Hottest products at Mobile World Congress 2013

World’s biggest mobile show boasts LTE phones, Android tablets, Gigabit Wi-Fi, Firefox OS and more

Mobile World Congress

Mobile World Congress - the mobile industry’s biggest international showcase – features an outpouring this week of gadgets, arcane core network innovations, deals, promises, and of course hype. Here’s our take on what’s hot for 2013. Check back throughout the week for updates.

RELATED: Look Back at MWC 2012’s hottest gadgets

ARM’s Power-saving mobile chips due later in 2013

ARM’s Power-saving mobile chips due later in 2013

Processors based on a new chip design from ARM Ltd., could realize power savings of nearly 70% compared to current chips. ARM has talked about its “Big.Little” scheme for over a year; but prototype devices at MWC 2013 finally showed it in action. Shown: a prototype tablet running an eight-core Samsung processor based on the ARM scheme.

Big.Little divides processing tasks between two different types of processor cores, based on power requirements and priority. Multi-media and other demanding go to the powerful, and more power hungry, Cortex-A15 (“Big”). Run-of-the-mill jobs like voice calls and text messaging are handled by the new low-power Cortex-A7 core (“Little”) for mobile devices. Seven companies have licensed Big.Little, and the two processors will start appearing together in mobile devices later this year.

ARM’s webpage for its Big.Little chip architecture.

Dell’s WiGig 4.6 Gbps wireless dock

Dell’s WiGig 4.6 Gbps wireless dock

Dell’s Lattitude 6430u Ultrabook was the first product to include the 11ad (called WiGig) chip, which supports the multi-gigabit data rates over the short-range 60-GHz frequency (it also supports regular Wi-Fi on 2.4- and 5-GHz bands). Now it can talk to the new dock: plug in the dock’s power cord, and connect a range of peripherals via three USB 3.0 ports, DisplayPort and HDMI ports for external displays, Gigabit Ethernet for your network connection, and front Audio In/Out port for voice over IP.

Set the Lattitude 6430u next to it and your whole system just “lights up,” according to Dell. Available now, for $249.

You can see brief Dell video on the set up on this Web page. Dell's product page for Dell Wireless Dock D5000.

Morpho

Morpho

Japan’s Morpho is bringing image stabilization and a “defocus” feature – both usually found on advanced cameras -- to smartphone cameras early in 2014. The company says it can reduce shakiness significantly in video shot at 30 frames per second, calculating the motion between the current frame and the previous one and compensating for it. To do so, the resulting Morpho-stabilized image is cropped by about 10%, as shown in right side of the accompanying photograph. You can see it in action in this IDG News Service YouTube video.

NEC Medias W smartphone

NEC Medias W smartphone

NEC Medias W smartphone can double the size of its 4.3-inch screen: with hinged rear-mounted display that folds forward and fits alongside the front screen. Applications “spread” over both screens, or you can run different apps in each one at the same time. Each screen has 540 x 960 pixel resolution, giving the side-by-side screens an effective resolution of 1,080 x 960 pixels. Both are protected with Corning Gorilla Glass 2. The phone supports GSM, WCDMA and LTE, runs Android 4.1, and includes a Sony Exmor R image sensor in its 8-megapixel camera. NTT DoCoMo, which will sell the handset in Japan, puts battery life at up to 630 hours in standby and 3G talk time at just over eight hours. To see it in action, check out this IDG News Service YouTube video.

Geeksphone higher-end Peak

Geeksphone higher-end Peak

The Geeksphone Peak boosts the specs for Firefox OS developers, closer to a mid-range smarphone. Intentionally or not, the Peak’s design emphasizes that “it’s all about the firmware-plus-UI. Mozilla makes a compelling case for carriers and manufacturers to embrace Firefox OS.

