10 best Android announcements at Mobile World Congress 2013

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Even though Samsung’s highly anticipated Galaxy S4 announcement never happened, there were many notable Android-related announcements at Mobile World Congress in Barcelona last week. One clear trend is every manufacturer believes that a high-end flagship phone must meet a few requirements: 4.3-inch or larger HD display with 1920X1080 resolution, and at least a 1.5-Ghz processor. At MWC, the manufacturers got creative in their efforts to set themselves apart in a market full of lookalikes.

[RELATED: Hottest products at Mobile World Congress 2013]

Samsung HomeSynch
Samsung HomeSynch

Samsung’s latest entry into the smart TV arena fills a void in its lineup: GoogleTV. With 1GB of memory and a Terabyte of storage, HomeSynch can stream media from the Google Play store and other streaming services. It supports up to eight user accounts, so a family can have eight different preferences and shared and private storage. Though Samsung would prefer to make its brand ubiquitous in the living room, HomeSynch is a sign that it’s smart enough to diverge from its proprietary smart TV strategy to accommodate a potentially disruptive offering like GoogleTV.

Yotaphone’s dual-screen smartphone
Yotaphone’s dual-screen smartphone

Yotaphone introduced a uniquely configured smartphone that combines Android Jelly Bean with both a 4.3-inch LCD front display, and a rear-mounted, 4.3-inch, low-power e-ink display that provides 40 to 50 hours of display life. This could be a useful device, with the one reservation that Yotaphone designers diverged from the standard Android interface in favor of gestures. Two innovations in one device may be too many for the average consumer.

Samsung’s Galaxy Note 8
Samsung’s Galaxy Note 8

Samsung introduced the Galaxy Note 8 at Mobile World Congress to compete directly with the iPad Mini, and perhaps one-up the Nexus 7. The Galaxy Note 8 has a bigger display with higher resolution, more and expandable memory and double (quad-core) the processing power of the iPad Mini. Except for making a battery-conscious decision to eliminate LTE in favor of HPSA, every Galaxy Note 8 component exceeds Apple’s specification. It’s as if Samsung’s designers took Phil Schiller’s iPad Mini announcement video as a challenge to build a better small Android tablet. Samsung’s designers delivered.

Asus Fonepad
Asus Fonepad

The Asus Fonepad is a very interesting introduction, with a very similar form factor to the Asus-built Google Nexus 7. The major difference is the Fonepad introduced at Mobile World Congress is powered by Intel Atom Z2420, and the Nexus 7 by Nvidia Tegra 3. Priced at $250, the Fonepad is targeted directly at the Nexus 7. Intel, which has dedicated substantial resources to its Android development, now has both a smartphone and a tablet that can compete with Qualcomm and Nvidia processors in the dimensions of speed, compatibility and battery life.

Asus PadFone Infinity
Asus PadFone Infinity

Asus has resisted the competitive Android smartphone market presumably because of the competition, but it has been a steady supplier of highly rated Android tablets. At MWC, Asus introduced a smartphone/tablet combo that fits a niche: a high-quality smartphone running a Snapdragon 600 processor and boasting a 5-inch 1920x1020 LCD display in an aluminum housing, which can slide into the rear side of a 10-1-inch tablet. Due to be introduced first in the UK priced at $1,200, this is a new category to watch.

HTC One smartphone
HTC One smartphone

The HTC One stands out for three tightly coupled features: an HD 4.7-inch 1920x1080 LCD display, a high-resolution camera branded as an “ultra-pixel camera,” and easy-to-use yet comprehensive video and image editing capabilities integrated with social media. Other notable features include its quad-core processor, 2GB of RAM, and minimum of 32GB storage. The HTC One is designed for people who want to use a smartphone to record and post in real time without buying an Android camera or an expensive Wi-Fi-enabled SLR.

The LG Optimus G Pro
The LG Optimus G Pro

No one would complain about using the LG Optimus G Pro, with its brilliant 5.5-inch 1920x1080 HD display. LG didn’t skimp in the phone’s feature set, either: 1.7GHz Qualcomm 600 quad-core processor, at least 32GB of storage, Android Jelly Bean 4.1.1, and a 13-megapixel camera. The two standout features are a 3,100mAh battery and a nifty feature that records from the back-facing and front-facing cameras simultaneously. The LG Optimus G Pro is excellently engineered, nicely built, and an example of just how high the threshold is to build a unique smartphone in the highly competitive Android market.

Samsung Knox
Samsung Knox

With its partner General Dynamics, Samsung has created a version of Android that can be segmented into personal and work partitions. The work partition is a “trusted” runtime environment, meaning that all of the operating system components are known and authenticated and the code has been reviewed to function as specified. The work partition can be controlled by the IT department to limit the apps that can be loaded and wipe the phone should it be lost or stolen. Not only will enterprises look favorably on Samsung’s smart mobile devices that run Knox, but it could reduce the total available market for Mobile Device Management (MDM) solutions providers.

Huawei promises 150 MB download speeds for Ascend P2 Smartphone
Huawei promises 150 MB download speeds for Ascend P2 Smartphone

Since Huawei has an intimate understanding of base station operations, it is no surprise that it touted as its major differentiator a lightning-fast 150MB download speed. With a 4.7-inch, 1280x720 LCD display with a 1.5Ghz processor running Android 4.1 and a thin light design, the Ascend P2 is an adequate entry into the market. With its carrier relationships, fast download speeds and the right price, Huawei could penetrate certain markets.

Samsung Galaxy S4 (or maybe Galaxy S IV)
Credit: YouTube.com
Samsung Galaxy S4 (or maybe Galaxy S IV)

What was most anticipated at the Mobile World Congress never actually happened. The Galaxy S4 is due to be announced in New York on March 14. Much is anticipated, ranging from an even richer LCD and more differentiated software to separate Samsung from the pack of Android smartphone manufacturers. Samsung is running a creative teaser to increase the public’s anticipation. The big question on everyone’s lips is how will Samsung improve upon the Galaxy SIII?