MWC 2011 Recap
Star of the show: Android
Aside from this pavilion, they had presence basically all over Hall 8, and in some other halls as well - overall over 30 companies who use Android partnered with the pavilion and had a smaller green android on their counter. In each such counter there were limited edition Android badges, which quickly became the talk of the show and visitors traded them like crazy. Also, these badges have already made their way to eBay...
The total effect is that wherever you looked at - Android was there. Of course this was true even without the branding effort - Android has taken a bite of almost any device vendor out there, and it's here to stay.
Best 3D device: LG Optimus 3D
Another trend at the show was 3D screens. I've seen several handsets with 3D screens, but of all, I have to say LG's (Android-based) handset was the best. First, I'd like to emphasize that we're not talking about a 3D screen that requires special glasses - you can look at these screens with your bare eyes, and still see the 3D effect in all its glory. Obviously you can't see the 3D effect from pictures (As you are using a stone age 2D screen...) - but it is truly amazing.
The downside is that you have to hold the handset firmly and look straight at it to get the full effect - viewing angle is key here, since it is all based on getting a different picture to your left eye than the one received on your right eye. And that leads to the second downside which can only be described as a "3D headache" - the same type of eyes/brain uncomfortable feeling you get while watching 3D content. However, of all devices I saw, the Optimus 3D was the easiest on the eyes.
The applications for 3D are quite obvious: videos and gaming. And the great thing is that aside of consuming 3D content, you can also produce it - the Optimus 3D features a stereoscopic camera that allows capturing 3D videos.
The Optimus 3D also features a 3D user interface which looks quite nifty, but a tad annoying... But anyway, you can also use it as a regular 2D handset. When 3D content is not available (i.e. browsing the web) the display looks like a high-quality 2D display.
And the best thing is that we're not talking about a futuristic technology that you'll see only in trade shows - the Optimus 3D will be released in Q2 2011 (April 25th in the UK)
Best show in town: Samsung Galaxy S II
And yet another Android based handset that struck some waves in the show was Samsung Galaxy S II. It is a truly remarkable handset, very slick and amazingly thin (8.5mm), and it features a crisp Super AMOLED Plus 4.3" display all on top of Android Gingerbread.
Even though it's a great handset, the Galaxy S II has a lot of competitors starting with the Optimus 3D and countless other slick Android handsets from other manufacturers. However, what I do know is that Samsung did invest a lot of marketing $$ in MWC to prove they have the best Android out there - their launch event (Samsung Unpacked) was well done with orchestra players playing both traditional instruments and modern instruments such as the Android music apps on the Galaxy S II...
The resolution revolution
Once upon a time a QVGA resolution (240x320) seemed like a dream - today QVGA is considered more like a nightmare for most savvy phone users... While the iPhone 4 is still king featuring 640x960 resolution, in most other smartphones we saw up until recently resolutions of up to 360x480 or so. But in this show it was clear that the new standard that most decent 4.3" Android phones feature is 480x800 resolution. That's 5 times the pixels we had in the ancient QVGA and about twice from just one generation ago.
And that's only on-screen resolution, many handsets come equipped with the ability to connect to external screens and show Full HD videos (1920x1080). Your phone can now be your streamer with no compromise on quality.
And if a big screen is not enough for you - some handsets come equipped with an internal projector. Now that's a killer feature: You can show up to a meeting and project slides or movies directly from your handset. These projectors still have a few issues, their brightness is usually very low which means you have to project in a dark room, and they consume quite a lot of battery - but the great thing is that's it's already commercial and I've seen handsets from multiple vendors with this feature (And yes, most were Android...)
Mobile gaming promise: Xperia PLAY
For the gamers amongst you, SonyEricsson's Xperia PLAY should be a real treat. But since previous attempts to combine a mobile handset and a gaming console all-in-one failed miserably (Anyone said N-Gage?...) - we'll have to remain skeptical and let this new challenger prove its promise.
SonyEricsson has a real asset here which is Sony's PlayStation brand. And indeed the gaming controls that slide out of the phone (Instead of a keyboard) look like PlayStation controls, but certainly don't feel that way. The games I tried look great on the handset, but to my surprise PlayStation is mostly used here as a brand and not as a platform: All games are actually remastered version of the original PlayStation games.
The actual platform used here is no other than Android (again...) with some external APIs to allow access to the gaming controls. So if you thought you're getting a phone that knows to run PlayStation games, forget it - it will run Android games, which is not bad at all - but I think we'd all appreciate if this point was made more clear in this phone's marketing briefs.
Tablets, tablets and more tablets
While Apple did not exhibit at the show (They never do...), its impact was well felt again- with Tablets being a buzz leader in the first MWC after the iPad was launched. And in the same way that almost every vendor had an Android phone, every vendor had a tablet - and in fact in most cases, an Android tablet.
Other than the iPad (And its soon-to-be revealed successor), it seems the BlackBerry is getting a good traction with its PlayBook, Samsung Galaxy Tab and Motorola Xoom lead the Android space (Both running Android 3.0 Honeycomb) and there's also HP with its TouchPad based on Palm's WebOS (Good luck with that...)
When Apple launched the iPad, people didn't know what to make of it. Some claimed it'll change our lives while others claimed that the iPad is just a big iPhone... I think that sales figures have proven that a tablet is more than just a big smartphone, and are here to stay - and we'll probably hear more on the future of tablets from Apple later on this week.
Blast from the past: Device cases
Remember the days we switched our Nokia handsets cases in the same rate we switched ringtones? Well, I'm afraid to announce that these days are knocking on our doors threatening to come back from the dead...
In the past few years the case-switching phenomenon disappeared and people were quite happy with their original phone casing (Also I get the feeling people change ringtones much less than they used to). But now I've seen several companies trying to ressurect this trend. For example CaseMate who markets various covers for Android and iPhones - including completely modular sets that allow you to customize your case in ways you never wanted to...
They're not the only company, I've seen it also in LG's booth and you probably also saw the Angry Birds smartphone cases. This adds up to another trend which is more useful, and that's magnetic charge. There are now adapter cases that replace your original smartphone's case, and hookup internally to its charging port. Then charging is done by simply placing it on a magnetic charger (See Powermat)
And finally the biggest mystery of them all: With Android's momentum, is there any place left for Microsoft's Windows Phone 7? And what will the new partnership between the two giants mean? Call it NokiaSoft or MicroKia or whatever you like - even though analysts have written many obituaries about past moves of these two players - combined together we may be in for a surprise.
I experienced a Windows Phone 7 first hand, and the UI is quite smooth and very friendly. It has all you expect from a new age smartphone and more. Is it enough to triumph Apple fans/cult-members and Android's soaring figures? Unlikely - but only time will tell. Though it looks like a difficult challenge, I believe this move is great for Microsoft which was a niche mobile player until now - and it's a big bet for Nokia that is not going for Android like all other vendors - but one that may pay off if they play their cards right.
That's all this time - See you next year in Barcelona (And the year after that perhaps in Munich, Paris or Milan...)