MWC 2016: What did I miss?

ByKim Staples
MWC 2016

It was MWC this weekend! That’s Mobile World Congress, a trade show where companies show off all the mobile, smartphone, and telecoms tech they’ve been working on, and in the mobile world it’s big news.

We've been keeping a close eye on the proceedings, even sending our business development manager Thom all the way to Barcelona to tell us the juiciest telephonic gossip. Here's a quick round-up of everything that went down.

Samsung and LG stole the show

The most anticipated releases at MWC were from Samsung and LG, and it's nice to see that they lived up to the hype.

Samsung's new Galaxy S7 is probably the best smartphone to date, which is pretty impressive considering that the S6 was also probably the best smartphone to date. While it looks largely the same as the S6 - the display is identical - the S7 is a lot better in some subtle ways. The processor's bumped up, the battery's been given a boost, and there's an 'always on' display, so you can see what time it is at a glance. It's also brought back the microSD slot and waterproofing - two things sorely missed on the S6.

Then we come to the LG G5. More than just an upgraded G4, this phone has taken on a whole new design that none of us saw coming: it's modular. In other words, you can take parts off and swap them around - slip off the bottom panel, and you can replace the battery, add a camera module, install an audio system, and more.

LG G5

Smartphones are getting smarter

Hoo boy, there were a lot of phones worth talking about at MWC. Let's see what's on offer from the best of the rest.

Sony have got their eye on what we all want from smartphones: high quality without the hideously high price. And that's pretty much what we'll get with the new Xperia X. In terms of specs, this phone's at the upper end of mid-range, but it's rocking the same fantastic design, camera, and display we'd normally expect from a flagship.

HP, meanwhile, is cornering the business phone market. The Elite X3 is a Windows Phone that can essentially be turned into a PC. Slip it into a special dock, and its display automatically resizes to fit an attached monitor; or connect it to a special 'mobile extender', and suddenly it's a laptop.

Cat - yes, the company that makes tractors, diggers, and sand-coloured work boots - showed off the first smartphone on the market with a thermal imaging sensor. It's smart, if you think heat maps are clever.

Some phones, on the other hand, are instead smart in the way that a finely tailored suit is smart. The Xiaomi Mi 5 looks like an amazing phone, but what really makes it stand out is the option of a ceramic case. And then there's the HTC 825, 630, and 530 - fairly uninteresting handsets, but they have a cool splatter pattern on the back, unique on each one.

Xiaomi Mi 5

Everyone's gearing up for 5G

The G5 is great, but 5G might be even better. It's the next generation of mobile connection tech after 4G, promising speeds of up to 1GB with a better infrastructure to support it - and it looks like it's coming even sooner than we expected. Every company that has anything to do with mobiles is prepping.

Mark Zuckerberg, the real-life version of The Social Network's douchebag protagonist, seems to be leading the conversation here. He announced Facebook's new Telecom Infra Project, in which the website will partner up with telecoms companies around the world to expand their mobile broadband networks. EE is already on board here in the UK.

Samsung hopped on the 5G train too, showcasing end-to-end 5G in a joint venture with Deutsche Telekom. And 5G connectivity would be useless without processors that can handle it - but luckily Intel and Qualcomm are on the case.

Gadgets are taking a worryingly sci-fi turn

Virtual reality was everywhere at MWC. You may, of course, recognise VR headsets from pretty much every non-post-apocalyptic vision of the future you've ever seen depicted in pop culture. It's fun that they've finally arrived, but kind of worrying given that those visions of the future tend to involve, for instance, alien attacks.

This impression isn't exactly sated by the sight of the lower half of BB8 - or the LG Rolling Ball, as attendants were calling it. And, most concerning of all, Sony unveiled its Xperia Ear, the exact same kind of gadget that turned people into cybermen in Doctor Who.

Sony Xperia Ear

ZTE is slightly less obsessed with fish

Last year, Chinese tech company ZTE put out the world's first smart watch that can detect fish. This came after the release of its Fish Finder, of course - a device you take fishing with you to help you find fish.  ZTE likes fish.

At this year's MWC, however, it was kind enough to just show off some non-piscine gadgets. The best of the bunch was undoubtedly the ZTE Spro Plus, a chunky tablet with a projector built into it that lets you project films, photos, and the like onto a wall.

 

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