After the Mobile World Congress (MWC) wrapped up in Barcelona late last week and ended its preview of tech trends to come, the loudest buzz lingering in the air had less to do with the preview of Microsoft’s (NASDAQ:MSFT) Windows 8 operating system—although that was a big deal—than the chatter about Google’s (NASDAQ:GOOG) Android operating system, quad-core processors, and near-field communication (NFC).
Android’s big hello
The ubiquitous topic seemed to be Android 4.0 operating system, aka Ice Cream Sandwich, which appeared in a number of top devices. Samsung (PINK:SSNLF), for example, focused on its ICS-loaded Galaxy devices, namely the Galaxy Note 10.1 smartphone-tablet hybrid, and 7-inch and 10-inch versions of the Galaxy Tab tablet line.
ASUS unveiled the Padfone, an ICS smartphone-tablet that also includes a keyboard docking option. The Android dominance reflected consumer demand. A recent Pew survey found that Android ownership rose to include 20% of the American market between May 2011 and last month.
Devices equipped with quad-core processors were expected to debut in large numbers at this year’s MWC and manufacturers delivered. These processors offer greater power for mobile applications such as gaming but, to extend battery life, can also power down when performing simple tasks. The HTC One X features a 4.7-inch screen and ICS but will only be quad-core in Europe; its counterpart in the U.S. will be sold with a dual-core chip. Globally, smartphone buyers can get quad-core performance from the LG Optimux 4X HD, a 4.7-inch smartphone that will likely be the company’s focus for the year. Sony (NYSE:SNE), notably, didn’t present quad-core devices and hinted at a quad-core product pushback until early 2013, citing concerns about the processor’s power usage and drain on battery life.
An NFC hot spot
Near field communication (NFC) technology, a short-distance radio technology typically used to facilitate wireless transactions and data exchanges, appeared in many devices at MWC and was the central feature of the NFC Café. The Café displayed various uses for the technology that extend beyond payments to include navigation and location-based recommendations. It wasn’t a coincidence that Vodafone (NASDAQ:VOD) and Visa (NYSE:V) announced their NFC payment agreement while the MWC was in session. Companies are betting that NFC usage is about to boom. If research firm Parks and Associates is correct, it could become a billion-dollar industry within the next three years.
The news from MWC wasn’t enough to make or break any particular company even though manufacturers made slight adjustments on the days of their presentations. This is mostly due to the fact that products and trends were anticipated well before to the event. Some product profiles might have been altered to be less specific than originally planned, but little about the offerings came as major surprises to those who paid attention to industry news.