Top stories from day 1 of Mobile World Congress 2016

Mobile World Congress is now in full swing, with many of the major product announcements and news stories happening on Sunday and Monday. The big name phone companies unveiled new smartphones (and many more mobile devices, accessories, laptops and gadgets, not forgetting mobile network technologies) in what looks like another bumper year of faster and sexier devices. Is it just me, or do almost all of today’s flagship mobiles look eerily similar to the iPhone 6 – unibody metal cases, smooth sides, and antenna bands across the back?…

US mobile operator Verizon also announced that it’s continuing testing 5G in collaboration with Ericsson, Intel, Nokia, Samsung and Qualcomm. Unfortunately, 5G isn’t exactly finalised in terms of the definition and approved international standards, with some disagreement over what the next-generation network actually is. AT&T also claimed this week that they’ll have the edge over Verizon when it comes to 5G.

Here’s a brief recap of some of the highlights in terms of new, novel or interesting devices, which was largely dominated by powerful smartphones, hybrid devices and virtual reality.

Samsung updates the Galaxy lineup

We already covered Samsung’s two new high-end devices, the Galaxy S7 and S7 Edge, but the reaction so far has been quite mixed. On the one hand, they improve upon the Galaxy S6 in every way, adding in features that were sorely missed last time around (such as the removable SD card and waterproofing). On the other hand, there aren’t as many new and innovative features that might tempt a few users to switch to Samsung, but the South Korean firm appears to have done enough to please its fans. Is it enough to stay at the top of the Android heap in 2016 though?

Samsung Galaxy S7

Sony Xperia X lineup

The latest Sony smartphones are the Xperia X, the Xperia X Performance and the Xperia XA, besides being good looking device, has focused heavily on improvements to the camera, which will even predict where the subject in your snaps will move to and adjust its focus accordingly. It’s a technique the Japanese firm calls “hybrid autofocus”, and early impressions have been very positive. Sony has also improved its battery tech, and claim that the batteries will last longer the competition at “up to 2 days”. Without any major leap forwards in battery technology in recent years, anything that keeps your phone going longer is definitely welcome…

Sony Xperia XA

You can read more about the new phones on Sony’s mobile blog.

Nokia Ozo VR camera

Now out of the smartphone business, Nokia is focusing on other areas. As far as devices go, the company’s Ozo virtual reality camera is an interesting device – being one of the world’s first cinema grade virtual reality recorder, which can record up to 45 minutes of 360-degree audio and video. It’s not cheap though, coming in a wallet-busting $60,000 with some models costing even more. For movie makers however, it’s a viable option for professional content creation.

Nokia Ozo

LG G5 modular phone

LG have really upped their game with the latest G5. Embracing modularity, you can swap out components (like the 2,800 mAh battery) from the bottom of the phone and insert another with the touch of a button. You can also switch in other components like the LG Cam Plus, or a special Hi-Fi module for much-improved sound, courtesy of Bang and Olufsen. Perhaps this is the future of mobile devices…

LG G5

HTC Vive VR device gets a launch date and price

HTC have just announced the price for its Vive virtual reality headset, and it’s not cheap. Pre-orders start on February the 29th, but it will set you back $799 for the unit and $200 more than a similar device by Facebook-owned Oculus.

HTC Vive

HP Elite X3 super-sized phablet

HP surprised many at Mobile World Congress and announced a super-sized Windows 10 smartphone, the Elite X3 (“the one device that’s every device”!). The phone can be used as both a phone and a laptop, and boasts 4 GB RAM, a Qualcomm Snapdragon 820 CPU and 64 GB of storage. The laptop/desktop mode is afforded by connecting the X3 to HP’s USB Type-C dock, giving a fullscreen experience with a desktop monitor and keyboard. The X3 is squarely aimed at the business market, but it should also appeal to everyday consumers looking for a powerful, flexible Windows 10 phone.

HP Elite X3

Huawei MateBook, a Windows 10 hybrid device

Huawei is better known for its capable Android-based phones, but it’s just announced a Windows 10 hybrid laptop called the MateBook, which features the MatePen stylus, an Intel Core M CPU and a hi-res 2,560 x 1,440 LED touchscreen. There’s no word yet on UK pricing, but the higher-specced version with a Core M7 CPU and 8 GB of RAM which will set you back $1,599, while the cheaper M3-based version with 4G of RAM will cost $699.

Huawei MateBook

Stay tuned this week for more Mobile World Congress news and updates.

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