Mobile World Congress 2013 Preview: What Could Show Up In Barcelona

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Mobile World Congress is a term often bandied about by the tech press and one that often crops up on these very pages. But what in the devil is it, and more to the point, what does it mean for all you smartphone-obsessed phone fanatics out there in internet land? Well, if those are two questions that have been troubling you, read on, for the fantabulous editorial team at Phones 4u have put together this useful preview of the upcoming mobile-tech themed bonanza; Mobile World Congress 2013.

This Mobile World Congress thing then…

Mobile World Congress, as you might have guessed from the name, is a shindig in which all the top manufacturers from the mobile phone industry get together in a big hall to show their new creations off to the world’s media. It’s an annual thing and takes place in sunny Spain (Barcelona to be exact) each year. It’s organised by a group called the GSM Association ,which comprises of a whole load of mobile operators, device manufacturers, software developers and other parties with their fingers in the mobile pie, and has been running since 1987.

Initially held in Cannes (up until 2006) and known as 3GSM World, the exhibition gathers together the crème de la crème of the telecommunications industry in the biggest exhibition of its kind. The 2013 event will be the 16th time it’s been held and this year, over 70,000 people are expected to attend over the three days between 25 – 28 February. There’s expected to be over 1,500 exhibitors, within them included top smartphone types such as Samsung, HTC, Sony, Nokia, LG, ZTE and Huawei, to name but a few. So, now we’ve filled you in on what the whole shebang is about, let’s take a look at what sort of kit could be showcased…

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Samsung

Arguably the biggest hitters in the smartphone world – thanks mainly to the absolute megatonnes of Android devices it’s shifted – Samsung will be in attendance, although it’s highly unlikely that the Koreans will give us the moneyshot we’re all waiting for. The successor to the Galaxy S III (provisionally thought to be called, wait for it, the Galaxy S IV) has been swirling round in rumour form for some time now with specs tipped to include a massive 4.9-inch display, 2GB of RAM, 13 megapixel shooter and Android 4.2.2 (Jelly Bean with a bit extra).

However, despite promising noises, Samsung is more than likely to unveil its new 2013 flagship at an event of its own, much like it did with the S III. Leakist extraordinaire Eldar Murtazin of Mobile-Review seems to think that a Samsung Unpacked event will occur on 14 March, although we’d say May is a safer bet. Don’t get too disappointed though – Sammy will be there, more than likely showing off its Exynos range of processors, bendy OLED screens, and probably the Samsung Galaxy Note 8.0.

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HTC

Another manufacturer choosing to ‘retaliate first’ is Taiwanese firm HTC, eschewing MWC to launch its new HTC One flagship in London a few days ago (with a little help from Phones 4u). The shiny piece of Android kit had done the rounds in the rumour mill as the HTC M7 for quite some time, but now it’s all out in the open, we wonder what Peter Chou’s boys will use MWC to showcase? There’s been whispers of a HTC tablet device in the not too distant past but they seem to have fizzled out, however, with all the chutzpah of last week focusing on the HTC One, there’s a good chance that HTC will unveil the rest of its 2013 range in Barcelona.

In fact, a load of HTC codenames leaked recently, and whilst many of these are ones we’d come across before – mainly linked to devices that have since launched or fallen by the wayside – there are a few inklings to be had about what the firm might tuck in behind the flagship HTC One. Expect the showcasing of a handset we’ve heard a lot about; the HTC Butterfly (released in Asian markets as the HTC J Butterfly and HTC Droid DNA in the US). We may see the wraps taken off a euro-friendly version of this device, possibly accompanied by a little remote thingy. Other than that though, we can only see a couple of mid-rangers that sit beneath the HTC One, and the manufacturer using the event to extol the virtues of its impressive UltraPixel and HTC Zoe camera tech. Oh yeah, there’s also word that there could be some rebranding afoot, but we know nothing of this. Honest.

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Nokia

Ah Nokia. Everyone’s favourite Finnish smartphone stalwart. Having not quite set the world on fire since getting into bed with Microsoft, its Lumia range has nevertheless has seen steady uptake – 4.4 million sales in Q4 – and the recently released Lumia 920Lumia 820, and Lumia 620 were met with a favourable reception from reviewers. With this in mind, we’d say that a refresh for any of these devices could be a while off given their hot-off-the-press nature, but there is the small matter of Nokia’s PureView tech to contend with.

