Gadgets of the month: Mobile World Congress round-up

28 Feb 20132 Shares

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We take a look back at some of the biggest gadget news from Mobile World Congress (MWC), which took place this month in Barcelona, and look ahead at what’s to come.

Vodafone Ireland Gadgets of the month is sponsored by Vodafone Ireland

This month…

Mobile World Congress

The world’s biggest mobile conference was chock full of gadget news this month. Sony launched its Xperia Tablet Z, declaring 2013 as the year of the Android tablet, and Google revealed that Google Play is growing faster than the Android platform. Our man in Barcelona John Kennedy got a close look at the new Galaxy Note 8.0 from Samsung, as well as the super fast Ascend P2 from Huawei, and the new operating system contender Firefox OS.

Here, we look at some more announcements from exhibitors at MWC to keep you well-informed.

Nokia covering all price points

Microsoft and Nokia have taken a stance of quality over quantity in terms of the Windows Phone app ecosystem; however, there’s still plenty of choice in terms of handsets. At Mobile World Congress, Nokia unveiled two new Lumia smartphones, the 520 and 720.

The entry-level Lumia 520 is priced at just €139. This 3G-only device runs Windows Phone 8, powered by a 1GHz dual-core Snapdragon processor. The 4-inch LCD features a resolution of 800 x 480 and the 520 is packing 512MB RAM and 8GB storage, plus a micro-SD slot offering expansion up to 64GB, not to mention 7GB of free cloud storage from SkyDrive.

Nokia Lumia 520

Nokia Lumia 520

The Lumia 520 also comes with a 5MP rear camera and its colourful outer shell can be changed as the user sees fit.

Stepping up into the mid-range, Nokia also announced the €249 Lumia 720. Also a Windows Phone 8, 3G-only device, the 720 comes with a super-sensitive touchscreen that can be operated even when using gloves.

Nokia Lumia 720

Nokia Lumia 720

Initially launching with China Mobile in Q2, the 720 comes with a 1GHz dual-core processor, 512MB RAM, 8GB storage, 2,000mAh battery and an NFC chip. Its 4.3-inch 800 x 480 display comes with Clear Black technology for improved viewing outdoors. At 9mm thick, it’s the thinnest Lumia in the range, and features a 6.7MP rear camera with Carl Zeiss optics, plus a 1.3MP front-facing HD camera with a wide-angle lens to fit more friends in on a video call.

LG’s refreshed line-up

Another brand with no shortage of new models on display was LG, with three new devices for its L-series, two for the F-series and the new Optimus G Pro.

The new F-series devices are intended to fill the mid-range space between the entry-level L-series and the flagship G models. Both the Optimus F5 and F7 run Android 4.1.1 Jelly Bean and feature 4G LTE connectivity.

The F5, set to hit Europe in Q2, comes with a 4.3-inch qHD display at a resolution of 540 x 960. It packs 1GB RAM and 8GB internal storage, and is powered by a 2,150mAh battery. The rear camera shoots at 5MP while the front-facing camera is capable of 1.3MP.

LG Optimus F5

LG Optimus F5

The Optimus F7 has a slightly larger 4.7-inch HD IPS display with a 720 x 1,280 resolution. It also has a 1.5GHz dual-core processor, 2GB RAM, 8MP rear camera and a 2,540mAH battery. The availability of this device is yet to be announced.

LG Optimus F7

LG Optimus F7

LG also showcased the world’s smallest wireless charger at MWC. At just 6.9cm in diameter, the WCP-300 still manages a charge area 1.7 times wider than LG’s former wireless chargers.

LG WCP-300 wireless charger

LG WCP-300 wireless charger

The dinky device uses electromagnetic induction technology and is Qi-certified, which means it’s compatible with the LG spectrum 2 and Nexus 4 from the US market, as well as the latest crop of Nokia Lumia devices.

Phablets make a big impact

From the super-small to the extra-large, MWC was riddled with phablet devices from many manufacturers trying to emulate Samsung’s success with the Note devices.

ZTE had the 5.7-inch Grand Memo, a 4G device expected to launch in Europe in Q2. The brushed metallic blue backing will be all too familiar to anyone who’s seen Samsung’s Galaxy S III, though this much larger device is just shy of being a 7-inch tablet.

