The main ceremony, hosted by actor, comedian and swimmer David Walliams, was held on Tuesday and saw the Galaxy S III named the best smartphone of 2012, beating out the likes of the Apple iPhone 5, Nokia’s Lumia 920, and HTC’s Droid DNA.
That wasn’t the only upset for Apple as the iPad missed out too, with Google’s Asus-built Nexus 7 scooping the award for Best Tablet of 2012.
Today at Mobile World Congress, Nielsen offered a snapshot of the global mobile consumer based on a report released this month. Some of the findings are quite startling. For example, mobile phone usage is highest in South Korea -- get this, 99 percent among consumers older than 16. Same goes for smartphones (67 percent). By comparison, the United States has the lowest smartphone adoption among developed markets (53 percent). Now contrast that to China, where two-thirds of handset owners have smartphones, while in India 80 percent have feature phones. In Brazil, feature phones and multimedia handsets combined: 65 percent.
Mobile phone usage is high in many countries, but infrastructure is not. For example, 98 percent of Russians have mobiles, as do 84 percent in Brazil and 81 percent in India. Problem, according to Nielsen: "The network infrastructure required for smartphones and next generation mobile devices has yet to appear outside of large, urban centers". Lacking infrastructure explains some of this week's MWC announcements, such as Firefox OS phones or new Nokia Lumias with fewer smartphone features for lower selling prices going to emerging markets first.
How big is too big for a phone? I would have said that my 4.65-inch Galaxy Nexus is large enough, but the 5.5-inch Galaxy Note II proves me wrong and must admit after picking one up I think it is usable as my everyday phone. Now ZTE trumps Samsung today at Mobile World Congress by unveiling the Grand Memo -- a "phablet" with 5.7-inch screen. Smartphones continue to meld with tablets.
The new ZTE model debuts with a nice set of specs: Qualcomm Snapdragon 800 processor with quad-core Krait CPU, extremely generous 3200 mAh battery, 5.7-inch 720 x 1280 display, 2GB of RAM, 16GB of storage, WiFi, 4G LTE, Bluetooth 4, a 13-megapixel rear-facing camera, and rather standard 1MP front-facing camera. All of this is packaged in a very thin 8.5 mm case.
I'm not loving this year's big phone trade show. The news coming out of Barcelona is about as doldrums as the Spanish economy. Generally, the big stuff drops Day 0 and Day 1 at Mobile World Congress. They're done, and so far the product announcements are generally less than last year. The phone launch seemingly everyone waits for, Samsung Galaxy IV, comes in March. That's big commentary on what's missing from MWC 2013.
So far, I would call most new gear as the race to the bottom -- same concepts as the last couple of years, only offering less, selling for less and marketed to less-developed smartphone or tablet markets.
Today the festivities at Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, Spain kicked off. Nokia announced the new Lumia 520 and Lumia 720 Windows Phone 8 devices aimed at the entry-level and mid-range smartphone market and earlier ASUS unveiled two Android tablets dubbed Fonepad and PadFone Infinity.
The Fonepad is a 7-inch tablet that features built-in 3G support for cellular voice and data. The device sports a 7-inch 10-point multitouch IPS display with a resolution of 1280 by 800 and at a first glance it's quite similar to the Nexus 7, which is also manufactured by ASUS, bar the phone functionality.
Nokia's augmented reality, map and navigation apps for Windows Phone just went through a name change, and now bear the HERE branding. As interesting as that may sound (which it doesn't, really) there is an even bigger announcement. HERE Drive Beta, HERE Maps and HERE Transit, which were formerly exclusive to Nokia devices, are now available for "any Windows Phone 8 smartphone".
Well, not for any Windows Phone 8 smartphone -- the three apps are only available for users in Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Mexico, Spain, UK and US. That said, I have installed HERE Maps outside of a supported location and it works fine, without any apparent limitation. HERE Drive Beta and HERE Transit report an unsupported location and as a result neither works for me.
On Monday, South Korean electronics manufacturer Samsung unveiled a new "end-to-end secure solution" aimed at boosting the company's BYOD (Bring Your own Device) credentials among businesses. Called Knox, the product beefs up the Samsung For Enterprise (also known as SAFE) program by adding improved security and increased manageability into the mix.
This time around Samsung forgoes the acronyms. Unlikely to be just a simple coincidence, Knox bears a military connotation as it hints at the iconic Fort Knox US Army post in Kentucky. Luckily, Samsung's Knox only deals with defense. The enterprise solution packs Security Enhanced (SE) Android, which is developed by the NSA (United States National Security Agency) to improve security within green droid land, and integrity management services that are implemented in the Android framework and the hardware alike.
