MWC 2012: Where mobiles were reborn
From quad-core processors to 41 megapixel cameras, here’s a taste of the new smartphones coming our way
Samsung Note 10.1
If you blew the world to little bits with a big phone, then why not take that idea and put it in a Tablet. The Samsung Galaxy Note is now a 10-inch Tablet and borrows liberally from its smaller brother. It has a 800x1280 pixel resolution mated with a surprisingly ordinary 3 megapixel camera at the back. It runs on Android 4.0 OS, has a dual core 1.4 ghz processor and all the other gee whiz features you need on a slate. The cool quotient goes up as it comes with the S Pen, basically a stylus on steroids with amazing pressure sensitive magic.
The World of tech is a pretty strange place. While many other industries have their own exhibitions and showcase events, no one can compare to a tech event. There’s a certain insanity, a deranged glint in everyone’s eyes, a wild and psychotic quest that everyone seems to be on. Bloggers, product manufacturers, geeks, techies, journalists and TV crews from across the world arrive with a hunger and demand for their minds to be blown. Almost everything is analysed, dissected and torn apart within seconds of the product being unveiled and announced. People stand in line for hours to feel that new device in their hands only to deride it for not feeling exactly like they thought it should.
People who’ve never met before form discussion groups on the spot and argue about a device or new service as it their life depended on it. Everybody is out on a hunt to find the unknown, the unannounced, the most secretive next big thing. Tech is a strange place and the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, Spain, is the Mecca of strangeness.
But this time Barcelona did a one up on techies. For the first time ever, strange sights and events played out even before you got into MWC. First, a public transportation strike crippled the event (threats and bargaining got some things working, but it was never normal). Then slogan-shouting and banner-wielding protesters took over the Fira circle right outside MWC (the slogans and banners were poetic, if you like your poems with only four-letter words). The protesters came with different agendas.
Some hated mobiles as an industry, some hated companies who were job cutting and some just hated! Horse-mounted riot police did the job of greeters at MWC and most of us were shepherded in and out like we were in a war zone. And as soon as you got inside, the Chinese invasion took over. Yup, China had literally taken MWC hostage. The biggest banners, the largest posters, the most enormous displays and halls, the huge guest and media areas, the Pegasus horse made entirely of mobile phones, the holder for your event ID card, the bag to hold all your papers were all either ZTE or Huawei. If ever the rest of the world mobile industry was made to look a bit minuscule, then MWC 2012 was it!
MWC 2012 will also be remembered for the clear directions it gave for the industry for the next five years. From companies that were born again (Sony minus Ericsson), to product maturity (quad cores, large screens, unibody designs), to the shock of the Nokia PureView with a 41 megapixel camera, to radical new innovations (a Porsche controlled by a BlackBerry PlayBook Tablet to a three-in-one device, the Asus PadFone), this was the year we’ll all look back at and say, “This is where it all started all over again.”
This is the device that broke all the rules. A device that rethought the dynamics of all that we carry. Think about it. Most of us have a phone, a tablet and a laptop. What if just your phone could power your tablet and that tablet could morph into a laptop. The Asus PadFone is a dumb tablet with just a screen and has a slot at the back that you slide your phone into and the phone powers it up as a tablet. Then attach it to the keyboard dock and you’ve got a laptop. This is pretty much the Swiss army knife of all phones.
Sony Xperia S, U and P
Free a company from the shackles of a partnership and it suddenly grows wings like never before. At CES in Vegas, Sony flaunted the Xperia S and at MWC it beat the pants off its own device and came up with the Xperia P and U. The Xperia S, P and U truly look like a band of brothers. And good looks certainly run in the family! The Xperia P comes packed in an aluminium unibody casing and a 4-inch display.