ZTE Grand Memo

ZTE Grand Memo

The HD display has a resolution of 1,280 x 720 and the operating system is Android 4.1.1 Jelly Bean with a custom ZTE interface. Inside you have a 3,200mAh battery, 1.5GHz Snapdragon 800 quad-core processor, 16GB storage and 1GB RAM, while outside there’s a 1MP front-facing camera and a 13MP rear camera that can record 1080p video.

Alcatel had the more reasonably sized 5-inch Idol X to showcase, with a slim bezel and 7mm-thick design that belies its phablet proportions. Inside, the Idol carries a 1.5GHz quad-core MediaTek processor and the device runs Android 4.1 Jelly Bean.

Alcatel Idol X

Alcatel Idol X

Apparently there are two versions of the Idol X: one with an 8MP camera and micro-SD slot, and the other with a 13MP camera and a dual-SIM in place of the micro-SD option. The Idol X also comes with brightly coloured rubber-like casing in black, red, yellow, turquoise, green and red.

Then there’s the Asus PadFone Infinity: a 5-inch phablet that can turn into a full-size 10.1-inch tablet. Featuring metal edges reminiscent of the iPhone 5’s design, this PadFone runs Android 4.2 and packs a 1.7GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon 600 quad-core processor with an Adreno 320 GPU.

Asus PadFone Infinity

Asus PadFone Infinity

The Super IPS screen features a resolution of 1,920 x 1,080 and the device comes equipped with a 13MP rear camera with 8fps burst mode, 2MP front-facing camera housed in a brushed aluminium unibody design. This device can then dock into the PadFone Infinity station to become a tablet with 1,920 x 1,200 resolution display, a 1MP front-facing camera and a micro-USB 2.0 port. The 5,000mAh battery within the tablet will provide for up to 40 hours of 3G talk time when phone is docked. The whole package costs €999 and will arrive in April.

HP’s first Android tablet

Moving on to fully fledged tablets, HP introduced its first for the Android platform: the Slate 7. Expected in April, the consumer tablet runs on Jelly Bean and features a 1.6GHz ARM dual-core Cortex A9 processor, 3MP rear camera, front-facing VGA camera and a micro-USB port. As the name suggests, the screen measures 7 inches diagonally and offers a wide viewing angle.

HP Slate 7

HP Slate 7

The Slate 7 also features embedded Beats Audio – a first for a tablet. What’s more, it will priced at a reasonable €149.

Coming soon…

E-ink screens for smartphones

Another device that caught visitors’ eyes at Mobile World Congress was a prototype smartphone featuring an E-ink screen. With manufacturers vying to produce the clearest, brightest, most colour-perfect HD screens, one might wonder where a device like this fits in. But the beauty of E-ink screens lies not in the grey-scale display, but in the small amount of battery power required to run them.

The reference smartphone at MWC claimed to have days of battery life, not to mention superior readability in direct sunlight. E-ink, the company behind Kindle displays, developed the concept as a low-cost smartphone, though E-ink displays could also be introduced as removable rear covers for regular smartphones that would provide users with a low-power at-a-glance display that won’t drain their battery.

Galaxy S IV may have two different processors

Before Mobile World Congress, Samsung let us know that its new flagship device, the Galaxy S IV, won’t be revealed until 14 March. While we wait for the unveiling, specifications are starting to leak and a report from NDTV claims the handset will come with different processors in different markets.

It claims that a JP Morgan note states that the US market will get a 1.9GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon 600 processor, while other regions will get an eight-core Exynos 5 Octa from Samsung itself. This powerful chip was demonstrated at CES earlier this year.

It’s not unheard of for Samsung to ship a handset with different chips, as the S III comes with a dual-core Snapdragon S4 in its 4G version as opposed to the quad-core Exynos 4 that’s supplied with the 3G model.

Main gadgets image via Shutterstock

Vodafone Ireland Gadgets of the month is sponsored by Vodafone Ireland

Elaine Burke is managing editor of Siliconrepublic.com

editorial@siliconrepublic.com