Mobile World Congress 2012

We check out some of the latest mobile and wireless technologies at the MWC in Barcelona.
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01 .Day 1 - Handsets

On Day 1 of the MWC there were a mountain of new handset releases with many form factors, price points and tastes catered for. 

Here are some of the latest smartphones from the first day of the Mobile World Congress. Click the information icon for photo descriptions.

Nokia makes impressive showing, but is it enough?

nokia-lumia-600Nokia has one of the largest areas at the show, with all focus on the top line Lumia 900 following the Lumia 800 launch late last year at the top end and the Lumia 610 at the bottom end of the market. 

There is no doubt that the 900 feels solid to hold and operate, with the Windows Phone 7.5 fast and responsive and its refreshing to see a clear alternative to the Android and iOS way of doing things. Apart from the power on volume and camera button, the body is a very simple candybar shape with yet another another 4-inch plus screen. 

The Lumia 610 (pictured right) is an affordable alternative for anyone wanting to get into the world of Smartphones. It may also be a good option for the kids as it seems destined to be priced at the $250 to $350 mark. If it´s anymore in Australia, questions should be asked - the word is that the street price here should be well below the 200 Euro mark. 

It does not feel as solid as the Lumia 900 or 800 but it does provide the ability to take out the battery which some people may want. As with all phones in this range, the main difference is the processor, so don´t expect the same performance as the Lumia 900 when working with multimedia or multitasking. 

There is a strong positive reaction overall to the Nokia offerings - some Apple fans even delivered grudging admiration for the effort in delivering a true alternative. However, it remains to be seen whether the resurgence has been delivered in time to save the company - as one iPhone user noted ´I like the Lumia 900 and think it even does some of the social networking stuff better than my phone, but I´ve got so much invested in music, apps and other content, I can´t afford to change".


HTC takes it to the beat 

HTC has made a big deal about the audio experience to be enjoyed with the latest HTC phones with Beats Audio (pictured right). There was a crush around the stand to not only look at the phone but also listen on the Beats Audio headphones

The sound was as good as you´ll get from a portable media device and anyone wanting to impress their friends with their ´gear´will appreciate the use of the bright red Monster Audio cable on the headset.

Phones you may not see in Australia

The world is now one online market so it seems unusual not to be able to access some of the more interesting handsets that have shown up at this year´s show. 

Many CHOICE readers may be surprised to know that Panasonic has a significant mobile phone range, with handsets focused on simple talk and text models for the elderly, right up to Android-based smartphones that integrate within the home network. 

One of the more interesting models is the Panasonic Eluga, an Android phone (2.3.5 with automatic upgrade to 4.0 in April) that is slim and light, with a 4.3 inch screen and 8MP camera. 

Its performance is good using a 1GHz dual core processor and it supports the standard 3G bands in Australia as well as HSDPA support (14.4Mbps). While all these figures are good, it might be lost among the many other handsets with similar specifications except you can drop this phone in the water and Panasonic say it will continue to work for one hour with an IP57 certification - meaning immersion in water but not too deep. 

panasonic-elugaWhile we have mentioned the Hz0 waterproofing technology at the CES this is the first time I have seen a non-ruggadised phone able to survive immersion in water. Hopefully this is just the first of many models that can survive the occasional dunk. 

If you want to do more than just dunk your phone in the water, the Emporia Solid Plus is dust and water proof up to one metre with an IP67 rating. It´s a GSM-only phone but has an AGPS and an emergency button that sends a distress text or voice message to up to five separate numbers. 

Again, lets be clear that there is no announcements on these models being available in Australia through the normal channels, but if you don´t mind looking online they do support the relevant Australian GSM and 3G bands. 


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The gallery shows some of the highlights from day 2 of the  Mobile World Congress.

For more information about Mobile phones, see Phones and mobile devices.

Video: Gorilla-Glass-demonstration

Gorilla Glass is a sheet glass engineered to be thin, light and damage-resistant. The Gorilla Glass folk have unveiled their second-generation glass at the 2012 MWC. Check out the video to see how strong it really is!

The gallery shows some of the highlights from day 3 of the Mobile World Congress. Click the information icon for photo descriptions.

