Mobile World Congress 2014 has wrapped up in Barcelona. MWC may not get the same sort of attention and headlines as the Consumer Electronics Show, but for the mobile industry — manufacturers of smartphones, tablets and wearables — Mobile World Congress is the big league. More flagship mobile devices and new products launch this week than at any other time of the year.
Just how big is MWC? This is the show where Samsung (SSNLF) took the wraps off the Galaxy S5, the heir apparent to the Android smartphone throne. It’s where Nokia (NOK) confirmed those Android handset rumors and where Facebook (FB) CEO Mark Zuckerberg took time out of his post-What’s App acquisition break to take the stage and deliver a keynote where he explained why his company bought WhatsApp.
About the only consumer electronics or technology company of note that wasn’t at MWC was Apple (APPL) — and those guys don’t do CES either.
As you can imagine, there were hundreds of announcements, reveals and presentations over the course of the week, but we’ve put together a gallery of the best of Mobile World Congress 2014: the important, the interesting and the just plain weird.
The Best of Mobile World Congress 2014: Samsung Galaxy S5
Whether it’s the best of Mobile World Congress 2014 is open to interpretation, but there’s no disputing that the Samsung Galaxy S5 is probably the most important device to be unveiled.
No other company sells more phones than Samsung and no Android smartphone in the past few years has outsold the Samsung Galaxy S III or last year’s Galaxy S4. Samsung depends on smartphones for a huge chunk of its profits, and there will be no device more critical to the company’s bottom line in 2014 than its flagship Galaxy S5.
By the way, as expected, the GS 5 nicked the Apple iPhone 5s fingerprint sensor (along with the gold case option) then one-upped it with a heart rate sensor. Game on!
The Best of Mobile World Congress 2014: New Samsung Gear Smartwatches and Gear Fit
Wearables were a big deal at MWC 2014, and Samsung led the charge with a revision to last year’s disappointing Galaxy Gear.
The replacement is not one, but two smartwatches, the Gear 2 and Gear 2 Neo. Both improve on the Galaxy Gear’s horrid battery life, and the Gear 2 Neo loses the camera for a sleeker look (and lower price tag). Samsung also kicked Android out of its smartwatch camp, choosing to go instead with its own Tizen operating system.
In addition, Samsung introduced the Gear Fit, its entry into the red-hot fitness band category.
The Best of Mobile World Congress 2014: Huawei MediaPad X1
If you happen to think that phablets — mobile devices seemingly too big to be a smartphone and too small to be a tablet — are a blight that leads to people holding ridiculously large slabs of glass and plastic awkwardly to their heads, then China’s Huawei has cooked up a nightmare scenario for you.
The MediaPad X1 is a 7-inch tablet aimed squarely at the Google (GOOG) Nexus 7 in terms of specs, although it’s significantly slimmer and boasts a premium aluminum case. And it’s LTE and voice call-equipped.
That’s right, a 7-inch phablet.
Plans are for a China, Western Europe, Russia, Japan, Middle East and Latin America launch with the possibility of hitting the U.S. before the first half of 2014 is up.
The Best of Mobile World Congress 2014: Nokia X Android Smartphones
So if Nokia is set to become a Microsoft (MSFT) division and was already firmly in the Windows Phone 8 camp, why would it developed — and keep developing — Android smartphones?
Nokia says it aims to provide low-cost smartphones for emerging markets and that its flagship Lumia smartphones will remain Windows devices. And in one of the best mobile World Congress 2014 zingers, Nokia announced its Android-powered Nokia X phones won’t officially support any of Google’s services — it will be all Microsoft on the home screen and Nokia’s own Android app store.
The Best of Mobile World Congress 2014: Alcatel OneTouch Pop Fit
Everyone knows that bigger is better when it comes to smartphones, right? Then why is Chinese manufacturer (and one of the world’s 10 largest smartphone makers) TCL Communication releasing a 2.8-inch smartphone under its Alcatel brand?
The OneTouch Pop Fit runs Android Jelly Bean and has all the expected smartphone goodies (although at an entry level), and it’s small enough to wear. In fact, that’s what Alcatel expects you to do. The Pop Fit is described as being “shaped for maximum wear and portability” and there’s an armband accessory so you can literally strap it on your arm.
With one of these, who would need to shell out for both a smartwatch and a smartphone?
The Best of Mobile World Congress 2014: Sony Xperia Z2
Sony (SNE) is betting on its smartphone and tablet offerings to help turn its business around, and at Mobile World Congress 2014 the company unveiled two flagship products that will be key to that success.
The Xperia Z2 smartphone builds on the popularity of the well-received Z1 and further leverages Sony’s camera know-how. This is a waterproof, 5.2-inch Android smartphone with a 20.7 MP camera and an image sensor 30% bigger than that used by most smartphones. It will also shoot 4K video.
Last year’s Tablet Z was a nice device, but failed to break into the tablet market in a big way. The Xperia Z2 tablet Sony was showing off at Mobile World Congress 2014 is another attempt to stand out based on premium design. Sony is touting the display and sound quality of this 10.1-inch device (which is also waterproof), along with its super slim and lightweight form factor.
The Best of Mobile World Congress 2014: Huawei TalkBand B1
Finally, here’s one of the stranger combos revealed at Mobile World Congress 2014.
Huawei is getting into the fitness band game. (At this point, who isn’t?) But in order to stand out from the pack, the company’s TalkBand B1 combines a wrist-mounted fitness tracker with a Bluetooth headset.
The headset is actually mounted on the wristband and pops off so you can use it to make handsfree calls (when paired with a smartphone, of course). I’m not exactly sure why it’s better to have to detach and fumble with the headset as opposed to pulling out your smartphone, but if a combo fitness tracker/Bluetooth earpiece was on your wish list, you are now covered.
As of this writing, Brad Moon did not hold a position in any of the aforementioned securities.