Samsung might have received a $1.05 billion bloody nose in its battle against Apple last year, but the South Korean giant is coming back fighting, by launching the next version of its flagship smartphone on US soil next month. The first such launch in three years.
Confirmed today at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, and in a tweet, Samsung will be unveiling the Galaxy S IV in New York as part of the Samsung Unpacked event on March 14.
Nokia has just confirmed two new Lumia smartphones at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona. The entry-level Nokia Lumia 520 will be priced at $185 (before taxes) off contract, while the mid-range Lumia 720 will cost $338 (also before taxes).
Nokia now has five Windows Phone 8 devices, covering all price points and making it easier for would-be customers to find a model that suits their requirements and budget.
Mozilla means serious business about Firefox OS, if today's Mobile World Congress announcement is any indication. Timing couldn't be more serious. Gartner says there is little room for a third smartphone platform; in fourth quarter, Android and iOS dominated with 90.1 percent share, based on actual sales. The race for third place is on, with BlackBerry and Windows Phone established, but weak, contenders.
Mozilla proposed Firefox OS nearly two years ago, when BlackBerry OS still had appreciable market share and smartphone growth was strong. But as the first Firefox OS devices come to market, much is changed. Mature markets already rapidly saturate, China is the largest for smartphones, feature phone share is expected to fall below 50 percent this year and Samsung has replaced Nokia as global handset leader. The best place for a newcomer, based on who will partner and where there is room to grow: Second-world and emerging markets -- and that's where Firefox OS is headed.
The death knell for WebOS has sounded. HP promised a lot when purchasing the Palm mobile operating system back in 2010, only to abandon ship. The company is among Google's newest and most-important partners. Earlier this month, HP unveiled its first Chromebook, which is followed by its first Android tablet, the Slate 7.
Despite the fact that Mobile World Congress does not technically start until tomorrow, the big announcements have already been rolling out from Barcelona, Spain. HP, not to be left out, unveiled its new seven-inch Android tablet, clearly designed to go head-to-head with Amazon Kindle Fire HD and Google Nexus 7.
Late February means another Mobile World Congress, and the rush to make big, splashy product announcements before the show starts. Samsung jumped in early today, by announcing an 8-inch tablet with stylus -- Galaxy Note 8.0. The slate is about the same size as Apple's iPad, with comparable screen resolution, but features the S Pen and supporting software. Why just touch and type when you can draw, too?
Samsung's slate joins the Galaxy Note II smartphone and 10-inch tablet, with stylus being the compelling feature that market leader Apple doesn't offer on any iOS device. Like the recent update for its siblings, Galaxy Note 8.0 comes with a split-screen, multi-window function. The tablet runs Android 4.1.2 customized with TouchWiz UI.
Not since Windows XP has Microsoft promised so much and delivered it so quickly. Today, in Barcelona, Spain, Microsoft officially announced what we all knew was coming: Windows 8 Consumer Preview. The software is available for anyone to download and try, and its timing almost certainly assures -- short of atomic blast, alien invasion or Mayan end-of-the-world predictions come true -- that Windows 8 will release to manufacturing by end of summer and launch in time for holiday PC sales.
Microsoft has greatly improved the look, feel and functionality of Windows 8 since releasing the Developer Preview in September. Given release timing, the software available today should be considered near-final code. Expect few changes before the release candidate, assuming Microsoft even sees need to make one publicly available. The Consumer Preview is available to anyone with a PC capable of running it.
Early today I asked colleague Tim Conneally in group chat: "What happened to Mobile World Congress? One day of announcements and nothing else?" Because Day 2 is unusually light on product news. Perhaps that's good thing for participating vendors, because late this morning Apple stole the show.
The Cupertino, Calif.-based company dispatched email invites for a March 7 event, presumably announcing iPad 3. The message teases: "We have something you really have to see. And touch". Well, Apple did Microsoft a favor by not sending invites tomorrow, when Windows 8 Consumer Preview debuts at Mobile World Congress. Or perhaps someone at Apple wisely considered that Microsoft's announcement is simply too big to thump -- or that getting in ahead steals thunder enough.
The so-called consumerization of IT starts now. Sure people haul Androids, iPads, iPhones and other gadgets to work -- and mix together personal and professional data, and behavior. But workers the world over will soon have something else to haul into the office, and, whoa, may March roar in for many network managers.
Tomorrow, during Mobile World Congress, Microsoft plans to debut Windows 8 Consumer Preview. It's not an IT preview, but, c`mon, you know where the software is going. Many of you will slap this puppy on to every PC you can, including that employer-issued clunker. Talk about March Madness, as Windows 8 storms the enterprise by every backdoor possible.