For more information about Mobile phones, see Phones and mobile devices.

Video: panasonic-eluga-underwater-demonstration

The Panasonic Eluga, an Android phone, can be dropped underwater and Panasonic says it will continue to work for one hour with an IP57 certification - meaning immersion in water but not too deep. Take a look at the demonstration.


Its becoming a 4G world

While there has been a raft of new handset releases and announcements throughout MWC 2012, all the talk has been about 4G (also known as LTE) delivering similar performance on your mobile device when using the phone network as you would expect to get when connected to a Wi-Fi connection in your home.

Telcos are desperate to push this network so they can charge more for the data being used and content developers love the fact the network can deliver HD multimedia content.

It seems Europe is going to push 4G as a way to take some of the pressure off the huge amount of traffic in local and wider Wi-Fi networks. Australia saw its first 4G device with the HTC Velocity early this year followed by Samsung's 8.9-inch tablet working on 4G this week.

There is no doubt that the performance benefits on offer are significantly faster than 3G or even Telstra's NextG, even if it is only available in a limited area. LG, ZTE, Nokia, Samsung and Sony have released or announced 4G mobiles and tablets at MWC so expect to see the options open up as Vodafone and Optus come to the 4G party later this year.

QR codes


One of the most pervasive images around MWC 2012 is the Quick Response (QR) code showing on virtually every stand and many ad pages around the area.

You may not have noticed it but you will often see a small square with what appears to be a random black and white pattern. The big difference between a QR code and something like a barcode is that a QR code can actually contain data embedded in the image.

You can embed a few thousand alpha numeric characters in the QR code, which means you can deliver information without having to be online and with most smartphones now able to operate as a QR scanner using a downloadable app, the possibilities for push advertising is becoming a big part of selling stuff.

While QR coding is destined to become a significant part of the media mix users will have to watch out for malicious use of the technology as it opens up the potential to deliver code that can take over your phone, access data or send you to spam sites.

Windows on the mobile

Nokia-Lumia-900As we have seen in many areas of technology, having a good product doesn't mean it will succeed. The jury is still out as to the influence of Windows Phone in an area where Apple and Android are the main players.

The Lumia 900 (pictured right) and 610 from Nokia show that you can get a really good mobile that can target the high end and lower end of the market, but there needs to be more models from HTC, Samsung, LG and others to give users a reason to switch.

With general consensus that Windows Phone 7.5 offers a truly solid yet different mobile phone experience to Android and iOS, Nokia obviously is pushing the potential for the OS to make its mark.

Nokia CEO Stephen Elop, who came over from Microsoft to help rescue the ailing phone giant was, not surprisingly, very upbeat about the future of Nokia and the Windows Phone platform.

"What we are seeing is a very steady growth and adoption," said Elop but he stressed the main focus of the company was to "get the device into peoples hands".

HTC CEO, Peter Chou is probably in one of the best positions to make a realistic assessment on the current position of Windows Phone and of its potential as the company produces both Windows Phone and Android models and delivered a more sobering yet realistic message.

Admitting that you get a very good experience with the Windows Phone OS, Chou doesn't see it crushing the other two OS options.

"With the new Windows we are seeing a lot of positive signs" said Chou "It will not be like Microsoft in the PC market but I believe it will be a strong third OS."

This is bad news for Blackberry, which has been subdued to say the least at this years MWC and any increases in market share for Windows Phone may be at the expense of Blackberry.

We attended the 2012 Mobile World Congress to check out some of the latest products shaping wireless and mobile technology.

Best of all, the reports will be brought to you by CHOICE and no one else. Unlike almost all of the media attending, our coverage is not funded by any industry-related company.

This means if any products announced are underwhelming, we'll tell you!

The Mobile World Congress is the coalface for determining the most important wireless, mobile and electronic communication devices over the 2012 to 2014 period and the revelations at this congress drive products and services in the mobile and wireless home. 

Everything from the latest mobile phone hardware releases and operating systems are on show. Innovations in home networking technology will also be revealed to help make all your wireless devices do what they are supposed to do. 

Wireless home entertainment and automated home products will be covered as well as the latest apps for Android, iOS and Windows Mobile will be showcased during the week.

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