Peak: dual-core Qualcomm Snapdragon S4 8225 processor at 1.2Ghz; 4.3-inch 960 x 540 pixels IPS multitouch display; 8 megapixel rear camera, 2 megapixel front camera, with flash; 4GB storage (expandable via microSD card), 512MB RAM; 3G/LTE support. Also: 802.11n Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 2.1 EDR, FM radio, sensors for light, proximity, accelerometer; GPS; 1800 mAh battery.

See from 2012: Mozilla's 'modest proposal:' Dump the smartphone OS

Acer aims low with latest Android phones

Acer aims low with latest Android phones

Acer introduced two Android smartphones at MWC, part of an aggressive strategy to expand into the burgeoning mobile market with Windows RT and Android, from its PC stronghold. The mid-range Acer E1 smartphone (shown) has a 4.5-inch 960 x 540 pixel IPS display. It runs Android 4.2 Jelly Bean on a dual-core 1-GHz processor. It has a 5-megapixel camera and a 1,760mAh battery. Prices in Europe range from $260 to $299. The lower price tag of the Z2 reflects the technical differences: a 3.5-inch 480 x 320 pixels display, single-core 1 Ghz CPU, 3-megapixel camera, 1,300 mAh cell. The Z2 ranges from $129 to $169 in Europe.

Geeksphone

Geeksphone backs Firefox OS: Keon smartphone

Technically, the Keon and the Peak, from Spain-based Geeksphone, are “developer preview devices” for programmers wanting to work with Mozilla’s Firefox OS. The Keon (shown) is an entry-level phone: Qualcomm 1GHz Snapdragon S1 7225AB processor; 3.5-inch, 480×320 pixels (a 3:2 aspect ratio) multitouch display; 3 megapixel camera; 4GB storage, expandable via microSD; 512MB RAM; 802.11n Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 2.1 EDR, FM radio FM; sensors for light, proximity; accelerometer; GPS; 1580 mAh battery. 3G/LTE support.

For more details on Firefox OS: Mozilla previews Firefox OS with four phone makers and 18 operators onboard

Caterpillar

All this phone needs is tank bulldozer tracks.

Heavy equipment, and sometime smartphone, builder Caterpillar revealed its latest ruggedized Android smartphone, the B15. It has silver-anodized aluminum body with shock absorbent rubber: the company says it can take repeated drops of up to 6 feet onto concrete, and stay dry inside for up to 30 minutes when submerged up to 3 feet underwater. Other details: Android 4.2, dual-core 1 GHz Cortex A9 processor with 512MB RAM, 4-inch WVGA, 800 x 480 pixels, protected by Corning Gorilla Glass (and responds to wet fingers); 4GB storage, expandable via microSD slot. Ships: March.

Price: about $390. The “Catphone” website was not yet updated with the B15 at this posting.

Cellphones on the wing: the Eaglecam

Cellphones on the wing: the Eaglecam

Terra Mater Factual Studios asked researchers at Germany's Fraunhofer Institute for Integrated Circuits for help with a peculiar problem: they wanted a camera that could be mounted on an eagle to get a literal bird's-eye view of its life. The Fraunhofer engineers broke apart a cell phone, and repackaged some components -- camera module, processor, memory -- on custom boards and created the assembly shown here at left (the falconry hood over the eagle’s head helps keep the bird calm). Wi-Fi or LTE enables real-time video streamed from the bird’s back: one angle in flight is shown at right (reflections are from the flat panel TV showing these images). The movie, "The Way of the Eagle," will be released in 2014 by Terra Mater Factual Studios.

There’s a two-minute YouTube video shot at Mobile World Congress about the Institute’s work, including the Eaglecam.

Fujitsu Stylistic S01

Fujitsu Android phone designed for aging users’ needs

The Fujitsu Stylistic S01 is a mid-range 4-inch Android 4.0 smartphone designed for the needs of elderly users. This is likely only the latest step in a major redesign of mobile tech for aging populations. The Stylistic is based in part on the Fujitsu Raku Raku, making use of the same extra-large icons, simplified layout. Adjusting for the user’s age, software optimizes audio to phone conversations easier to hear. Specs: 800 x 480 resolution; Qualcomm MSM8255 processor running at 1.4 GHz; 4 GB storage, expandable via microSD; 8.1 megapixel rear camera, 0.3 megapixel front cam; 1,800 mAh battery; water and dust resistant.

