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Best of the Mobile World Congress, 2015: Part 1

Smartphone brands were ready for stiff competition at the Mobile World Congress

brunch Updated: Mar 15, 2015 11:38 IST
Rajiv Makhni
Rajiv Makhni
Hindustan Times
Mobile World Congress

It’s the biggest mobile technology event in the world, takes place at a dramatic destination called Fira de Barcelona, Spain, and it became a pure one-upmanship game for most brands this year. Here is Part I of the best of the Mobile World Congress 2015:

The Great Reboot; Samsung Galaxy S6 and S6 Edge

As soon as you hold the Galaxy S6 Edge in your hand, the following happens: every criticism about the design, every jibe on its plasticky-ness, every joke about how nothing has changed in the last three years, is thrown out of the window.

This is Samsung upping the stakes, hitting hard and rebooting the entire smartphone industry in one shot. Yes, Samsung’s new phones are all about the unibody aluminum, metal, glass and curves – including the screen in two places on the Edge version.

These are beautiful phones that scream style. The internals of both devices are running top-of-the-line Exynos or Snapdragon chips depending on your region and has an excellent 20MP camera module that is fast and filled with features.

But these specs have been achieved at the cost some compromises. There is no expandable storage, no removable battery and these aren’t waterproof and dust-proof phones anymore. Still, they may well be the two best-looking phones of 2015. And to say that about any Samsung phone is very unusual.

Smartphone reboot: Samsung’s new phones raise the stakes (left)

Chinese invasion: Gionee’s S7 seems to have hit the bullseye and gives an incredible customer experience.

The much-neded revamp; Lumia 640 and 640XL

Ever since Microsoft took over Nokia, things had been slow. Nothing spectacular had been introduced and whatever had been, seemed quite ho-hum. But finally, Microsoft has stood up to be counted with its two new budget devices.

The Lumia 640 is 8.8mm thick and weighs 145gms while the 640 XL is marginally thicker. The 640 has stepped up in the display department with a 5" IPS display and 720p resolution while the 640 XL sports a 5.7" screen with the same resolution.

Both devices are powered by a quad-core Snapdragon processor running at 1.2GHz and 1GB of RAM. The camera department has seen a major upgrade: the 640 XL sports a 13MP rear camera with Carl Zeiss optics and a 5MP front snapper and the 640 has an 8MP rear and a modest 1MP front camera.

Thumbs up in the battery department, as Microsoft decided on a 2500 mAh for the 640 and a whopping 3000 mAh for the 640 XL. The Lumia 640 is priced at approximately Rs 10,000 while the 640 XL comes in at about Rs 13,000. Welcome back to the game, Microsoft!

Showing its muscle; Gionee S7
The Chinese giant seems to have set aside the ‘Slimmest Phone In The World’ war and set its mind on building a device that gives an incredible customer experience.

The S7 is testament to that fact. It’s still super slim at 5.5 mm but that seems to be incidental rather than the purpose of the phone. This is a stunning phone with a dual rail-track-like metal ridge on the side, an aluminum-magnesium alloy body that lives between two pieces of Gorilla Glass 3 and the world’s thinnest 13MP camera sensor that pulls off magic-like depth-of-field optical adjustment, gesture controls and an extreme low-light setting.

The device has a 64bit octa-core 1.7GHz processor, 2GB of RAM and a 2750 mAh battery that should last two days. Plus there’s an extreme mode that gives you 33 hours on the last 10 per cent. Round it all up, and Gionee seems to have hit the bullseye with this slim wedge of a device.

A taste of success; Lenovo A7000 and P90

Lenovo hit it big with the success of the A6000 and used the MWC 2015 to bring in the next generation. Lenovo A7000 and P90 are the new contenders in the category of super high-spec phones, at a super low price.

With a 5.5" HD display and a 1.5GHz octa-core processor paired with 2GB of RAM, the A7000 is the first phone to have Dolby’s new surround-sound tech, Dolby Atmos. Android Lollipop, an 8MP camera combination and a 2900 mAh battery round up the goodies list. The P90 ups the ante even further. A 4000mAh battery, 32GB internal storage, 2GB RAM, Intel Atom Z3560 quad-core chipset clocking at 1.83Ghz, and a 13MP camera. Expect aggressive prices for this all-new Lenovo duo.

Easy on the pocket: With two new budget devices, Microsoft is back in the game (left)

Big let-down: HTC, known for its designs, has disappointed with the M9.

A missed call; HTC One M9
It’s already being called the world’s most beautiful disappointment! The world of smartphones is unforgiving. Do too much, and you risk being called out as gimmicky; do too little, and you are barely trying.

With the third generation of its iconic M series design, HTC has taken the safe route – a decision that could turn out to be very dangerous. Here is the HTC One M9 with a design that’s absolutely identical to its predecessor, the M8. For a company known to set new standards in design and material, this is a big disappointment.

The camera module on the back has been bumped up to a new 20MP module and the much-debated ultra-pixel camera has been moved to the front, now acting as a selfie camera. There is a new 64bit Snapdragon 810 under the hood, and the device comes with 32GB of storage. Thankfully, the microSD slot made the cut. The rest of the phone leaves you bristling with disappointment.

My next column will feature a round-up of wearable devices, smartwatches, a lowdown on why 5G is around the corner and more proof that Sony may exit the smartphone business.

This is part one of a two-part series.

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

From HT Brunch, March 15
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First Published: Mar 15, 2015 11:25 IST