The biggest smartphone party of the year, the Mobile World Congress (MWC) 2016, kicked off in Barcelona, Spain, on Monday and runs until 25 February. The focus is on the next generation of flagships as well as mid-range smartphones. However, it is not surprising to see virtual reality (VR) hardware making a big splash too. Also, there are some portable computing devices, cameras and fitness accessories. A look at the biggest announcements, so far.
Samsung Galaxy S7 and S7 Edge
Samsung’s Galaxy flagship phones are the benchmark that rival Android phone makers try and match. This year’s Galaxy S7 (5.1-inch; 2,560x1,440-pixel resolution) and S7 Edge (5.5-inch curved; 2,560x1,440-pixel resolution) will be no different. After completely changing around the design language with metal and glass last year, the Korean company has embarked on a tweak-and-improve mission this time around. The two phones are water- and dust-resistant, pack in bigger batteries while still remaining quite thin (S7 is 7.9 mm; S7 Edge is 7.7mm) and also have a refreshed camera. Both phones hit stores in Europe and the US on 11 March, with prices starting £569 ( ₹ 55,700 approx). No word yet on India availability and pricing.
HP Elite X3
HP’s first smartphone in nearly two years is a Windows 10 Mobile device. It has a 5.96-inch (2,560x1,440 resolution) AMOLED screen, is powered by Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 820 processor with 4GB RAM and a 4,150mAh battery. For data security, you get fingerprint and iris scanners, FIPS 140-2 cryptography, 128-bit key Unified Image Encryption and 256-bit key Full Disk Encryption. Using Windows Continuum, a HP Desk Dock and a HD TV/monitor will transform it into a full-fledged PC. Pricing details are awaited.
HTC Vive VR
It is finally coming, for $799. HTC has announced that its virtual reality headset (made in partnership with Valve Corp.) will be available from April. Pre-orders start later this month. It will be shipped with two wireless controllers, 360-degree tracking and room-scale movement sensors. The only potential stumbling block—this costs $200 more than Facebook’s Oculus Rift.
Samsung Gear 360
The 360-degree cameras are a still-nascent category. The Gear 360 is a tiny, f2.0 dual-lens sphere (dare we say it looks like an eyeball), and is dust and water resistant. It can take 30-megapixel still images, has a microSD card slot (up to 128GB) and a removable battery. It will compete against the Ricoh Theta S ( ₹ 38,000 approx). But pricing details aren’t out yet.
Taking inspiration from Google’s Ara modular phone project, LG has introduced the G5 with a modular design, where users can plug in other accessories. Called “Friends", at present, there is the LG Cam Plus which contains extra battery power, a physical shutter button, and a jog dial to control zoom. The other is a 32-bit digital to analogue converter (DAC) made by Bang & Olufsen, which allows the phone to play music at a higher resolution. LG hopes third-party manufacturers will add more such modules. The aluminium body G5 itself packs in a Qualcomm Snapdragon 820 processor, 5.3-inch IPS Quantum display (2560 x 1440 resolution), a 16-megapixel camera and a 2,800mAh battery. Pricing details are awaited.
Lenovo Vibe K5 and K5 Plus
Mid-range Android smartphones is what Lenovo does very well. The Vibe K5 and Vibe K5 Plus are the latest additions to its line-up. The Vibe K5 has a 5-inch 720p display while the Vibe K5 Plus has a 5-inch Full HD display. There is a Qualcomm Snapdragon 415 powering the Vibe K5 and a Qualcomm Snapdragon 616 handles those duties in the Plus. The shared specs include 2GB RAM, 16GB storage, and a 2,750mAh battery. Priced at $129 ( ₹ 8,850 approx.) and $149 ( ₹ 10,200 approx.), respectively, India launch dates are awaited.
HTC Desire ‘streetwear’
While HTC’s Desire range of smartphones have always been consistent mid-range Android devices, they haven’t always had the most vibrant personality. HTC wants to change that, with the new 530, 630 and 825 peppered with a “micro splash effect". The 530 has a 5-inch 720p display, a quad-core 1.1GHz Snapdragon 210 processor, 1.5GB of RAM, an 8-megapixel camera and a 2,200mAh battery. The 630 gets a quad-core 1.6GHz Snapdragon 400 paired with 2GB RAM. The 825 gets a 5.5-inch, 720p display, BoomSound stereo speakers and a larger 2,700mAh battery. HTC will announce prices in March.
Hybrid computers are a hot category these days. Chinese electronics giant Huawei’s MateBook, is a 12-inch hybrid Windows 10 tablet, which transforms into a functional Windows 10 laptop with the addition of a keyboard cover which is a standard accessory. There’s also a stylus, and Huawei has also added the laser pointer. The screen has a resolution of 2,160x1,440p. It will be available with processor options Intel Core M3, M5 or M7, 4GB or 8GB of RAM, up to 512GB solid state drive and Windows 10 preloaded. It will be priced upwards of £620 ( ₹ 60,000 approx.).
Garmin Vivoactive HR
Fitness accessories maker Garmin has announced the latest version of the Vivoactive HR sports watch. It now has a built-in heart rate monitor, and it can use GPS to track running, cycling, swimming, golfing, rowing and skiing/snowboarding, along with custom settings for each activity. It has a Chroma display, which improves visibility in sunlight, and Garmin says the battery will last up to 8 days in tracking mode. The sports watch arrives in Q2 2015 for $250 ( ₹ 17,000 approx.).