France’s Orange will offer them for sale in June. Price not yet announced.

Fujitsu

Banzai: Fujitsu’s premium Android phone…for Japan.

Fujitsu also announced a powerful high-end Android smartphone, the Arrows X F-02E. But you’ll have to go to Japan to get one. The specs: 5-inch screen with a striking 1,920 x 1,200-pixel resolution; quad-core 1.7 GHz NVIDIA Tegra 3 processor, 2 Gbytes RAM, Android 4.1.2, a powerful 2,420 mAh battery, 16.3-megapixel camera, fingerprint scanner; dust- and water-resistant. Supports LTE and 3G/2G. No news on pricing.

Lenovo’s new Android-tablets-without-names

Lenovo’s new Android-tablets-without-names

The forgettably-labeled S6000 and A300 tablets have a lot in common: the same look and finish, the same MediaTek MTK 8389/8125 quad-core processor running at 1.2GHz; the same 5-megapixel rear camera and 0.5-megapixel front camera; the same Android 4.2 (Jelly Bean) firmware; and optional 3G connectivity.

The S600 (shown) differs in size: it has a 10.1-inch screen, with 1280 x 800 resolution, weighs 19.7 ounces, and is 0.34 inches thin. Lenovo promises 8 hours of battery life on Wi-Fi. The A3000 sports a 7-inch screen, with 1024 x 600 resolution. Both offer optional 3G connectivity. A third tablet, also 7-inches, has a dual-core chip and runs Android 4.1; it’s available only with Wi-Fi.

The tablets will be available worldwide in the second half this year.

Huawei’s LTE haymaker

Huawei’s LTE haymaker

Raising its sights to the mid-range phone market, Huawei Technologies announced the latest in its P series phones unveiled in January: the Ascend P2, with a theoretical maximum LTE data rate of 150Mbps, making it the fastest cell phone yet from any vendor, according to Huawei.

The overview: quad-core 1.5GHz processor; Gorilla Glass 2-protected 4.7-inch 720p screen that can be used with gloves on; 1GB RAM, 16GB of storage; 13-megapixel camera, with dedicated physical key and High Dynamic Range mode (a technique to better show the range of light from darkest to lightest in an image); near-field communications (NFC) chip; and a battery with a whopping big 2,420 mAh capacity. Ships: Q2, for about $525.

More details: Huawei launches LTE-equipped Ascend P2

Qualcomm’s “gigabit Wi-Fi” play for smartphones

Qualcomm’s “gigabit Wi-Fi” play for smartphones

Qualcomm confirmed it will introduce so-called gigabit Wi-Fi -- 802.11ac -- by pairing it first with its high-end mobile system-on-chip, the Snapdragon 800, set to appear in premium smartphones starting in the second half of 2013, according to a Qualcomm executive.

The single-stream Atheros WCN3680 is a combination chip that includes 11ac, Bluetooth 4.0 and FM radio. In June, Qualcomm announced its portfolio of planned 11ac products. The single-stream chipset has a data rate of 433Mbps and throughput of about 200Mbps. In January, the chipmaker unveiled the high-end of its newest Snapdragon processors, with the 800 series targeted at top-of-the-line devices. The just-announced 200 and 400 series are aimed at low-to-mid tier devices.

Qualcomm

A phone with universal LTE support?

Qualcomm announced the RF360 a radio front end: a package of components that will let a smartphone or tablet make use of most of the varied LTE frequency bands in use around the world. Importantly, the size of the package is up to 50% smaller than current technology, according to Qualcomm.

