in April and Huawei’s Mate X in mid-2019. Motorola usually holds an annual smartphone launch event around August. That time last year, it announced its 5G-ready Moto Z3 with the 5G Moto Mod, so we’ll likely get a glimpse at Motorola’s take on foldable screens this summer.

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  • Feb 27, 2019

    Vlad Savov

    I used a Mercedes-Benz as a Mario Kart controller, and it was amazing

    Photo by Vlad Savov / The Verge

    The whizz-kids at Daimler Research Group have done something that’s equal parts silly and ingenious: they’ve adapted a version of Mario Kart (the open-source SuperTuxKart) to work on the MBUX infotainment system of a Mercedes-Benz CLA. It plays the game on the screen to the right of the driver, who can control it with the car’s steering wheel and pedals. The interior lighting system activates in sync with the starting signals in the game, the seatbelt tightens anytime you crash in the game, and the air conditioning blows cool air at you with an intensity matched to your speed in the game.

    I played it and I loved it.

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  • Natt Garun

    Feb 27, 2019

    Natt Garun

    Sony and Xiaomi are partnering with Light for their next multi-camera smartphones

    When Light first came out with its 16-lens camera, it seemed ridiculous to cram so many cameras into a single product. But now that flagships like the Samsung Galaxy S10 are bumping its cameras up to three or even four in a single device, multi-camera smartphones are starting to look more like the norm.

    You can expect to see more of this soon, as Light has announced it will be working with Sony and Xiaomi to develop more multi-lens devices. With Sony specifically, Light is working to incorporate its multiple camera array with Sony’s image processing system to make apps that could make use out of this combination. Together, Light says it will help Sony smartphones fit four cameras or more in its upcoming lineup. Details are less specific for Light’s partnership with Xiaomi, with the companies only noting that it will be partnering to bring DSLR-quality photos to smartphones.

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  • Jon Porter

    Feb 27, 2019

    Jon Porter

    All the 5G phones announced so far

    Photo by Jon Porter / The Verge

    “5G is here” was the straightforward claim plastered all over Qualcomm’s booth at this year’s Mobile World Congress. But while that might be true for the chipmaker, the reality is far more complicated. Carriers are still in the process of upgrading their networks ready for the launch of consumer-ready 5G services, and even then the proportion of areas covered will be slim.

    Although they won’t be ready for a little while longer, phone manufacturers have wasted no time in announcing 5G devices at this year’s MWC. Huawei, LG, Samsung, Xiaomi, and ZTE introduced their own 5G handsets that are complete with vague release dates, while Sony, Oppo, and OnePlus had earlier prototype devices on display.

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  • Feb 27, 2019

    Vlad Savov

    Foldable phones: a brief history of their beginning

    I’m writing this for the year 2024. For the time when we’ll all know whether foldable phones were a mere fad or — more likely, in my opinion — they turned out to be the future of mobile computing. Whatever the outcome, I know for a fact that what took place at Mobile World Congress 2019 will be historic. It’ll be something we return to as either the cradle of a new era or as a cautionary tale about unrestrained ambition. In all cases, the story is a fun and exciting one.

    Why do I think foldables will be such a big deal? Because the hype around them is earnest and enormous. Every part of the consumer tech food chain is alive and buzzing with excitement. Manufacturers have already poured millions of dollars into research and development for foldables, and we’re seeing patented and branded hinges (Enter the DragonHinge) that took years of engineering. Huawei worked on its Falcon Wing design for more than three years, and I’ve heard from a reliable source that Samsung had foldable tablets in its labs as early as 2011. Mobile carriers, according to IDC analyst Francisco Jeronimo, can’t wait to get foldables into their stores, and they’re confident they’ll sell out of the newfangled devices immediately. Judging by the reaction of fellow tech journalists at MWC and readers and tech fans online, I think they’re right.

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  • Sam Byford

    Feb 27, 2019

    Sam Byford

    Huawei chairman accuses American critics of hypocrisy over NSA hacks

    Illustration by William Joel / The Verge

    Huawei’s rotating chairman Guo Ping has gone on the offensive this week at Mobile World Congress, following continued pressure on US allies to drop the Chinese telecoms giant over national security fears. In a strident on-stage speech and a Financial Times editorial, Guo is escalating Huawei’s side of the story by explicitly calling out the NSA, which Edward Snowden has shown to have hacked Huawei in the past, while presenting his company as a more secure option for the rest of the world.