It is the first handset to use Sony’s latest White Magic technology that provides superior legibility even in bright sunlight. An 8 megapixel camera at the back, dual core 1 GHz processor and 16 GB in-built memory. And then the most stunning phone of MWC, the Xperia U with the transparent band below the screen that you can’t help be hypnotised by. Customise it to the colour you want when you get a call. And when you are viewing any images in your phone gallery, the band changes to the most predominant colour in the photograph. Sony is finally on a roll.
It was expected to happen. But not this fast. A Windows phone at about ten thousand bucks. And the all new aggressive we-will-conquer-the-world- again. Nokia has packed quite a punch. Running on the same Windows Phone 7.5 OS, it has almost all the features its big brothers have. While it runs on a middling 800 MHz processor, it still works well. A 3.7-inch display, Nokia Drive, Nokia Maps, a 5 megapixel camera and Zune complete the knockout punch. Take that right on your face, all you Android economy phones!
LG Optimus Vu
When you take on the might of the Samsung Galaxy Note, then you better have some strong arsenal of weaponry in your pocket. And this one does. It’s big, it’s bright and it has a wow screen. The LG Optimus Vu has a supremely big IPS display with a crisp 1024x768 pixel resolution. The funny part is that it has a 4:3 form factor which is very unusual. Apparently it opens Web pages perfectly and without need for scrolling and also ebooks read perfectly. It may be wide but it’s also very thin at 8.5 mm and also loaded to the brim: 32 GB internal memory, 1 GB RAM and a microSD card slot, an 8 megapixel camera that shoots videos at 1080p, 1.2GHz dual core processor and a jaw dropping 2080mAh battery. Wonder what Samsung will do now. Maybe a Galaxy Note 2?
Huawei Ascend D1 Quad
Beware all mere mortals. The almighty, the powerful, the Ascend D1 Quad has arrived. It comes in a beautiful, super-slim package too with very slick ergonomics. A 4.5-inch screen with 720x1280 resolution. Plus the mighty phone has 1 GB RAM and 8 GB ROM, Android 4.0 and an 8 megapixel camera at the back. But the reason why it is mighty and powerful? Well it’s the fastest smartphone in the world and pulls it off with Huawei’s proprietary processor, a beastly 1.2 Ghz quad core. And that is not a small feat to pull off!
HTC One X
This was the phone that had even the competition salivating. The HTC One X is a gigantic 4.7-inch super IPS LCD display with 720x1280 pixel resolution. The superior Corning glass toughens it up to scratches while the 8 megapixel camera clicks brilliantly and as fast as five pictures a second. Powered by an NVIDIA Tegra 3 quad core 1.5 GHZ processor, this has serious horsepower. But it’s in the sound that it truly shines. With Beats Audio built in, this has a punchy bass and sounds like no other phone. And then the thin unibody polycarbonate form factor is awesome and holds beautifully in the hand.
Nokia PureView 808
The phone that rocked MWC and shot it to bits. 41 megapixel bits in fact. Just when we thought that the cellphone megapixel war has come to an end, Nokia blew up the competition with a camera of super-human proportions. 41 megapixels. Yes, you read that right! FORTY ONE! Even professional DSLRS wouldn’t be able to pull that off, yet here it is in a simple phone. The real devil is in the detail and this one has an amazing amount if it. Zoom in to a photo with the usual pinching or tapping gesture and keep pinching – you can zoom in to the smallest detail. And you can print pictures even 9 metres wide. Running on Symbian Belle, it comes with a 4-inch AMOLED display. But that’s all boring stuff. The real story is the 41 megapixel camera. Yes, FORTY ONE!
LG Optimus 3D Max
They started the whole idea of a small screen with 3D but without the headache-inspiring glasses and now they’ve bettered it. A better screen, better viewing angle, far better resolution and a picture that really does look 3D, raw and naked to the eye. Even the camera shoots photos and videos in 3D and completes the experience.
Rajiv Makhni is managing editor, Technology, NDTV and the anchor of Gadget Guru, Cell Guru and Newsnet 3. Follow Rajiv on Twitter at twitter.com/RajivMakhni
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