LTE phones today are designed for a given carrier’s radio frequencies and there is no universal LTE frequency. The RF360 “enables for the first time a single, global 4G LTE design for mobile devices,” as well as existing 3G and 2G cellular modes, according to Qualcomm. That means, among other things, that future LTE phones will be able to roam on various carriers’ networks, as many 3G phones can do today.

Quick Charge
Postdlf from w, under GNU Free Documentation License, Version 1.2

Lightning-fast mobile device charging Well, not quite that fast. Qualcomm announced version 2.0 its Quick Charge technology, first introduced in 2012 to speed recharging of mobile devices by up to 40%.

Now it’s even faster: the vendor says its lab tests show tablets that usually took over 7 hours to recharge, took less than 3 with Quick Charge 2.0. The technology is embedded in the device and its companion charging device. It will be available first on devices using Qualcomm’s high-end Snapdragon system-on-chip, sometime in early 2014, according to the company. And all the 1.0 and 2.0 products are backward and forward compatible.

Firefox OS

First phone with the “non-operating system” Firefox OS

Mozilla.org revealed its Firefox OS project a year ago at MWC 2012. This year, Mozilla confirmed that four phone makers will release devices later in 2013. Mozilla’s early partner, ZTE, is showing off the ZTE Open, due out later this year. The Open is pretty basic: 3.5-inch screen, at 480 x 320 pixels; a Qualcomm processor based on the older ARM Cortex A5 CPU, with 256MB of RAM; 512MB of expandable storage, and a 3.2-megapixel camera.

The firmware is the merest sliver of an OS: a small Linux kernel and other low-level elements, which act mainly to support device drivers and to launch the Gecko rendering engine, the heart of Mozilla's Firefox browser.

Alcatel

Alcatel fires up its own Firefox OS phone

Alcatel may be the first to market with a Firefox OS phone, when it releases the One Touch Fire in Europe around mid-2013. The phone’s specs are similar to that of the ZTE Open: 3.5-inch screen, 1GHz processor, 256MB of RAM, 512 MB of storage, 3.2-megapixel camera without LED flash. No pricing was indicated for either phone. But these features indicate it's aimed at entry-level, cost-conscious buyers.

The homescreen acts as the app launcher. Side-to-side swipes bring up panels with apps or browser shortcuts. Some semi-permanent icons find a home along the screen bottom. There’s a pull-down status bar with more of Firefox OS on a prototype phone, shown last month at the Consumer Electronics Show.

HP tries again with the Slate 7 Android tablet

HP tries again with the Slate 7 Android tablet

HP’s first mobile tablet was the ill-fated WebOS-based TouchPad, introduced in 2011 and killed by the company about a month later.

The newest attempt is the Slate 7, a tablet with a 7-inch screen, Android 4.1 (Jellybean), and a dual-core processor based on the ARM Cortex-A9 CPU, clocked at 1.6 GHz. Other details: 1024-by-600 pixel resolution, 13 ounces in weight, stainless-steel frame with soft black paint in gray or red on the back, 8GB of storage, SD card slot, 3-megapixel rear-facing camera and a VGA camera on the front. Ships in April in the U.S.; starting price of $169.

HP Slate 7 product page.

Samsung’s Galaxy Note “mini”

Samsung’s Galaxy Note “mini”

As expected, Samsung announced an 8-inch touch tablet, the Galaxy Note 8, which fills in between its 5.5-inch smartphone, the Galaxy S Note II, and the full-sized tablet, the Galaxy Note 10.1. In terms of specs, it’s a direct rival to Apple’s popular iPad mini.

Other details: 1280 x 800 pixel resolution (versus 1024 x 768 for iPad mini); Android 4.1.2 (Jellybean), 1.6 GHz Cortex-A9 processor with 2 GB of RAM; 1.3-megapixel front-facing cam, 5-megapixel rear-facing, and a 4,600 mAh battery. Weight, 11.9 ounces; dimensions: 8.3 x 5.3 x 0.31 inches. It has a pressure-sensitive pen based on technology from Wacom; 11n Wi-Fi and Bluetooth 4.0 standard; HSPA+, LTE optional. No news on pricing.

