Last week marked the conclusion of one of mobile technology biggest events, the four-day Mobile World Congress (MWC) 2012, which was held in Barcelona, Spain. Combining the world's largest exhibition for the mobile industry, with an attendance of about 60,000, as well as a conference featuring CEOs of top mobility manufacturers and their partners, MWC, virtually since its inception in 1987, has been the place to be for any mobile brand to woo heightened interest for new products pre-launch.
2012 was no different with dozens of new mobile smart devices and tablet PCs being showcased, even in the midst of student demonstrations protesting education spending cuts outside the MWC 2012 venue, and, maybe more challenging for the world's mobile phone brands, the spectre of an impending launch for Apple's iPad 3 expected on March 7.
As well as the array of devices on display, MWC 2012 also saw the official launch of the consumer preview for Windows 8, the tile-based Windows operating system soon to be launched with the Nokia Lumia 900. Additionally, the accompanying conference event, which is much more muted than the widely reported exhibition, identified the biggest challenge for universal adoption of smart devices as the cost of not only handsets but also data, and especially for the Third World. The number being shopped around as the tipping point for universal Internet access, via smart devices, was US$100, or less, as the cost for people for an entry level smartphone.
Meanwhile, for those who are not as restricted in terms of pricing, the following are several smart devices, smartphones, tablet PCs and even two new 'phablets' or super tablets, first launched in the form of the Samsung Galaxy Note, showcased under consumer electronics manufacturers that spawned them:
Samsung made its impact at MWC 2012 by launching a new 10.1" tablet PC extending its Galaxy Note product range. The Galaxy Note 10.1 offers up the Android 4.0 (Ice Cream Sandwich) tablet specific operating system, which is run on the platform of a 1.4GHz dual-core CPU. The device also has 3 MP (megapixel) rear and 2 MP front cameras.
The event also featured introductions to 7" and 10" models of the new generation Galaxy Tab 2. Also, run on Android 4.0 with two cameras and 3G, but with a 1GHz dual-core CPU, these new models will reportedly be priced at $420 upwards when they are launched in coming months.
Additionally, Samsung also joined other consumer electronics brands that came to MWC 2012 with novelty products by showcasing the Galaxy Beam, which comes standard with a built in Pico projector. Offering a high output battery which can project an image of 640 pixels by 360 pixels for three hours straight, the Galaxy Beam has all the utility of a smart phone and it is likely to become available during the second quarter of 2012. This joins novelty offerings by Nokia (below) as well water resistant smartphones by Fujitsu and Panasonic showcased at MWC 2012.
Formerly the world's number one phone maker, and now replaced in that rank by Samsung, Nokia launched three new entry-level smartphone models - the Asha 202, 203, and 302. The 202 and 203 run on Nokia's Symbian operating system.
In addition, Nokia also previewed a scaled down version of its Lumia 900 Windows tie-up, the Lumia 610, which will be offered at a lower cost and will run the Windows Phone Tango operating system, one of the first of its kind to do so. It also features Xbox Live integration, an 800 MHz Snapdragon CPU and a 5MP rear camera with LED flash.
Another novelty product, this time by Nokia, is the 808 Pureview which features a 41 MP camera, with optics from lens-maker Carl Zeiss.
HTC's most prolific new offering at MWC 2012 was its enhanced camera and imaging offering, the one series.
Featuring "HTC ImageSense, a new suite of camera and imaging features that set HTC One apart from other phones", the One series comprises the One X, the One S and the lower-end One V, according to a product launch statement from the company.
Interestingly, the 4.7" touch screen One X is one of only a few smartphones at MWC 2012 which offered up the new 1.5 GHz quad core CPUs, while the 4.3" touch screen One S used a 1.5 GHz dual-core CPU. Both phones also utilised new generation Corning Gorilla Glass which make them much thinner. Also noteworthy, the One series will be available worldwide from April 2012 via 140 mobile operators and distributors.
Known for its Transformer tablet PC, which includes a detachable keyboard that, when added, turns the device into a laptop, Asus debuted its new Padfone, which is a 4.3" touch screen device, running on Android 4.0, which works on a dual-core CPU. Keeping loyal to the innovation that made its Transformer tablet unique, the Padfone can also be inserted into an Asus Padstation to become a 10.1" tablet PC.
MWC 2012 also witnessed a new 10" tablet from Huawei, the MediaPad 10, which it claimed was the world's first quad-core tablet PC offering. The MediaPad 10 comes with a 1.5 GHz quad-core CPU and utilises Android 4.0.
Interestingly, Sony Ericsson used MWC 2012 as an opportunity to launch two new products which were a departure from previous Xperia products in that they carried only the Sony brand - the Sony Xperia P and the Sony Xperia U.
Both utilising dual-core CPUs and Near Field Communication (NFC) chips, the Xperia P and U were only differentiated in that they each have differing screen sizes and camera resolutions: the P has a 4" touch screen and an 8 MP camera, while the U has a 3.5" touch screen and a 5 MP camera.
However, most telling of all, conspicuously absent from Sony's new offerings were quad-core devices, which it said it would only introduce in 2013. Especially revealing of the company's future since most competitors showcased quad-core products at MWC 2012.
Aside from Samsung, and maybe Huawei, LG was the only other company to showcase a new 'phablet', or super tablet offering, with its Optimus Vu which featured a 5" touch screen, Android Gingerbread operating system, and a 1.5 GHz dual-core CPU.
Also, further adding to MWC 2012's novelty offerings, LG additionally previewed the Optimus 3D Max which has a 1.3 GHz dual-core CPU, along with NFC chip, and a 4.3" touch screen. In addition, the novelty factor was piled on by its 3D view feature, which does not need 3D glasses. This could be used to view images, movies and even apps, such as Google Earth, in 3D.