Think the world can’t possibly accommodate any more smartphones? You think wrongly.
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.
This year non other than Mark Zuckerberg will grace the stage a MWC 2014, highlighting the show’s importance even further – possibly pushing it above CES.
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 Apple) and, thanks to the recent Big Bang explosion of Android, previously modest handset makers like ZTE and Huawei look set to compete with the big boys by offering low-cost handsets that still offer up a massive spec list.
Samsung at MWC 2014
So – it’s very different to how we expected things to be for Samsung at MWC 2014. Far from having a separate event, the South Korean brand is 99.9% certain to be launching the Galaxy S5 at the event.
The invites for the event were sent out a couple of weeks before the start of MWC and it’s covered in little number 5s, which means you don’t need to be a brain rocket scientist surgeon to work out what may appear at 8PM in Barcelona.
Here’s something you might not know: the Galaxy S5 will almost certainly appear in two variants, encompassing a metal frame with high-res screen and a polycarbonate version that sticks with the traditional 1080p display. There’s a chance those two could be switched as the metal version is reportedly hard to make on a grand scale, so we’re intrigued to see how Samsung plays this.
The brand is also widely tipped to bring the Galaxy Gear sequel to the masses at MWC, a strong sidekick to the Galaxy S5 that will help it in the battle against the iWatch, which will come later in the year.
Samsung already jumped the MWC 2014 gun by announcing the Samsung Galaxy Tab 3 Lite ahead of show, although Barcelona will probably be the first time we’re able to get hands on with the slate – we’ve also heard a lot of rumours of a Galaxy Tab 4 range too.
The Korean firm has also confirmed the existence of the Samsung Galaxy Note 3 Neo (rumored as the Galaxy Note 3 Lite) – and we expect to see this for the first time at MWC as well.
Another smartphone on our radar is the Galaxy Grand Neo – a mid-range handset with lower specs than the rumored Galaxy Grand 2.
We saw several Samsung tablets arrive at CES 2014, but there’s still talk of a 13.3-inch monster slate with Android and Windows dual-boot abilities like the Ativ Q, as well as a range of Android only devices.
Samsung looks set to go big on its in-house mobile platform Tizen – finally – at MWC 2014, with reports revealing invites have been sent out for a Tizen-only event at the show.
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.
The big news however is the mystery around the Nokia Normandy (aka Nokia X) handset – a smartphone apparently running a heavily skinned version of Android which would see the Finnish firm stepping away from its Windows Phone-or-bust rule.
Nokia is making a big deal about trees and monkeys for its MWC activities, which we literally cannot decipher. Does the monkey mean Android, and the tree stand for Microsoft? Where does the DNA pattern come in? Either way, Nokia is up to something.
On top of that we’re expecting to see something that pushes the envelope in the Windows Phone game, in the shape of the Lumia 930. This will bring the same specs as the powerful Lumia 1520 but in a smaller form factor – possibly even as tiny as a 4.5-inch screen, while still offering a 1080p screen and quad-core processor.
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.
HTC at MWC 2014
HTC used to be Mobile World Congress banker, using the event to launch its newest models. In 2012 it gave us the HTC One X and One S, but in 2013 even HTC turned its back on the Barcelona show, launching its flagship HTC One ahead of time.
In 2014 we expect HTC to launch a new flagship, thought to be currently going 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.
Sad news though for Barcelona fans: HTC won’t be chucking it out at the annual phone trade show, preferring a simulcast event between London and New York on March 25.
But it’s not forgetting about its yearly sojourn to the Spanish city: there will still be the Desire 8 on show, which is set to be a larger-screened phablet dubbed the Desire 8 with some pretty decent specs for a mid-range model.
This was promoted in China by HTC already, which means it could be a device with a more Asian slant, but it should still get a decent Western push.
LG at MWC 2014
LG is back on the smartphone A-list thanks to its successes with the excellent Nexus 4 and 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, and true to form its announced successors to both of these. The LG G Pro 2 (just to confuse us with the naming game) packs a larger 5.9-inch full HD display (1920 x 1080), the same 2.26GHz quad-core processor you’ll find in the LG G2, 3GB of RAM, 16GB/32GB of storage and the addition of a microSD slot, and will be on show at the… well, show.
On top of that we’ve also been told that the third-generation L Series phones will land with KitKat at MWC 2014 as the other South Korean player tries to make a splash at the low- to mid-range of the smartphone game – predictably these all run Android and come in a range of sizes.
And we’re pretty certain that the LG G2 Mini is going to be appearing as well after a mystifying Facebook post – it shows a smaller phone next to the G2, but LG also posted pictures of a starfish, cupcake and shoe, so we’re not sure what to make of that.
We’re going to guess a 4.7-inch-screened version of the G2 will emerge, and yet again we’ll be getting our hands on it in Barcelona.
There are a few key LG rumors that may be resolved at MWC 2014 too. 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.
Wrong. It seems the Japanese firm is going big, and going hard at MWC this year despite its Vegas-based exploits.
First up it seems almost certain that we’re going to see a new flagship from the firm, which is going to irk Z1 owners who just shelled out loads for what was supposedly ‘the best of Sony in a smartphone’.
Well, it looks like it will be outshone by the handset most are (understandably) dubbing the Xperia Z2, which will run Android KitKat according to the leaked video of the ‘Sirius D6503’ – which seems to be a better Z1.
A new UI, 4K recording and Background defocus which will "take photos with beautiful background blur like a DSLR camera" according to leaker Rimas Flyil.
A comparison photo of it and the Z1 show that it’s a little taller than the Z1, which means it’s probably got a larger display too – we’re really hoping that we get something in a higher res too.
What else? Seems a refresh of the tablet as well, which means the Tablet Z will be getting a refresh – according to @evleaks, this will be the Sony XperiaTablet Z2, which means we’re apparently looking at a powerful tablet wrapped up in a tiny 6.4mm frame.
Sat inside that impossibly thin frame is said to be a fairly standard 2.3GHz quad-core Snapdragon 800 processor as well as 3GB RAM and 16GB of internal storage. Thankfully microSD support is also thrown in – making it very similar to what we’ve seen before but with some good spec bumps.
None of this is confirmed as yet, but if it does happen, Sony is in for a bumper time at this year’s premium mobile phone-a-thon.
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.
There’s also some suggestions of an 8-inch Nexus 8 tablet sneaking out at MWC, with an Intel chip inside.
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
Samsung isn’t the only manufacturer linked to a Tizen device either, with the ZTE Geek device appearing on the Tizen website listing for its presence at MWC.
ZTE is also said to be planning a smartwatch for release in 2014, but then so is everyone, so that’s hardly news.
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.
Panasonic at MWC 2014
We last saw Panasonic at MWC back in 2012, where it was flaunting the Eluga and Eluga Power. Unfortunately neither handset really made a splash and led to Panasonic pulling out of the mobile game in 2013.
It may not be gone for long though, as there’s new reports suggesting it’s working on a new rugged smartphone. Watch this space.