The Lumia 520

Nokia’s new low for Lumia phones

The Lumia 520, at about $184 before taxes and subsidies, becomes Nokia’s lowest-priced smartphone. It the Windows Phone 8 OS on a dual-core 1GHz processor with 512MB RAM. It has a 4-inch, 800-by-480 pixel screen and a 5-megapixel camera, which includes many of the same camera features available on the high-end Lumia 920. Also: 8GB of storage, expandable via the microSD card slot; HSPA support; 4.7 ounces, 0.39 inches thick.

More details: Nokia hopes new Lumia 520 and 720 smartphones will boost sales

Lumia 720

The new mid-range Lumia from Nokia

Nokia fills out the mid-range of its Windows Phone product line with the Lumia 720, priced at about $329 before taxes and subsidies. It shares some features of both the lower-end 520 and the top-of-the line 920. Like the 520, it has but the same 800-by-480 pixel resolution (but a slightly larger screen at 4.3 inches), 1GHz dual-core processor with 512MB RAM, 8GB of storage expandable via microSD card slot, same 4.7 ounces weight, but very slightly thinner at 0.35 inches. But like the 920, it has a better camera, with a 6.7-megapixel sensor, tweaked to do well in low light conditions; the same battery as the high-end Lumia 920, with wireless charging via a snap-on cover.

More details.

Nick Barber talks with IDC's mobile phone research manager Ramon Llamas about hardware and software trends at the upcoming Mobile World Congress in Barcelona

Galaxy Note 8

Setting up for a year of focus on tablets, Samsung unveiled the Galaxy Note 8 at Mobile World Congress in Barcelona on Sunday.

Huawei

Huawei has expanded its phone line-up with the Ascend P2, a smartphone that boasts the latest version of the high-speed LTE data networking system called LTE category 4. That means -- on paper at least -- the new phone is blazing fast.

China's ZTE

China's ZTE debuted a smartphone with a 5.7-inch screen dubbed the Grand Memo at Mobile World Congress in Barcelona Monday.

Consumers might not have to upgrade their phones to take advantage of a new video compression system that was recently standardized. H.265 HEVC is being eyed by phone network operators because it's much more efficient.

Sony's latest tablet, the Xperia Tablet Z, is breaking out of Japan and will be on sale worldwide in the second quarter, the company said Monday.

Sitting firmly between a smartphone and tablet, this is the Asus Fonepad. The device has a 7-inch screen putting it on the smaller end of the tablet spectrum ... but it also includes voice dialing, making it one gigantic phone!

HTC’s Onederful new smartphone

HTC’s just-announced, redesigned HTC One is getting good reviews, like this one from PC World’s Kevin Lee. The solid-aluminum bodied phone sports a 4.7-inch screen, 1920 by 1080 resolution, and 468 pixels per inch. It’s powered by a quad-core Snapdragon processor running at 1.7 GHz. Also: Android 4.1.2 Jelly Bean, with the newest version of the HTC Sense UI, which incorporates a feature called BlinkFeed to automatically add updates to your homescreen with a series of tiles. The redesigned 4-megapixel camera can capture sharper images and deeper colors than comparable rivals, according to the vendor. There’s a front-facing 2.1 megapixel camera. Dimensions are 5.4 x 2.7 x 0.36 inches, 5 ounces in weight, with 32G or 64GB of storage.

LG’s prime Optimus smartphones

LG launched the Optimus F5 and F7 smartphones, intended to bring LTE to a "mass audience,” according to the vendor. No prices were disclosed but the specs suggest LG is aiming for widely affordable phones. The Optimus F5: 4.3-inch screen, 256 ppi, a 1.2 GHz dual-core processor, with 1GB of RAM, and a 2,150 mAh battery, 5 megapixel rear facing camera. Optimus F7: 4.7-inch screen, at 312ppi, dual-core 1.5 GHz processor with 2GB of RAM, 2,450 mAh battery, 8.0 megapixel rear-facing camera. Both run Android 4.1.2 Jelly Bean.