    “If the NSA wants to modify routers or switches in order to eavesdrop, a Chinese company will be unlikely to co-operate,” Guo says in the FT, citing a leaked NSA document that said the agency wanted “to make sure that we know how to exploit these [Huawei] products.” Guo argues that his company “hampers US efforts to spy on whomever it wants,” reiterating its position that “Huawei has not and will never plant backdoors.”

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  • Tom Warren

    Feb 26, 2019

    Tom Warren

    Samsung expects Galaxy Fold supply to be limited, hints at luxury launch

    Samsung is planning to hold another press event in early April for its foldable phone. The Galaxy Fold maker revealed its plans in an interview with The Verge at Mobile World Congress today, and hinted at a high-end luxury launch akin to what we saw with the Apple Watch Edition in its 2015 debut.

    “At the beginning of April we’ll have a full press event,” says Kate Beaumont, director of product, services, and commercial strategy at Samsung UK. The press event will provide a closer look at the handset, and will be held a few weeks before the product is expected to hit stores on April 26th, priced at $1,980 (£1,800).

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  • Jon Porter

    Feb 26, 2019

    Jon Porter

    HTC’s latest VR headest doesn’t need external trackers, but it feels like it does

    Photo by Tom Warren / The Verge

    After starting out as extremely limited versions of their PC-powered counterparts, standalone VR headsets are starting to get pretty advanced, at least on paper. The most recently announced example of this is the Vive Focus Plus, a self-contained headset that HTC first revealed last week, and which we were able to try for ourselves at Mobile World Congress 2019.

    The most obvious upgrade the Vive Focus Plus has over the original Vive Focus is its controllers. Instead of the single controller you got with the original Focus, you now get two. More important however, is the fact that they both now support 6 degrees of freedom (or DoF) rather than the 3DoF found on the original. What this means is that as well as tracking how they rotate, they can also be tracked as they move around.

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  • Shannon Liao

    Feb 26, 2019

    Shannon Liao

    You can soon buy a more useful version of the HTC blockchain phone for cash

    Image: HTC

    HTC’s blockchain phone is getting several new apps today, which start to show us what the phone can really be good for. HTC is adding about 20 new apps, including a personal tracker that can sell your data for cryptocurrency, and it’s also partnering with Opera to allow users to make micropayments to sites. By March, you can also finally buy this phone with regular money, instead of bitcoin or ether. Previously, this phone’s major blockchain feature was the ability to trade and store CryptoKitties.

    The HTC Exodus phone now has access to a number of new decentralized apps (known as “Dapps”), which live in an app store that isn’t managed by any specific company, that specifically take advantage of the phone’s hardware. The most interesting addition is an app called Numbers, which tracks user data on walking, sleeping, driving, and more, then allows you to sell your own data to third parties. The app, which is made by a startup based in Taiwan, displays what type of data your phone can track, as well as a list of companies interested in that data.

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  • Jon Porter

    Feb 25, 2019

    Jon Porter

    Nubia’s new wearable puts a 4-inch flexible smartphone on your wrist

    There’s been a lot of talk in the last year about the different form factors of devices (laptops, tablets, and smartphones) gradually converging over time. We’ve seen Google and Apple attempt to make the tablet a viable laptop replacement with the iPad Pro and Pixel Slate, and now Samsung and Huawei are merging the smartphone and tablet with their foldable smartphones, the Galaxy Fold and Mate X, respectively.

    Less common is the idea of using flexible displays to bring together the form factors of the smartwatch and the smartphone. But that’s exactly what Nubia has done with the Nubia Alpha, a smartwatch with a lot of the functionality of a regular smartphone. We saw it shown off in a non-touchable capacity at IFA last year, and now at MWC 2019 we’ve finally had a chance to strap it on our wrists and take it for a proper test drive.

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  • Chaim Gartenberg

    Feb 25, 2019

    Chaim Gartenberg

    Qualcomm’s next processor could really kick-start 5G in 2020

    Illustration by Alex Castro / The Verge

    The first wave of 5G phones are starting to get announced, but if today’s Qualcomm news is anything to go by, the real point of entry for the next-generation network won’t come until early 2020, when Qualcomm ships its first processor with a 5G modem built in.

