Mobile World Congress (MWC) starts on February 26 in Barcelona and runs through to March 1.
Last year’s event started excitedly with Greenpeace protestors scaling the building outside Samsung’s press conference. IBM’s Watson created artworks, and we saw connected dogs and seals, and loads of VR.
But people really are at MWC for the phones. And this year, there’s a lot of interest in how the big manufacturers are going to answer the challenge put up by Apple’s iPhone X and Google’s Pixel 2.
There isn’t much detail that hasn’t already leaked on the new Galaxy phones. But if you haven’t heard, Samsung is said to have ditched early plans for phones with larger screen-to-body ratios and will stick with the S8 and S8+ housing.
The big changes with the S9 and S9+ are the cameras. The S9 may stick with a single-lens on the back, but the S9+ will get a dual-lens setup. That means a proper optical zoom and the popular Portrait mode seen on the iPhone X and Pixel 2.
Samsung’s invite tells you all you need to know about where its mind is at:
The fingerprint scanner will be shifted, away from the dire location next to the camera lens which frustrated so many S8 users.
A new Snapdragon processor and potentially 6GB of RAM, mated with a new DeX Station could make the dream of a genuine smartphone-powered desktop PC a reality.
But the biggest potential news is a rumour from a Reddit user who claims to have both the S9 and S9+. BihPandemonium says both phones are “thicker and heavier and they don’t feel as glossy as the S8 the S9 has a much better grip”.
Why they are thicker and heavier may have something to do with a new battery. BihPandemonium reckons you can squeeze “about a 1.5 day battery life” out of the S9+.
There are also rumours of a Samsung version of Apple’s Animoji feature, and confirmation of stereo speakers.
What would be really exciting, but unlikely, is a peek at a foldable Galaxy X.
Isn’t giving much away:
— Sony Xperia (@sonyxperia) February 19, 2018
Best guess? Sony’s new Xperia range will have some form of haptic feedback.
Or it could have a curved screen or be bendable. But the most likely feature you’ll see from Sony on February 26 is a new design. It’s time to ditch the big bezels it has kept since 2013, and the company’s India managing director Kenichiro Hibi told Indian Express back in September that a change was coming.
So, will we soon see a Sony Xperia XZ Pro with a 4K edge-to-edge display and dual camera? Earlier this month, this now-deleted tweet from Three Care in Ireland says yes:
The next number off the rank at the rapidly expanding Chinese giant is the P11, otherwise known as the P20. The juiciest rumour is Huawei has leveraged its partnership with Leica to produce a 40MP triple lens camera.
But we’re unlikely to see it at MWC, because several sites have picked up on the fact that Huawei will not be introducing a phone at MWC this year. Mainly because it has already sent invites out to a “flagship devices” launch in Paris, scheduled for late March.
It has something up its sleeve though:
— Huawei Mobile (@HuaweiMobile) February 8, 2018
VR-related? Maybe, but most likely a new line of MateBooks. And there are rumours of a Huawei Watch 2 making an appearance.
Under the guidance of Lenovo, Motorola is once again gathering pace, particularly in the VR space.
But rumours are it has a swag of phones ready to roll out in 2018, and it’s just a matter of which one – or ones – we’ll see at MWC.
On the heels of the Moto X4 should come the G6 and E5 and serial leaker Evan Blass says both will come in Plus and Play versions.
In January, Droid Life said it might have the G6 pics:
— Droid Life (@droid_life) January 16, 2018
The E5 and G6 phones will have a front-mounted fingerprint sensor and dual cameras. But don’t expect much more than the G6 at MWC.
Both G6 and G6 Plus are expected to get upgraded Snapdragon processors, full HD (1080p) displays and bigger batteries. Big as in 4000mAh for the plus, which is actually massive.
The Nokia brand under HMD has gone berserk since stealing last year’s show with the retro 3310, releasing Nokias 2 through to 8 and capturing 1% of the smartphone market in Q4, something which Microsoft failed to do for many years.
The 3310 and embrace of Android pushed their feature phone sales up to 40 million for the year, so MWC 2018 represents a great chance to cash in on its return to the spotlight.
Here, spotted in the Indonesian wild just a week ago, is the alleged Nokia 9:
That’s apparently a HMD Global exec testing the 9’s dual camera, with a LED flash on the side. Scrutineers have also noticed a fingerprint sensor below the camera, on what looks to be a glass back.
Camera specs are rumoured to be 13MP main and 12MP secondary, a 5MP camera on the front, and a 5.5″ Full HD+ display.
6GB of RAM is top-shelf standard for MWC 2018, but HMD will have to pull out a better than expected Snapdragon 835 chipset if it wants to make a splash. Especially as it won’t be cheap – there are suggestions it will be $200+ on a Nokia 8.
Here’s the latest wrap:
There’s also talk of another retro reveal if a Nokia 8 Sirocco makes an appearance, with rumours it features surround sound and the ability to take photos and videos with both front and rear cameras together.
You can also expect a swathe of budget phones, and possibly a 4G version of the 3310.
LG has all but confirmed it won’t reveal a new phone until “Judy” appears in June. Asus is keeping its products tightly under wraps – or no one cares enough to leak any details about a ZenFone 5:
— ASUS (@ASUS) January 31, 2018
And we might see a KeyTwo or KeyOne 2 from new BlackBerry licensee TCL.
No doubt we’ll see some big advances in VR and mixed reality hardware and wearables, but MWC remains mostly all about the phones.
And every year is a big year in phones. We’ll be there.