It’s around this time of the year, when all eyes in the mobile ecosystem turn towards the Mobile World Congress for the latest technology innovations in the mobile industry. Last year MWC saw a lot of smartphone and wearables being released. The story was somewhat the same this year too. However, a few brands such as LG and Samsung, took advantage of the buzz around MWC and announced their latest offerings on the eve of the event. With these unveilings, these brands brought a lot of new innovation to the market.
However, this time around when it comes to innovation, trends were set not just in terms of how much more a smartphone can do, but more in terms of other mobile technologies that take the mobile experience to the next level. Here’s a look at the top announcements that made news on Day 1 at MWC.
Modular smartphone design is here
LG announced the next iteration of its flagship G series smartphone, the G5 on the eve of MWC. Those keenly following the smartphone space would know that previous leaks suggested that the G5 would have some sort of a modular design. The LG G5 does sport a modular design wherein its slide-out battery slot at the bottom allows users to swap the battery module with a variety of options that include a camera module with physical controls and a hi-fi Digital to Analog Converter (DAC) module.
What’s more, the company also announced a range of accessory devices called ‘Friends’ that include a 360 degree camera, a sleek VR headset that work in tandem with the G5. Although, the phone might not be completely modular in design, it does set the tone for future smartphone design which has often been speculated to go the modular way.
Virtual reality is now very much a reality
With the G5, LG also announced a sleek VR headset. LG’s headset features its own VR display and connects to the G5 via USB to deliver the VR content experience. On the other hand, Samsung used its latest Gear VR headsets for the launch of its flagship Galaxy S7 devices. The VR experience eclipsed the actual launch of the new smartphones since the company teamed up with Facebook to demonstrate the dynamic streaming feature from the Facebook-owned Oculus.
HTC also announced the pricing for its Vive VR headset on Day 1 of MWC. The headset which has been created in partnership with Valve, will cost USD 799, a price point that saw mixed reactions post the unveiling. The headset tries to justify its cost by not being just a VR headset and offering a more realistic experience through motion controllers with haptic feedback.
A 360 degree view of mobile technology
Again LG and Samsung showed the way with 360 degree cameras touting them as a worthy accessory to their respective flagship smartphones. LG’s 360 cam works much like Google Street View, taking in a 360 picture of the surroundings in a single snap. The camera offers 2K resolution, 5.1 surround sound audio recording and syncs with an LG smartphone like the LG G5 for the user to view the resulting picture. Samsung too launched its Gear 360 camera, which also sports two fish-eye lenses that can record video or still images.
Mapping goes indoors with Project Tango
At CES 2016, Lenovo and Google came together to announce a smartphone that uses augmented reality features for indoor mapping and navigation. At MWC 2016, the two companies gave a short preview of what Project Tango is like with a short tour of Barcelona’s national art museum. Using augmented reality, the device let people take a guided tour and look at paintings and other art displayed at the museum. While the device is its early experimental stage, it shows why indoor navigation is an exciting idea that holds a lot of promise.
A really cool smartphone camera that has an eye for the hot
Puns aside, MWC 2016 saw CAT, Caterpillar to the uninitiated launch a smartphone with a heat sensing camera. Called the CAT S60, the device features a FLIR thermal sensor and could have a variety of applications in the real world. However as of now, it is quite interesting to see smartphone innovations going beyond just making the device a kitchen sink of features.
And then there were the smartphones
Besides the LG G5 and the Galaxy S7, MWC 2016 also saw a slew of smartphone launches from other manufacturers. Alcatel announced the Idol 4, Idol 4S, and Plus 10, while Lenovo unveiled the Vibe K5 and K5 Plus. Sony launched the Xperia X, which is speculated to replace its current Z line of smartphones in future. Gionee unveiled the Gionee S8 which reportedly sports a ‘3D Touch’ Display. Day 3 of MWC saw Xiaomi launching the much awaited Mi5 along with the Mi4S, with an aim to take on the likes of Samsung with competitively priced hardware.