    That’s because so far, the first 5G phones are all a bit of a pieced-together affair. Currently, Qualcomm’s flagship Snapdragon 855 chipset has an integrated LTE modem, and not one of the company’s 5G modems. That means that basically every 5G phone featuring a Snapdragon 855 — a list that includes the Galaxy S10 5G, Galaxy Fold, LG V50, ZTE Axon 10 Pro 5G, and OnePlus’ 5G phone — also has to have a separate 5G modem, which takes up more space inside the phone and drains more power.

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  • Chaim Gartenberg

    Feb 25, 2019

    Chaim Gartenberg

    ZTE’s first 5G phone is the Axon 10 Pro 5G

    ZTE Corporation

    At MWC 2019, 5G phones are starting to make their first real-life appearances, and ZTE is the latest company to throw its hat in the ring with the announcement of the Axon 10 Pro 5G, set to release later this year in China and Europe.

    Next-gen network aside, the Axon 10 Pro 5G looks like a fairly nice upgrade to last year’s Axon 9 Pro: the iPhone X-sized notch is getting shrunk down to a smaller teardrop one, the fingerprint sensor has been moved from the back to an in-display sensor, and the dual cameras have been upgraded to a triple-camera system (featuring both wide-angle and ultra-wide angle lenses in addition to the main shooter).

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  • Tom Warren

    Feb 25, 2019

    Tom Warren

    A closer look at Microsoft’s new Kinect sensor

    Photo by Tom Warren / The Verge

    Microsoft resurrected Kinect yesterday during the company’s HoloLens 2 press event at Mobile World Congress in Barcelona. The software giant has shrunk Kinect into a $399 PC peripheral that can be used as a sensor in similar ways to how developers used Kinect for Windows or even the original Xbox 360 Kinect. Microsoft has designed this new Kinect to be primarily used with Azure, the company’s cloud-based service, for computer vision and speech models.

    I got a chance to get a closer look at Microsoft’s new Azure Kinect DK at Mobile World Congress today, and I’m surprised at how much smaller it is compared to the Kinect for Windows sensor. It’s also a lot lighter (440 grams vs. 970 grams) and more capable thanks to a range of upgraded hardware. There’s a 7-microphone array inside compared to the 4-microphone array in the previous Kinect, and an upgraded RGB camera capable of 3840 x 2160 images. The depth sensor is the same one found on the HoloLens 2, and it’s now capable of a range of resolutions and framerates.

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  • Feb 25, 2019

    Dani Deahl

    Samsung announces two new mid-range Galaxy A phones with a focus on cameras

    Image: Samsung

    Samsung has announced two new mid-range Galaxy A Series phones, the A30 and A50. The phones were first spotted on the Samsung India website, and there appear to be invites sent out for a press event in Mumbai, Hyderabad, and Kolkata on February 28th. It’s a push by Samsung against the market share its lost in India to Chinese manufacturers like Xiaomi, whose cheaper phones with competitive features are increasingly popular in the country.

    Cameras are one of the main focuses with both the A30 and A50. The A50 has three cameras on the rear: a primary 25 megapixel main camera, an 8 megapixel ultra wide lens (which the phone will intelligently recommend you use depending on what you’re shooting), and a 5 megapixel depth sensor. The front also boasts a 25 megapixel camera with a special selfie focus for blurring out backgrounds. The A30 has two cameras on the back — a 16 megapixel primary lens and 5 megapixel wide angle lens — along with a 16 megapixel camera on the front.

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  • Jon Porter

    Feb 25, 2019

    Jon Porter

    This is the OnePlus 5G phone prototype

    It might have been hidden inside a thick plastic case and locked inside a plastic cube, but at MWC 2019 OnePlus showed a prototype of its first 5G phone to the public for the first time. The device was connected to a local 5G base station with an mmWave connection, the variant of 5G that focuses on high data throughput at the expense of range. In the last few days the company has recently confirmed via a Finnish carrier that it expects to launch it in the second quarter of this year.

