Big screens and Jelly Bean mark Android trends at Mobile World Congress
As expected, the annual Mobile World Congress (MWC) in Barcelona, Spain, has delivered an army of new Android devices.
(Credit: Sarah Tew/CNET)
Really though, we'd expect nothing less from the world's largest gathering of mobile-minded products and services. And with Android playing a dominant role in the smartphone landscape, it stands to reason that a majority of new phones and tablets would launch with the Google platform.
A number of standout devices made headlines this week, including the ZTE Grand Memo, Huawei Ascend P2 and the Sony Tablet Z.
LG got things started last week with the refreshed Optimus L series, as well as new entrants under the Optimus F line and the new Optimus G Pro. Toss in a number of other products, like the trio of Lenovo tablets and HP's new Slate 7, and you've got plenty to cover in just two days. Indeed, the Android momentum does not seem to be slowing.
One trend we've seen emerge this year is the hedged bet, or the back-up plan. A number of Android players have committed to another platform, including LG, Samsung, Sony and Huawei. A few have pledged support for Mozilla's Firefox OS and the next few months should yield new smartphones from a variety of handset makers. Samsung, for its part, is ready to show off the new Tizen OS, developed with help from Intel. This is not the first time we've seen smartphone manufacturers working with additional platforms; some have also been working with Windows Phone.
As if we would expect anything less, today's Android phones and tablets are getting faster with each generation. This year's MWC brought a number of products employing the new Qualcomm Snapdragon 600 and 800 processors. We're a few months off before we see any Nvidia Tegra 4 smartphones; however, quad-core is becoming quite the buzzword (yet an eight-core chip is on the horizon). The new round of Android phones seem to hover around the 1.7GHz clock speed, some inching higher.
Bigger and bigger
The needle keeps moving forward with Android display sizes, as nearly all of the prominent announcements featured screens at 4 inches or larger. Most now hover in the range of 4.5 inches, including mid-range offerings such as the LG Optimus F5 and Optimus F7. On the far end of the scale, we have the LG Optimus G Pro at 5.5 inches and the ZTE Grand Memo with its 5.7-inch display. We've also been treated to numerous new phones with 1080p HD display. In most cases, the larger the phone, the higher the resolution. Unless, of course, you are ZTE; the Grand Memo features only 720p resolution.
Even not-so-familiar names such as Alcatel and Acer have hopped onboard, debuting devices with bigger screens. For those who prefer a more diminutive form factor, you'll be disappointed by the new crop of Androids.
Considering that the Android 4.1 Jelly Bean platform has been around for quite a few months, it should come as no surprise that most devices announced featured this version. Then again, we are talking about Android. It seems that nearly every large conference brings new phones with "antiquated" releases. I was pleased to see that very few models announced ran Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich. Most of the phones and tablets we saw at Mobile World Congress were introduced with Android 4.1 Jelly Bean or later. Sadly, by the time these end up making their way to retail stores and carriers, we'll be talking about the next iteration of Android.
Most of today's top Android handsets are creeping into the 13-megapixel range, as evidenced by the LG Optimus G Pro and Huawei Ascend P2. The 3-megapixel and 5-megapixel cameras look to be relegated to the entry-level devices as 8 megapixels and above become the norm. This may all change, of course, if other companies adopt HTC's strategy for the HTC One, and put more emphasis on lens size and other, finer details. Who knows, maybe next year's Mobile World Congress will be all about 4-megapixel or Ultrapixel-like technologies.
NFC is fast becoming a standard Android feature, as the coming year promises new services and accessories. No longer synonymous with mobile payments, the tap technology is found in plenty of speakers, headsets, signs and more. Samsung, for its part, has doubled down on NFC and plans to integrate Visa PayView in future smartphones, including the upcoming Galaxy S4.
Indeed, MWC did not bring about any particular new or emerging technology. Rather, we were given a bit more of the things we've come to expect in Android. I will be interested to see how fast some of these models make it to market, and what kind of platform support each is offered. With Google I/O approaching in May, we should anticipate the next release of Android. It will be at that point when consumers will begin wonder if or when their brand-new handset will be updated.
Did you see a particular Android phone or tablet that really caught your eye? Was there a specific manufacturer that surprised you at Mobile World Congress? We would love to hear your thoughts and opinions in the comment section.