The F5 ships first starting in Q2 in Europe, then the F7 in selected markets.

Metaio augments reality with silicon

Best known for its augmented reality software (which lets you view a street scene or other location and have it layered and flagged with information tags, distances, and other data) Metaio has spent the last year designing silicon for AR. The result: a chip that can be integrated with a smartphone CPU to do for AR what a dedicated graphics processor does for gaming and video: speed things up, and deliver “drastically reduced” power demands. You can use AR frequently all through the day without worrying about draining your battery.

LG goes wide

Besides the new lower-end additions to its Optimus smartphone line, LG Electronics also announced a big-screened, premium smartphone, the 5.5-inch Optimus G Pro, apparently a direct challenge to Samsung’s popular Galaxy Note 2. But the LG rival boasts a much higher resolution: 1,920 by 1,080, or 400 pixels per inch, on an IPS (in-plane switching) screen with stronger colors and wider viewing angles, according to LG. By contrast the Note as 267 pixel-per-inch Super AMOLED screen with resolution of 1,280 by 720. It has a removable, 3,140 mAh battery; supports wireless charging; a 13-megapixel camera; and a 1.7 GHz quad-core Qualcomm Snapdragon processor with Android OS 4.1.2 Jelly Bean.

Grand Memo

Phablet? Tablone? ZTE’s 5.7-inch smartwhatever

China's ZTE unveiled the Grand Memo, a smartphone with a 5.7-inch screen, and 1280 x 720 resolution. Other specs: quad-core Qualcomm 800 processor with 2GB RAM, 13-megapixel rear-facing camera, 16GB storage, a massive 3200 mAh battery, LTE support. Android 4.1 is the firmware, overlaid with ZTE’s own user interface, called Mifavor. Part of the UI includes a feature called Mi-POP, a small set of controls that appear on the screen wherever it’s most comfortable for users: back, home, menu and customizable buttons fall under the user's thumb for easy navigation. Available in Q2 in Europe and Asia, no word on U.S. availability, or on pricing.

Sony tablet

Sony’s take on the Android tablet

In Q2, Sony will ship the Xperia Tablet Z, a 10-inch tablet, running Android 4.1 initially. Just 0.27 inches thick and weighing 17.5 ounces, the new tablet has a 1920 x 1200 pixel HD screen, quad-core Qualcomm Snapdragon S4 Pro processor, 8 Megapixel rear mounted camera and 2 Megapixel front-facing camera; a NFC (near field communications) chip to facilitate file transfers just by touching devices together. technology, allowing devices to transfer video and audio files by tapping them together. In the U.S., the black model will be $499 with 16GB, $599 with 32GB, expandable via a microSD slot. Sony is touting the “highest levels of water and dirt resistance in a tablet” for the Z.

MWC

Sitting firmly between a smartphone and tablet, this is the Asus Fonepad. The device has a 7-inch screen putting it on the smaller end of the tablet spectrum ... but it also includes voice dialing, making it one gigantic phone!

MWC

Morpho's background defocus and image stabilization will ship with smartphones in early 2014.

mwc

At Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, Webalo showed how it could update an enterprise app using its application building software.

New smartphone sensors will be able to track your activity and previously unmeasured data could open a new world of application development.

NXP

At Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, Webalo showed how it could update an enterprise app using its application building software.

MWC

GT Advanced Technologies thinks that sapphire glass could prolong the life of cell phones and other devices and protect them from rough treatment.

Duracell Powermat

Duracell Powermat introduced wireless charging options for the iPhone 5, Macbook and Samsung Galaxy S III at Mobile World Congress in Barcelona.