    Aside from showing off what was happening on the device’s screen, OnePlus wasn’t sharing too many new details about the handset, other than to say it was an entirely new device rather than an upgrade to an existing phone. However, the company said that the device could hit a maximum speed of 500 Mbps, although the demonstration content (a 60fps HD stream) was only using around 15 Mbps. It also seemed as though the device’s screen didn’t have a notch, although this could have been hidden for the puposes of this demonstration.

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  • Feb 25, 2019

    Vlad Savov

    I held the future in my hands, and it was foldable

    Huawei’s zealousness about keeping journalists’ hands off its new Mate X foldable phone slipped a little today, and I got to hold and fold it for myself. The hands-on experience with this device confirmed and deepened all the feelings I had about it already: it’s a polished, refined physical design that gets us closest to the ideal of a foldable with minimal compromises. There are still huge questions about what the software UX will be like, how durable and scratch-resistant that wraparound display will be over the long term, and how long the battery will last if you use this 5G tablet to its fullest. I can’t answer those today, but I can tell you what I know about the Huawei Mate X so far.

    The Mate X’s OLED display is plastic, not glass as with most smartphones today. That’s going to be an unavoidable feature of all foldable devices going forward, because glass doesn’t like to fold. Nothing about the plastic surface gave me trouble or cause for concern, however. It has comparable friction and identical responsiveness to a regular glass-covered phone, and the only issue is the potential for more scratches owing to the plastic’s softness.

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  • Jacob Kastrenakes

    Feb 25, 2019

    Jacob Kastrenakes

    T-Mobile delays full 5G launch until later in 2019

    John Legere 2017 stock
    Photo by Chris Welch / The Verge

    T-Mobile’s 5G network won’t launch in full until the second half of 2019 because phones aren’t ready yet, according to CNET, which spoke with T-Mobile’s chief technical officer about the delay. That’ll put T-Mobile at least a few months behind Verizon, Sprint, and possibly AT&T (which already has a limited 5G launch) as well.

    T-Mobile has been cagey about its 5G launch date: this time last year, the company indicated that it would have 30 cities with 5G by the end of 2018, with phones launching in early 2019. It’s continued to indicate 5G phone launches within the first or second quarter of the year, but evidently that plan has changed.

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  • Chaim Gartenberg

    Feb 25, 2019

    Chaim Gartenberg

    Memory cards are about to get much faster with new microSD Express spec

    MicroSD cards are about to get a whole lot faster, thanks to the newly announced microSD Express format that the SD Association announced at MWC 2019. The new cards will rely on the far faster PCIe and NVMe interfaces commonly used on modern SSDs to reach speeds of up to 985 megabytes per second.

    For comparison, Western Digital’s new 1TB SanDisk microSD card, also announced at MWC and which claims to be the fastest 1TB card in the world, tops off at just 160MB/s for reading data, and 90MB/s for writing it. The new microSD Express spec also should crush (in theory) smaller capacity cards, like Delkin Devices’ 128GB Prime card that tops out at a maximum read speed of 300 MB/s.

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  • Jacob Kastrenakes

    Feb 25, 2019

    Jacob Kastrenakes

    Sprint’s 5G network launches in May

    Illustration by Alex Castro / The Verge

    Sprint plans to launch its 5G network this May, starting in Atlanta, Chicago, Dallas, and Kansas City. 5G service is also supposed to come to Houston, Los Angeles, New York, Phoenix, and Washington, DC in the first half of the year.

    Like most of the just-months-away 5G network launches, details are surprisingly slim around Sprint’s plans. The company declined to state what its 5G service plans would look like, and it was vague about what kind of speeds to expect.

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  • Feb 25, 2019

    Vlad Savov

    Huawei has the best first draft for a foldable phone

    Huawei Mate X at MWC 2019.
    Huawei Mate X at MWC 2019.

    We’re at the beginning of the beginning of the foldable smartphone era, as you might be able to tell from the explosion of hype surrounding these sci-fi devices. Attending Mobile World Congress this week, I look at the excitement coming from manufacturers, mobile carriers, and eager tech enthusiasts, and I see tremendous, almost universal energy and demand for this category to become a significant part of our shared technological future.

    In the past, the market’s waited for Apple to popularize new product categories, as it did with the iPad for tablets, but now the rest of the tech industry is forging ahead. Patience is low, enthusiasm is high, and, judging by the Huawei Mate X unveiled yesterday, product design and development are already at an advanced stage.

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