Think the world can’t possibly accommodate any more smartphones? You think wrong.
Despite the fact that our planet currently contains more unique designs of mobile phone than there are visually identifiable snowflake forms, we’re about to be hit by a deluge of new mobiles. Make a date in your diary for February 24, 2014, when the plastic-formers and die-casters of the world will unleash their next-generation models at Mobile World Congress 2014.
MWC is the annual mobile tech event where pretty much every major phone hardware company shows off its new flagship models for the following spring/summer contract renewal market.
MWC 2014 no-shows
There have been a few exceptions, though. Samsung opted to demonstrate its Galaxy S4 at a separate event in 2013, while Sony tried to get a head start on the competition by unveiling its Xperia Z at January’s CES tech show last year instead.
The MWC 2013 event was all about larger displays and quad-core hardware. This year will be about even bigger displays and, as we’ve already seen from the LG G Flex and Samsung Galaxy Round, there may be some interesting new tech on display in the form of bendable screens and yet more takes on the emerging smartwatch trend.
All of the major manufacturers featured below are down to attend (with the exception of BlackBerry) and, thanks to the recent Big Bag explosion of Android, previously modest handset makers like ZTE and Huawei look set to make the most noise with rafts of cheaper phones that still deliver a decent experience.
Nokia at MWC 2014
Windows Phone has had a pretty triumphant few months, with Microsoft’s partnership with Nokia finally bearing fruit and WP’s market share slowly increasing. IDC’s recent numbers put it at 3.6% (Q3 2013), compared to 2% in Q3 2012 – a healthy 156% increase.
People seem to be remembering that they used to like Nokia, and although the company has released the likes of the Lumia 1520 and Lumia 2520 tablet in recent weeks, there may be more to come. Recently, the Lumia 1820 and Lumia 2020 have been rumored, with the latter likely to be a new flagship 8-inch tablet.
We should also see the first hardware set to launch with the Windows Phone 8.1 Blue software pre-loaded at MWC 2014, an OS update that’s expected to massively overhaul WP’s notification system, boost the multitasking options and incorporate a voice-based personal assistant feature. Because everyone’s got to have a Siri function, even if no one ever uses it.
Samsung at MWC 2014
Rumor has it that Samsung is again saving its Galaxy S5 announcement for a separate event, just like it did last year with the bizarre Galaxy S4 launch in New York. But that doesn’t mean its booth will be any less heaving with new stuff
The Samsung Galaxy Note 12.2 mega-tablet is expected to be on show, plus there are likely to be KitKat versions of older handsets and updates of the Galaxy Note 8.0 to thrill nerds with too. There’s also the chance of something extremely random like the Galaxy Gear 2 or perhaps even a hint of a phone running the Tizen OS that Samsung’s been working on.
HTC at MWC 2014
HTC is a Mobile World Congress banker, always using the event to launch its newest models. Last year it unveiled the HTC One, the year before it was the HTC One S and the HTC One X.
This year we expect it to be a model currently known under the development name of HTC M8, which rumors suggest will be a device with a 5-inch 1080p display, quad-core Snapdragon 800 processor and Android 4.4 as its launch OS beneath an updated HTC Sense 6.0 user interface.
This sounds rather like… most phones nowadays. Still, if HTC can whack in the same sort of top-drawer speakers and camera as the HTC One, we’ll be buying it and eBaying last year’s model, as ever.
Huawei at MWC 2014
The Chinese phone maker is rumored to be preparing an update to the decent Huawei Ascend P6 and is, rather unsurprisingly, sticking the fashionable letter "S" on the end of the model name to signify that it’s newer and better. The Ascend P6S is said to arrive running a full octa-core processor supplied by MediaTek, which ought to get the core enthusiasts happy.
ZTE at MWC 2014
ZTE polarized phone fans at MWC 2013, revealing the flashy 5.7-inch Grand Memo and the weird little ZTE Open, running the Firefox OS.
It’s recently announced the small and affordable Nubia Z5S and Z5S mini models, but rumors suggest it has a secret higher tier on the way – a 6.44-inch ZTE Nubia Z7 could be its forthcoming "phablet" flagship and the one it wants to shout about at MWC 2014
ZTE is also said to be planning a smartwatch for release in 2014, but then so is everyone, so that’s hardly news.
LG at MWC 2014
LG is back on the smartphone A-list thanks to its successes with the excellent Nexus 4 and the more than adequate Nexus 5, both of which have encouraged people to consider its own-brand efforts like the LG G2 more than they perhaps might have done before Google salvaged its reputation.
Last year LG revealed the Optimus G Pro and the updated affordable L series range at MWC 2013, so we expect a similar mixture of a high-end banger and a few cheaper hangers-on to appear in 2014.
There are two key LG rumours that may be resolved at MWC (or sooner). LG is said to be Google’s hardware partner for an updated Nexus 10 tablet, plus it’s also recently registered the trademark "Glasstic" — which may be some sort of Google Glass competitor.
Sony at MWC 2014
With the Xperia Z1 only just launched, we wouldn’t forgive Sony for taking it easy and just bringing along a couple of those for people to play on and some t-shirts to give away. Surely it can’t be preparing to release another flagship smartphone already
One thing we are expecting to see is something along the lines of a Sony Xperia Z1S, a smaller version of 2013’s Z1 model. Taking your current hero device and making it a bit smaller and cheaper is the cool thing to do.
Google at MWC 2014
Google is on the list of MWC 2014 exhibitors, although it’s likely to spend most of its time and square footage pushing the general Android ethos and giving away stickers than actually revealing any new Nexus hardware.
That said, we’re expecting a new Nexus 10 to appear any day now, so if that one doesn’t pop before Christmas, perhaps it could be saved as an MWC headline-stealer to detract from the stacks of enhanced tablets that Samsung is bound to show up with.