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Snapshots from the Mobile World Congress in Spain

There was more to the Mobile World Congress than phones, writes Rajiv Makhni.

brunch Updated: Mar 05, 2016 20:58 IST

When your fitness tracker tells you that you’ve crossed 30,000 steps, you’ve got to sit and reflect if all that effort was worth it. This year I averaged 25 kilometres a day of walking up and down huge halls crammed with technology and innovation. I’m glad to announce that this year the Mobile World Congress (MWC) in Spain was on fire and each of those 30K steps I took was totally worth it.

Meet the friends

A modular phone! Before you go all ho-hum and ‘been there seen that’, give your cynicism a break. This one is the real deal. The LG G5 is a top-of-the-line all-metal phone with a bottom that snaps out. And in that snap-out section is where you snap in things like a professional camera module or a sound system add-on made by Bang & Olufsen. The fortunate part is that the LG G5 modular system works well, the unfortunate part is that LG calls these snap-in systems ‘Friends’. Yes, Friends!

Modular and sleek: The LG G5 has a bottom that snaps out and where you snap in things like a professional camera module or a sound system add-on.

Good goes better

The much-awaited super curvaceous S7 Edge is here. And this time Samsung seems to have matured in thought and attitude. Instead of doing gimmicky stuff, they’ve made this a really great incremental device. It looks the same as the previous version but adds better hardware. Plus, the curved edges now have a truckload of new features. Brilliant execution on a phone that was already one of the best ever!

Too much of a good thing: The super curvaceous Samsung S7 Edge is here. It looks the same as the previous version but adds better hardware.

Here comes the hearable

Think of the movie Her. Now think of that in your ear. Well, not Scarlett Johansson residing in your ear (I wish) – but the personal assistant. The Sony Ear has a full-blown super talky PA that guides you through your digital life and reminds you of everything you need to know and some things you don’t. This one needs a connection to your phone but in the future this ‘hearable’ may just work all on its own.

Some like it hot

I shot my first ‘thermie’ with the Cat Thermal Image phone. By a ‘thermie’ I mean a selfie shot with a thermal image camera. You may not come out looking too good (I was all red and blue), but in terms of the technology – this is mind-blowing stuff. A thermal image camera built into a phone is a first and the kind of things you can do with this makes this even ‘hotter’.

The form factor

When Microsoft came out with its Surface Laptop, I’m sure they didn’t think they were creating a new revolution. A product that didn’t sell very well for them, yet has turned out to have the most copied form factor ever. The Huawei Matebook takes the same principles (tablet screen, keyboard built into cover) and makes it even better. Way better!

Virtually yours

The HTC Vive VR is my favourite product of the entire MWC. The world’s first ‘walk around VR headset’ that creates a shockingly real virtual world all around you – and yet makes sure you don’t bang into furniture, walls and people. I explored the deep sea, shot aliens and drew my name in the air and then walked through it. True VR has now been taken to the next dimension!

A dream comeback

Xiaomi needed to make some noise and come back strong. The Mi 5 Pro did that and more. This is a phone so strong on specs and so filled with features – that it’s almost like three phones morphed into one. Fantastic optics, powerful hardware and a ceramic back that is almost as tough as the surface of a diamond. All they need to do now is price it so aggressively as to blow their detractors to bits.

A new dimension

A brand new logo (a smiling G), new colour for the brand (an energetic, happy orange) and a killer new flagship phone made sure that Gionee became the newsmaker at the expo. The Gionee S8 is all-metal, beautifully made, great optics and also has a feature that shocked one and all. It is the second phone in the world (after the iPhone 6S), to come with a 3D touchscreen.

The showstopper: The Gionee S8 is the second phone in the world to come with a 3D touchscreen.

The big let-down

Sometimes your own success can come back and bite you big time. Lenovo seems to be riding that train. After the phenomenal success of the K3 Note, the K4 Note turned out to be a mediocre phone. Thus the Lenovo K5 Note has been launched very quickly. Unfortunately this one too isn’t much of a device. Dear Lenovo, don’t be a Nokia!

The breakthrough

Oppo may not have launched a new phone at the MWC but it did create the biggest sensation. They showcased a technology that charges your phone from zero to 100 per cent in just 15 minutes. They may just have solved one of the greatest problems in the world. Maybe they could think of tackling old age next.

I’ve barely scratched the surface here. The Mobile World Congress was packed with some of the best devices ever seen. Next week, I round it off with the best, the worst and the quirkiest that I experienced across millions of square feet of this amazing event!

Rajiv Makhni is managing editor, Technology, NDTV, and the anchor of Gadget Guru, Cell Guru and Newsnet 3

From HT Brunch, March 6, 2016

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