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Call Of The Times

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Every February, the GSM Association pulls together a big bash for anyone under the cellphone sun in an event we've come to know as Mobile World Congress. Hosted across eight different halls at the Fira de Barcelona — not to mention countless off-site locations — MWC plays host to the biggest phone announcements of the year. I take stock of the recently concluded MWC 2012 to bring you the key trends I've noticed coming out of this event.

Camera's Are Back, Baby: Jaws dropped when Nokia unveiled the new 808 PureView, a phone with a 41-megapixel camera. Yes, no misprint there — the star of the show was a forty-unbelievable-one megapixel shooter from Nokia that allows you to never need optical zoom on a phone again — you simply zoom into the image since it's that detailed! Oddly enough, this may be the innovation that noone's going to buy, since the 808 is based on the older Symbian operating software that is rapidly falling out of favor even within Nokia. How about a PureView for your Windows Mobile devices, Nokia?

Big, Bigger, Biggest: While Apple still pushes a 3.5-inch display in its devices, you'd be hard pressed at MWC to find a phone manufacturer who's not pushing displays that are at least an inch bigger, if not more. Forget the 5-inch Galaxy Note, Samsung launched a 10.1-inch version of the Note. Add that to LG's giant Optimus 4X HD and the Sony Xperia P's 4-inch screen, and it quickly becomes clear that smaller displays are so 2011. The effect isn't just to make the phone bigger — screens now stretch all the way to the edge, and the one phone launch conspicuous by its absence — the hotly anticipated Samsung Galaxy SIII — is set to do away with a border altogether. Time to stitch bigger pockets?

Horsepower Is Everything: Remember how dual-cores processors dominated phones in 2011? If you want to be a contender in the smartphone game, it appears the bar has just been raised — it's either quad-core or nothing! MWC saw LG launching the Optimus 4X HD, which was followed in close succession by HTC's One X and ZTE's Era devices — all three share the Nvidia Tegra 3 quad-core processor in common. With quad-cores high on the spec list for 2012 phones, consumers can expect to see better performance in computing-intensive tasks such as full-motion video games. And finally, these processors also ship with low power modes to increase battery life – a common complaint on these monsterphones. The Tegra 3 for example packs an extra processor that can be used for simple everyday tasks such as phone calls, emails and music playback without sacrificing battery life. Genuine question to all phone makers though: with your phones packing quad-core chips, where are the entertainment apps meant to stress even today's dual-core phones?

Android Is Everywhere: You can't throw a stone at Fira de Barcelona without it hitting a vendor with an Android offering. Google is everywhere and every major vendor, including LG, Samsung, Sony and Motorola, is offering Android-based handsets and tablets. Also interesting was that at CES 2012 just over a month prior, there was a near total lack of devices running Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich. MWC saw Android 4.0 everywhere, with every brand flaunting the newest software on board. Expect other operating systems like Windows Phone 7 to see more love next year.

NFC: For a technology that's been around for a while now, NFC really hasn't had much of a showing in the cellphone segment, with Nokia and RIM making some noise about it every now and then. At Mobile World Congress, Acer, Huawei, LG, Nokia, Orange, Samsung and ZTE all announced smartphones that can come with NFC. Hopefully this will drive the consumer apps that can change consumer reception about NFC.











Asus Padfone

Cheaper Smartphones: While the big guns did get the lion's share of attention, there were also some interesting announcements in the "non-quad-core-5-inch-screen" category, i.e. the category for the rest of us who don't crave the latest and greatest (or simply cant afford to!). Nokia announced the Windows Phone-based Lumia 610, which at about $250 will give users the one of the lowest entry points to buy into the Windows Phone platform. Intel's also announced the 1GHz Z2000 processor which should drive cheaper smartphones in the next 12 months – having missed the bus on the mobile space, Intel would be more than eager to make up for lost ground, so expect interesting announcements in this space in the months to come.

Convergence Or Oddity: Is the Galaxy Note 10.1 an oversized phone or a tablet with an identity-crisis? Whichever way you look at it, converged devices made a strong showing at MWC. The most interesting was the Asus Padfone, which is an Android smartphone that docks into a tablet (the Padfone Station). At Mobile World Congress Asus announced that the Padfone Station will also be able to dock into a keyboard just like the Eee Pad Transformer Prime. The keyboard dock essentially turns the phone into an ultraportable laptop and provides 9 times the original phone's battery. Think of the benefits — you carry essentially one device at all times, all your data is always synced (it's still one device powering the whole experience) and the form factor changes to meet your needs. Impressive, to say the least.

iPad 3: Of course, Apple wasn't there at MWC, but the next iPad's shadow loomed over MWC, with just about every tablet maker trying to second-guess what Apple would do with the iPad, and beat them at that game. Samsung unveiled the Galaxy Note 10.1, a 10.1-inch tablet with a stylus that can be used to draw or write on the screen, while Asus had their Padfone. And just as Google's Eric Schmidt took the stage for the keynote, Apple dropped the bomb and announced the iPad launch event. Classic show-stealing tactic that had many industry watchers chuckling at the timing.

technocool at kanwar dot net
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