James Lee Phillips
Feb 14, 2012

Mobile World Congress 2012 Preview: What new smartphones, gadgets and apps will be unveiled?

Barcelona in February means two things: the start of Carnaval, and the yearly Mobile World Congress (MWC) exhibition and conference. Every major company in the smartphone and tablet world (uh, with one small exception) will be showing and announcing high-profile mobile products for 2012.

Expect to hear countless variations on the theme of how the mobile experience is transforming everything (except possibly the MWC website itself, which could benefit from a quick course in mobile browser optimization). Coming fairly hot on the heels of the largely uninspiring transitional mood of the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) 2012, one may certainly wonder whether MWC could actually have much more to offer. Sure, there’s been an extra month to recover from the floods in Thailand, and an extra month for everyone who failed to hit their CES deadlines. But even in the hyper-accelerated world of mobile progress, should we expect to see anything truly innovative?
Quad-Core Tegra 3 and high-powered smartphone graphics

Most MWC attendees are looking forward to actual hands-on time with handsets powered by Nvidia’s quad-core Tegra 3. Fujitsu kinda had one at CES, but does a simulated product behind glass really count? Look to Barcelona to see if Fujitsu is on schedule with a more substantial release, and Njoy Nvidia’s spectacular displays of power representing various manufacturers (hopefully they’ll do more than pretend to play Skyrim). Considering the power packed into peripherals like the Sony Vita, despite the numerous apps already available on smartphones, it's surprising no one has invented a bonafide gaming smartphone. Sony, given its PS Vita highs -- and the lessons it's learned from its PSP Go lows -- would seem to be an ideal candidate for such an entry into the market. Whoever does decide to create a hybrid gaming rig and mobile phone will make obscene amounts of money. 
HTC Endeavor and other smartphone contenders

HTC seems to be the one to watch, with rumors of the 4.7” ICS Endeavor (a.k.a. Edge) making the rounds. HTC’s move from Qualcomm to Nvidia is significant, but HTC is still releasing new Snapdragon models -- including the Ville, another expected to be a MWC announcement. LG is also anticipated to have a Tegra 3 model at MWC, along with a range of potential releases that covers 3D, Windows Mango, 5” displays, NFC and Snapdragon-based phones (not all of which will come in a single device, of course).
AcerCloud: A challenger to iCloud's smartphone cloud computing

An Acer press release touted an award for the upcoming CloudMobile phone, a technically unannounced model which boasts ICS and highlights the AcerCloud. Announced at CES, the company’s cloud storage product has been greeted with more than a little criticism in certain quarters for similarity to Apple’s iCloud (the features, the presentation and even the fact that it only syncs with Acer products).  
Sony Xperia Ion: Its codenamed siblings Kumquat, Nypon and Pepper will be revealed
Although we’ve already seen the Xperia S, Sony really does have four phones in the Xperia NXT line. In addition to the confirmed and glimpsed AT&T-bound Ion, the USPTO itself provides evidence for an upcoming “Sola” and leaked Sony memos mention code names Kumquat, Nypon and Pepper. Initial feedback has been very positive about the Xperia look and specs (dual-core 1.5Ghz, 12MP camera, NFC, etc.), although as usual Sony reserves some of its best functionality for a closed Sonysphere. In addition to PlayStation Certification and Sony Entertainment Network access, there are promises of “effortless sharing of content with easy connectivity across multiple screens within the world of Sony.” Those eagerly awaiting the rumored quad-core flagship model will most likely be disappointed, though.
iPad Killer: Galaxy S3 is skipping the MWC

Similarly, although there’s still a slim chance that we’ll see an iPad killer at MWC, notably excited tablet junkies will have to go back to holding their collective breath for the Galaxy S3. Along with confirming that the next-generation Galaxy tablet would not be unveiled at MWC, Samsung apparently won’t even be having a press conference. Samsung will still man a booth and reportedly even be “introducing and demonstrating exciting new mobile products at Mobile World Congress 2012” according to the company’s press release (the just-announced Samsung Galaxy S Advance among them). Because a press conference was never scheduled, it hasn’t technically been ‘cancelled’ -- it just seems that way, since Samsung had MWC press conferences announcing major products for the last several years in a row.
Apple: The invisible elephant in the room

The most interesting twist on this non-news is that Samsung may actually be looking to launch its own show, echoing Microsoft’s abdication of the CES keynote -- and perhaps even more tellingly, Apple’s Worldwide Developers Conference. Yes, it’s no secret that the biggest name in phones and tablets will again be a no-show at MWC, but as usual, you’ll be able to feel Apple’s presence everywhere -- from comparisons and lawsuit speculations right down to the change in the MWC’s February scheduling. There’s a new iPad lurking in the bushes, you know...
Miscellaneous: The less visible, though no less innovative tech

Personally, I find the less-covered tech to be more interesting. Take the good old Fraunhofer Institute for Telecommunications, who will be showing off their advances in "judder-free" standards-based mobile video. It’s not exactly a new concept, but the Hertzvolks are getting us ever closer to that glorious day when we won’t have to worry about stuttering, buffering or resorting to (shudder) low-definition video streams.

If you’re attending MWC 2012 and want a glimpse of something beyond Q1 2012, look for predictions of 2022 made by luminaries from AT&T and Intel, as well as Lars Hard of ExpertMakers (whose vision of AI-assisted search could leave Siri tongue-tied) and Ambarish Mitra of augmented reality company Blippar.

Also worth a look are some of the nominees for Global Mobile Awards; along with those damn Angry Birds, those deserving of recognition include Enterproid (a BYOD dual-persona platform), Thrutu (a collaborative calling app that actually lets you use your smartphone’s features within a phone call), EtherSmart LTE 1.0 (because who doesn’t want a better antenna?) and the AirVantage M2M Cloud Platform -- one of the biggest first steps toward a potentially huge leap for business in particular, and toward the Internet of Things in general.
Legal disclaimer: Images for illustrative purposes only. Not for commercial use or re-sale. Use of Sony, Asus, Nvidia, HTC, Acer, Samsung and Apple brand subject to regulatory approval.