Making its début on the Nokia 808 PureView at last year’s Mobile World Congress, there has been growing talk of that very same photography magic making the jump to a Windows Phone-powered device tentatively identified as the Nokia EOS.  Whether this will get aired at MWC 2013 remains to be seen, but with the recent news that HTC’s Zoe camera malarkey reportedly not set to appear on Windows Phone devices, this would be the perfect opportunity for Nokia to steal a march on its WP rival. Nokia’s MWC 2013 press event is scheduled for 9am Monday morning and although what will be revealed isn’t known, we’re told by a usually reliable source that the mid-range(ish) and budget Lumia 720 and Lumia 520 will make an appearance at some point.

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Sony

Much like HTC, Japanese manufacturer Sony has done the big “ta-dah!” ahead of Mobile World Congress by unleashing its Xperia Z handset on the world already. The flagship device made its bow at CES 2013 just recently and wowed those in attendance with its imaging capabilities waterproof-ness. So expect the Sony stand at MWC to include at least one fishtank. Other than that though, there’s nothing really that earth shattering from Sony slated to show up at Fira Gran Via (that’s where the show is held this year) so be prepared to see the firm use the event to drop in the other devices that’ll play second fiddle to the Xperia Z.

There has been talk of the Xperia Z tablet – a 10.1-inch display and 1.5GHz quad-core processor toting rival to Samsung’s Galaxy Note 10.1 – being given a European release, so if that does happen, it could well  be announced here. Hopefully, Sony might use the opportunity to publicise what it’s doing with regards to Android updates. Having been notoriously lax at shovelling out new versions of the little green robot, the former Ericsson suitors haven’t done themselves any favours by launching the Xperia Z with Android 4.1 out of the box when other flagships (we’re looking at you HTC One) are rocking the later iterations. Rumours are rife that Sony has an Android 4.2 update ready to go soon after launch, so it’d be nice to see a bit of official confirmation coming out of MWC.

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LG

Korean manufacturer LG has also usurped Mobile World Congress when it comes to hosting the big reveal, choosing instead to out its follow-ups to last year’s L Series devices ahead of things kicking off in Barca (can you see a theme emerging here?). The clunkily titled LG Optimus L3 II, Optimus L5 II, and Optims L7 II were leaked in a variety of ways as long ago as a month back, the most concrete of which was the mid-range L3 II which came via a Hungarian T-Mobile advert. Fast forward a couple of weeks and LG itself did the honours, later going on to release a teaser video about its potential MWC capers revolving around the letters L, V, F, and G. Wonder what those could relate to?

Sure enough, some leaks sprung just after the video, this time featuring the LG Optimus F5 and F7. And as we’ve already been introduced to the G Series in the form of the LG Optimus G Pro, that only leaves LG the F and V Series to play with when it comes to putting on a show at the event. Of course, there’s probably scope for the Korean manufacturer to show off its wares in greater detail, as well as furnish the world’s tech press with release dates, but the decisions taken by firms to spoil their own party does seem a trifle odd.

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And the rest…

Speaking of things that are a bit strange, BlackBerry opting not to show at the world’s biggest mobile tech, er, show ranks quite highly on the daft-o-meter. Fair enough, the Canadian firm has gotten its highly anticipated hardware out there (and not a minute too soon), but you’d have expected Thorsten Heins’ company to grasp the MWC opportunity with both hands and ingratiate itself with the many assembled journos and Joe Public by letting them have a fondle of the BlackBerry Z10.

Elsewhere, stuff is expected from so-called ‘niche’ manufacturers Huawei and ZTE, with the former said to whip the covers off an Ascend P1 S successor, and the latter supposedly yoinking out a device running Mozilla’s Firefox OS. Add to these a load of processor gubbins courtesy of Qualcomm and Intel, tablets galore, a smattering of Motorola/Google-y stuff, and the inevitable round of people in daft  Android costumes, and we think you’ll agree that this one is shaping up to be a good ‘un.

As always, we’ll have our fingers on the collective Mobile World Congress 2103 pulse and will be back each day with a round-up of what’s gone down, the first of which will materialise on these very pages tomorrow. So, if you want to get your MWC fill, keep it here and our man Dan Grose will give it to you good.