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MWC 2015 – The Mobile Round-Up

Michael Moore joined TechWeek Europe in January 2014 as a trainee before graduating to Reporter later that year. He covers a wide range of topics, including but not limited to mobile devices, wearable tech, the Internet of Things, and financial technology.

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2015 was one of the biggest MWCs ever for smartphones and wearables, and here’s why

So it’s all over. After months of build-up, rumour, speculation, and seriously large sums of money spent on shiny stands, copious tapas, and branded pens, the exhibitors are packing up and leaving Barcelona. MWC 2015 was the biggest yet, packing in around 1,900 exhibitors and 85,000 visitors, but for once it didn’t let us down on the news front.

In opposition  to last year, when many big players shied away from flashy releases in Barcelona, MWC 2015 saw big reveals from Samsung, HTC, and Microsoft to name a few, and also sprung its fair share of surprises. But what were the stand-out moments of the show?

Samsung Galaxy S6Samsung Gets Edgy

We all knew it was coming, many of us even expected some of the surprise details, but Samsung really did manage to blow MWC away with its Sunday night press conference. Mere hours after HTC revealed its most powerful smartphone yet in a bid to take on the South Korean giant, Samsung unveiled not just one, but two new flagship devices, a new virtual reality headset, and also dropped probably the most advanced mobile payments system ever devised.

We were lucky enough to get a hands-on with the new Galaxy S6 and Galaxy S6 Edge after Samsung’s press conference, and it’s fair to say they are some of the most beautiful smartphones ever built. Samsung has rebuilt its flagship design from the ground up, creating two eye-catching devices that look good and feel great to hold. That’s not to mention the Edge’s curved display, described by the company as the feature that will make your friends all jealous, but is a major technological breakthrough that we’re certain will now be copied throughout the industry.

Samsung Pay, the company’s new mobile payments system, is a genuine game-changer, and could be the system that really kick-starts the adoption of the technology. Apple may have the name and the one million subscribers in just three days, but Samsung has the much larger customer base, spread across the world, and if they can begin rolling it out to some of their other devices, Apple Pay could be facing a serious challenger. By being able to mimic a magnetic-stripe card payment, Samsung Pay will also allow more merchants, particularly small businesses, to accept mobile payments than ever before, opening up great potential for thousands of companies worldwide.

HTC One M9HTC, Huawei and ZTE go medium

So how do all of the other Android mobile manufacturers follow a performance like Samsung? Simply put, you don’t, really. Everyone trying to chase the company is relying on trying to draw customers away from their big-money rival, but it’s hard to see if any of the other new devices revealed at MWC can do this.

HTC’s One M9 (pictured above), revealing just before Samsung’s twin flagships, is a step forward for the company, but it’s not really enough of a leap in progress that will steal Galaxy S5 users looking for a new device. The super-powered camera is beyond anything else on the market, but with Apple and Samsung providing marginally less quality for a better all-round experience, HTC might find it hard to reproduce the success it had with the original HTC One.

Elsewhere, both Huawei and LG have delayed the launch of their latest flagship devices, with ZTE revealing theirs before the show. This meant that much of their activity in Barcelona was around showing off the (admittedly impressive) offerings they have already, and supplementing them with new wearables (which we’ll come to later). In an increasingly saturated Android marketplace, these challengers need to do more to try and stand out in the crowd.

Lumia 640 XL (1)Microsoft Goes Medium

So to Windows Phone. Microsoft had the task of opening the Monday of MWC with its early-morning press conference, and duly played its part by revealing the Lumia 640 and 640 XL (pictured left). The latest smartphone resulting from its takeover of Nokia’s mobile devices division, the mid-range offering will ship with Windows Phone 8.1, but will be upgradable to Windows 10 when it is eventually made commercially available.

Microsoft is explicitly targeting the business market with this new device, offering freebies including one year subscription to Office 365, with both devices also coming preloaded with Office applications like Word, Excel, PowerPoint, Outlook and OneNote, 1TB of OneDrive cloud storage and 60 Skype minutes a month.

But will it be enough to grab more customers onto Windows Phone?

LG_WATCH_URBANE3Wearables were everywhere

Wearables have exploded onto the mobile device market over the last 18 months, spurred on by growing consumer demand to stay connected wherever they are. MWC 2015 saw a wide range of devices on show, from the premium to the budget, and proving that they’re here to stay.

Top of the range was undoubtedly LG’s G Watch Urbane (pictured right), an absolutely gorgeous smartwatch aimed at the premium business market. With a plush leather strap and bright, responsive interface, it’s the most attractive Android Wear wearable we’ve seen so far, and we look forward to getting our hands on one soon.

Elsewhere, HTC releases its first wearable, a fitness-focused activity tracker developed alongside sports titans Under Armour. The HTC Grip wasn’t available to test at the show, but the company looks to have done its research and learnt from some of the mistakes of its competitors.

Fitness-focused devices proved very popular at the show, with Huawei also launching the second generation of its Talkband device, and established sports brands such as Garmin, GoPro also exhibiting new offerings, alongside a whole range of new start-ups pushing their wares.

However, all this may change next Monday – March 9, when Apple is expected to reveal further details around its Apple Watch. Will it be enough to detract from the devices we saw at MWC? Only time will tell.

BlackBerry Leap Leaunch 2And BlackBerry even turned up too

MWC is often about meeting new people, and reinforcing the friendships and contatcs that you’ve made in previous years. That’s why it was especially heartening when BlackBerry popped up with a surprise smartphone reveal during its press conference on Tuesday.

Speaking as part of a panel, BlackBerry CEO John Chen surprised everyone when he produced a new mobile device, the BlackBerry Leap (pictured above). Looking suspiciously like an amended BlackBerry Z10, the new device continues the company’s drive for nostalgia by featuring a slide-out keyboard. Will it prove as popular as the company’s classic business-focused devices? We’ll be sure to stay tuned for more details as and when they emerge.

 

So as we said, that’s it for Mobile World Congress 2015, one of the most important on record. With many of the newly-announced devices set to reach customers within the next couple of weeks, we’ll be sure to keep you updated with all the news, rumours and reviews, to make sure you don’t miss a thing.

What do you remember about MWC 2014? Take our quiz!

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