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Mobile World Congress' big hits: Nokia goes Android, Galaxy S5 launches

The mobile phone majors made enough noise to make headlines for all of 2014. From Nokia going Android to Sony unleashing the beast called Xperia Z2, it was all there, writes Rajiv Makhni.
Hindustan Times | By Rajiv Makhni
UPDATED ON MAR 09, 2014 07:58 PM IST

The Mobile World Congress offered enough headlines for all of 2014, it seems

THE MWC is the most detailed, well attended and biggest showcase of all things mobile in the world. But the 2014 edition became a headline-making slugfest between companies, each wanting to become top dog. Here what will keep us busy for the year.

Nokia goes Android The big shocker. Just days before Nokia becomes part of the Microsoft juggernaut and its 'only' Windows world, it releases three new smartphones!

Not a big deal, right? Wrong! The phones are based on arch-rival Android. Nokia's three X series (X, X+ and the XL) phones are based on an open Android OS and will run any Android app eventually, side loaded or hacked!

Good ergonomics, bright Lumia-like colours and an expected price point of Rs 6,000 to Rs 9,000 may well make them the biggest-selling smartphones by Nokia in recent times.

This is a major poison pill for Microsoft before they take over Nokia. How badly will this cannibalise sales from Windows-based Lumia 520? Would Microsoft have bought Nokia if they had three Android phones before the deal? Will Microsoft kill the X-Men when they take over?

From the clutter, A Galaxy appears Instead of launching its biggest flagship phone in a stand-alone event, Samsung decided to launch one of its biggest cash cows in the clutter of MWC. Lots of conspiracy theories abound as to why. But nevertheless, the Galaxy S5 is here!

And it's a big surprise. From a company that has made its reputation with over-the-top and slightly gimmicky features, this is a toned-down phone. It looks exactly like the S4, a grave mistake. A 5.1-inch full-HD screen kicks things off as does better battery life and an all-new Ultra Power Saving mode.

But the rest is a catch-up game. Taking a leaf out of Sony's book, it is water and dust resistant. There's an iPhone 5S-esque fingerprint scanner on the home key. For many, this is in a mature avatar where gimmicks are jettisoned for actually used features. But for most, this was proof that the S5 may be a stop-gap arrangement and that an S6 metal phone is less than six months away.

The Gear is dead, long live the Gear Samsung also shocked by abandoning its Android-based Galaxy Gear smartwatch within months of launch and showcasing two new Gear watches based on their own OS, Tizen. Why? It's cheaper, has better battery life, and better features are their reasons. But the stunner was the Gear Fit, a curved AMOLED screen fitness band.

Gionee slims down and stuns It claims to be the world's thinnest phone at 5.5mm, but actually wins a different title. This was easily the best-looking phone of MWC. Gionee showcased how this thin sliver is crafted out of a single slab of aluminium and the process is fascinating. Big full-HD screen, stand-alone camera features and controls, quad-core processor and multiple bright colours on a stunning form. If priced right, Gionee may have a serious winner here.

Sony unleashes a beast
The Xperia Z2 made headlines for its optical prowess. It comes with 20.7 megapixels, an Exmor RS sensor coupled with the award-winning G Lens and serious visual trickery. But it's in the video department that it truly shines. It can reel off 4K videos without a hiccup. Android KitKat, a Qualcomm Snapdragon 801 processor, 4G LTE, NFC, 3GB RAM and a 3200mAh battery complete the monster blueprint.

Jolla sails out its phone The phone and its OS is exceptional, but it's the story behind the phone that leaves you all warm and fuzzy. This is a phone made by a breakaway group from Nokia. And they broke away after Nokia abandoned the awesome MeeGo OS and went with Windows. It's an OS that is intuitive and very easy to control. The OS was also demonstrated to run on other phones like the Google Nexus 5 and some tablets. It's going to be an uphill task for Jolla to make it, but if they do, it's going to be the retelling of David versus Goliath.

The two-faced Yota is here
They come from Russia and instead of distilling some vodka, they've turned the mobile phone on its head. And they've done it by putting in a second screen at the back of the phone. This is an e-ink screen that consumes practically no power and can be a total replication of all things on the front screen. You can set it to be your constantly updating notification centre, read a book, browse online or just show pretty pictures - your battery life isn't affected at all. The real headline will be when it comes to India.

More to come

Lots of other companies made headlines but unfortunately I don't have the space to detail them all (I did ask for eight pages, but was refused!) HTC's new mid-tier flagship, the Desire 816 was shown, as was Huawei's stunning new MediaPad X1 tablet and its intriguing new Talkband. Acer had its new Liquid phones and Asus came up with the PadFone Mini. Detailed reviews of all of these and more in future columns.

MWC India 2015?
May I request MWC to shift to India from Spain in 2015? As you move around MWC, you will encounter more Indians there than any other nationality and my flight from Zurich to Barcelona was like a Mumbai-Delhi flight, only Indians. I'm not cribbing, just trying to save half the country from travelling from here to Spain!

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

From HT Brunch, March 9

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