Mobile World Congress is a mobile event where everyone but Apple unveil what’s coming. You might remember our coverage from last year. Here are the Mobile World Congress 2014 highlights.
Mobile World Congress 2014 Highlights from Samsung
Samsung made a huge splash in Barcelona. They held the first episode of Unpacked to announce the new devices. Their headline device is the upcoming Samsung Galaxy S5.
- Like the Galaxy S4 Active variant, the Galaxy S5 is water and dust resistant. This means that it can stay under 3 feet of water for at least 30 minutes.
- 16 MP camera with a 0.3 second auto-focus ability.
- An Ultra Power Saving Mode that can run 24 hours on a 10% charge. This mode is pretty drastic. It changes the screen to use grayscale, disables GPS, disables Wi-Fi when the screen is off, and limits how often an app can run in the background.
- Software wise, they have updated TouchWiz. Reports indicated that it’s a little flatter. Samsung has also removed the Samsung Hub app to remove bloat. You can still download it to your phone.
- A finger print scanner that can log 3 fingerprints. Yeah, Apple added this recently in the iPhone 5S. If you ask me, this was stupid then and it’s stupid now.
- A heart-rate scanner on the back of the phone. Simply place your finger on the phone and it can read your vitals. Samsung is betting heavy on the personal healthy and fitness market and working scanners into their devices. Probably not necessary on a phone, but it’s a nice-to-have.
- Still plastic body — rumors suggested they were going to switch to metal and that you could not remove the body. I’m happy this didn’t take off.
They also announced two new versions of the Gear 2 smartwatch. Notice I did not say the Galaxy Gear? That’s because these are not Galaxy devices. They run Tizen instead of Android. Samsung considers Tizen the OS for wearable devices. These two smartwatches — the Gear 2 and the Gear 2 Neo — are almost the same. The only differences are that the Neo lacks a camera and has a plastic body. The main version has a camera on the front and a metal body. Both versions are dust and water-resistant like the Galaxy S5. They also have heart-rate sensors, and a sensor that lets them act like a universal remote. They have a 2-day battery life.
They also announced a smartband called the Gear Fit. Functionally it is a variant to the Gear 2 Neo with different components. The Gear Fit has a bendable screen that lets it fit tightly against your wrist. It has a pedometer to track your steps. The battery life is 3-4 days.
All four of these devices should see release on April 11th. Price is carrier dependent.
Mobile World Congress 2014 Highlights from Facebook
Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg delivered the keynote address to Mobile World Congress. He started off by talking about the 19 billion purchase of WhatsAp. Basically they bought it for the 450 million users. Facebook has a goal to connect everyone in the world and this is in-line with their goals.
He further discussed internet.org’s goal to expand the internet access around the world. Internet.org is a coalition that aims to work together more efficiently at reduced costs. They believe that expanding the internet to developing countries will improve lives through better health, job opportunities, and stronger economies.
Zuckerberg believes there are three aspects necessary to cut the cost of the internet.
- Decrease infrastructure costs — not just for running the internet, but for smartphones as well.
- Increase data efficiency. He said that last year the average person used 14 MB/day. Today people use about 2 MB and they are on their way to 1 MB.
- Increasing the ability to up-sell more subscription services.
Mobile World Congress 2014 Highlights from Firefox OS
Mozilla made a huge statement at Mobile World Congress 2014. They recognize that one of the biggest issues with Android is that updates to the operating system are too dependent on the carrier. They want to get away from that. They announced that they are making efforts to let users upgrade the operating system themselves over Wi-Fi. To do this they need to remove carriers from being a major player in the equation. The most obvious way to do this is to cut the cost of a smartphone so that a user could purchase it outright and choose a carrier later. The first of these initiatives is a partnership with Spreadtrum Communications to produce a $25 smartphone. Let me be clear, that is $25 retail, not $25 production.
Mobile World Congress 2014 Highlight: Nokia does Android
Nokia — now owned by Microsoft — announced three new smartphones running Android. This is significant because Nokia is the primary maker of Windows Phone devices. Obviously a Microsoft subsidy will not completely drop Windows Phone, but we may now see Nokia make an Android and a Windows Phone version of each phone. I bet many people would jump at the chance to own an Android version of the Lumia 1020.
The three Android phones — the Nokia X, the Nokia X+, and the Nokia XL — are all pretty similar. Spec wise the Nokia X is the same phone as Lumia 520. The Nokia X+ is just the Nokia X with more memory and storage. The Nokia XL has a 5″ screen at the same resolution as the X, and it has a 5 MP camera with a 2 MP front camera. They are all low-cost smartphones designed for emerging markets.
There are a few other key points you need to know:
- These phones run an older version of Android (4.1) with the Google-related services removed.
- There is no Android Marketplace. Instead Nokia has created its own app store.
- Outlook and Microsoft Exchange, Nokia browser, and HERE Maps replace Gmail, Chrome, and Google Maps.
- You can side-load Gmail, Chrome, and Google Maps by downloading the apps elsewhere on the net.
- The UI makes them look like a Windows Phone.
- They have a physical back button, rather than the three standard Android software buttons.
Mobile World Congress 2014 Highlights from Others
There were a few other noteworthy projects from Mobile World Congress 2014.
- Blackberry announced new phones and services. The new phones are the Blackberry Q20, and the Indonesia-exclusive Blackberry Z3. The Q20 is an updated version of the Q10 — Blackberry’s QWERTY phone running Blackberry 10. The Z3 has a 5″ screen.
- Blackphone made its debut at the conference. Blackphone is an Android device that focuses heavily on privacy and giving the user control over their device. They’re claim is that they are the first NSA-proof phone. Claims like that are just asking for trouble. Don’t ask me why a device called “Blackphone” has a white body.
- Huawei announced their own fitness band with the Talkband B1. The Talkband can connect to any phone over Bluetooth 4.1 or NFC, unlike Samsung’s Gear line which only works with Samsung devices. Supposedly it can connect to any device running Android 2.3+ or iPhone 5+.
That wraps up our highlights from Mobile World Congress 2014. Was there anything you heard that excited you? Is there anything you feel we missed? Let us know.