Now that the dust has settled and my head has recovered from the relentless week that is Mobile World Congress, it’s time to take a look at the show’s highlights.
I’ll point out from the start that MWC is a vast show and there was no way I could see everything alone, however from a personal perspective, this is my opinion on the best of what the event had to offer.
Best New Handset: Samsung Galaxy S II
“The most awesome stage”
Last year, Facebook's VP of Design thought the TNW Conference main stage was the best she'd ever been on.
Android dominated the major new handset announcements this year. While many devices were incremental upgrades on existing technology, some manufacturers managed to make their handsets stand out. Sony Ericsson had its gaming-focused Xperia Play on offer, while HTC and INQ both showed off Facebook-centric phones and LG went for the novelty factor of being the first to show off a mobile 3D display on its Optimus 3D.
However, when it came to the handset that felt (based on first hands-on impressions) to be the best all-around device, the Samsung Galaxy S II clinched it. Managing to feel both almost impossibly slim and reassuringly substantial at the same time, this Android 2.3 Gingerbread smartphone with a 4.3 inch WVGA Super AMOLED Plus display was a fast and beautiful offering. While Samsung’s TouchWiz UI may annoy some people who prefer a pure Android experience, it’s certainly more subtle than some other manufacturers’ additions to Google’s mobile OS.
Best New Tablet: Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1
MWC certainly wasn’t the tablet-fest that CES was, although three notable Android launches were worth taking notice of. HTC’s Flyer turned heads with its Scribe technology for writing directly onto the screen, although the device itself was encased in glass, making it impossible to get a good feel for it.
LG’s Optimus Pad and Samsung’s Galaxy Tab 10.1 are both credible iPad competitors, running Android Honeycomb and sporting 8.9 inch and 10.1 inch displays respectively. While the Optimus Pad’s 3D video camera was a first for a tablet, the Galaxy Tab 10.1 was the one that really had me questioning whether I’d still be using my iPad in a few months’ time. Like the same manufacturer’s Galaxy S II, it combined feeling ‘just right’ to hold with fast and smooth dual core performance.
To be fair, both the LG and Samsung tablets boast similar specs, but LG’s 3D camera will most likely end up as little more than a rarely used, expensive novelty for many users. As such, the Galaxy Tab 10.1 won out for us as an all-round package.
Best Branding: Android
There’s only one contender here. There was no way to avoid Google’s Android branding, it was just about everywhere. Aside from the obvious prevalence of devices running the OS, the Android ‘waiters’ pictured here were present on many stands, while Google’s own stand was overrun by the little (and sometimes huge) green guys, as our video this week showed. We even heard of a ‘Cowboy Android’ on the Texas Instruments stand.
As souvenirs, Android pin badges and collectible plastic dolls in a variety of designs were being handed out to those lucky enough to be in the right place at the right time. Some of the pin badges are already attracting buyers on eBay.
Stand Most Likely To Have Come From Twenty Years Ago: CBOSS
While most exhibitors stuck to promoting their wares, it seems that one company had its head stuck firmly in the past. CBOSS Corporation actually had booth babes. Yes, walk past the stand at any time and you’d be almost certain to catch a bunch of scantily clad women on stage, being photographed by passing businessmen.
Sure, CBOSS’ business is the rather dull sounding “Development of innovative convergent IT solutions for end-to-end automation of telecommunications companies”, so you can understand why they’d want to drum up a bit of excitement, but booth babes? Really? In 2011? No, I didn’t take a picture – I’d have felt like a perv.
Most Brash Press Room Activity: A freaking iMac
The press room at Mobile World Congress this year always felt almost, but not quite, big enough. Rows of desks were continually full of journos typing up stories, hogging the few wired Internet connections that were available and leaving the rest of us to cope with overloaded WiFi connections.
While I don’t blame people for holding on to their hard-won desk space, this example took the biscuit – someone actually set up an iMac on one of the desks. Everyone else had brought laptops but much to the annoyance of others roaming the room for a place sit, this person had seemingly set up a desktop computer and then walked away, leaving it there to hold the space. To be fair, it wasn’t there later, so either they were asked to move it or (more amusingly) they’re actually using an iMac as a portable computer and setting it up everywhere they go. Either way, it amused me enough to grab a photo.