The best of Mobile World Congress 2010

MWC is the premier global event for the mobile phone industry. Here's the latest in mobile innovations, from Barcelona this week.

Telstra

The closest thing to 4G: Sierra Wireless' dual-carrier HSPA+ modem. The AirCard 312U USB modem in theory has a data rate ranging from 21M to (with two channels in use at the same time) 42Mbps downlink (and 11.5Mbps on the uplink). But you'll have to move to Australia: it's available initially only on Telstra's just-completed NextG HSPA+ network. Sierra Wireless plans to release other HSPA+ products, including embedded modules, later this year. More info.

Texas Instruments

Many radios, one chip. Texas Instruments unveiled the WiLink 7.0, a single 65-nanometer chip that incorporates four radios: 802.11n Wi-Fi, GPS, FM transmit/receive and Bluetooth 3.0, all co-existing without interference. TI says it reduces costs by 30%, and size by 50% compared with rival solutions with all four capabilities. It's sampling now to device makers. More info.

MindTree

MindTree Ltd unveiled what it calls a "low-energy" version of its EtherMind Bluetooth software stack. The new version is aimed at linking the phone with a new array of similarly-equipped accessory digital devices. Caller ID could be shown on a watch display, or heart rate data collected from a treadmill, or temperature or blood information from a digital health monitor. It's available first on TI's new WiLink 7.0 chip. More info.

SK Telecom

Imagine an Android-based device packed into a SIM card smaller than a postage stamp. That's what South Korea's SK Telecom unveiled on Day 2 of Mobile World Congress: the prototype SIM card packs an ARM-based processor, companion memory and 1GB of flash memory to store the entire Google Android OS. The telecom company sees the card slotting into a variety of dumb terminals that can offer a screen, keyboard or other input devices, but lack an OS and processor. All the user's data and applications in the card.

SK Telecom crams Android, processor inside a SIM card

RIM BlackBerry

Finally: a real browser for the leading smartphone brand in the U.S., the RIM BlackBerry. RIM executives showed off a full-blown mobile Web browser, based on the open-source Webkit rendering engine that powers Apple's Safari browser on the iPhone. The video of the demo shows the browser scoring 100% on the ACID 3 test for Web rendering. RIM says it will support the emerging HTML5 and CCS3 standards. RIM's full YouTube video of the new browser demonstration.

Metaio

Germany-based Metaio this week released its Unifeye Mobile SDK, for building augmented reality applications for mobile platforms. AR exploits a phone's location and direction, and its camera-view of a real scene, and then layers additional data, images, and links onto that view in real time. The SDK supports image recognition, 3D rendering for animations. Shown: images of outdoor furniture, served up from a vendor's Web site, are juxtaposed over a shot of the user's backyard patio.

Metaio's video of Unifeye in action.

HTC

HTC has released two new Google Android-based smartphones, including one, HTC Desire, that seems to be updated to the Google's recently announced Nexus One phone, also built by HTC. Both the Desire and Nexus One handsets have 3.7-inch AMOLED touchscreens and run Android 2.1 on a 1GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon chipset. The Desire uses a touch-free optical joystick as an alternative to the touchscreen (Nexus One has a trackball), and has FM radio built-in (missing from the Nexus One). The second new entrant, HTC Legend, has a slightly smaller screen. The vendor tweaked the Web browser for better performance.

HTC unveils update to Nexus One and HTC Legend

Toshiba

Toshiba released a follow-on to its TG01 smartphone, running the Windows Phone OS. The new TG02 Another Android phone, this one Toshiba has also been updated. Unchanged is the 1GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon processor, the big 4.1-inch touchscreen, and its 800 x 480 pixel resolution. What is changed is the resistive touchscreen is now capacitive touch. The phone has a quad-band GSM, and dual-band 3G support, with Bluetooth 2.0 and 802.11b/g Wi-Fi. The OS release is updated to one of the latest version of the Microsoft mobile OS, Version 6.5.3. No launch date was disclosed.

Toshiba unveils its TG02 smartphone

Motorola

Motorola's eighth Android smartphone is the Cliq XT (outside the U.S.: "Clench"), running Android 1.5 and Motorola's Motoblur UI overlay. It features a 3.1-inch touchscreen, 320 x 480 pixels resolution, and support Adobe Flash Lite. Wi-Fi and HSDPA 3G at 7.2Mbps. GA: Q-1 2010, on T-Mobile.

Related story: Motorla's Quench marks company's eighth Android phone

Windows Phone 7

With Windows Phone 7, Microsoft has radically redefined the mobile user experience. A clean, minimalist design combines easy to read text and Web-linked icons, called "smart tiles." Tiles can be grouped in "hubs" with common navigation and functions: people, including social networks and contacts, photos, music and video, and so on; a productivity hub includes Microsoft Office and SharePoint. GA: "for the holidays" apparently in Q-4, from various handset makers, on all major U.S. mobile operators.

Related story: Windows Phone 7: Microsoft's mobile strategy finally takes off

Sony Ericsson

Sony Ericsson announced two new Android-based Experia touchscreen smartphones: the X10 mini and X10mini pro. Both have a 2.55-inch capacitive touchscreen display, resolution of 240 x 320 pixels. The pro model adds a backlit sliding QWERTY keyboard, making it slightly bigger and heavier than the mini model. It includes Sony Ericsson's Timescape app for keeping track of text messages, missed calls, and Facebook and Twitter updates. Several Google applications are pre-installed, including Maps with Street View, Talk and Voice Search. GA: Later in 2010 for the U.S.; Q-2 for other locations.

Related story: Sony Ericsson shrinks Android with two new smartphones

Samsung

Samsung's new GT-S8500 Wave smartphone has two distinctive features: a -AMOLED (Active-Matrix Organic Light-Emitting Diode) screen that's brighter than traditional AMOLED even in sunlight, in a 3.3-inch screen with 480 x 800 pixels; and the company's recently-opened Bada software platform, with the TouchWiz 3.0 UI. HSDPA at 3.6Mbps, Bluetooth 3.0, and 802.11n Wi-Fi.

Related story: Samsung hopes super screens will boost Bada platform

Qualcomm

Qualcomm demonstrated a concept smartphone that can connect to and play video content on TVs. The MSM7630 was shown linked via an HDMI cable to a flatscreen TV, displaying videos at up to 780p, with 1080p support due later. The device can show up to four HD streams at once. ST-Ericsson, in a similar demonstration, promised wireless HD connectivity via 802.11n and the Digital Living Network Alliance standard, which defines content sharing among consumer electronics products.

Texas Instruments

Texas Instruments is getting into 3G HD, too. TI unveiled the OMAP 4 processor, which supports 1080p video recording and playback, up from the 720p OMAP 3 chip announced just a year ago. The new silicon can support 20 megapixel imaging and about one week of audio playtime, according to the chipmaker. Based on the dual-core ARM Cortex-A9 MPCore for SMP, the new OMAP chip is one of the first to support symmetric multi-processing on a mobile platform. TI promises more efficient power use and better performance with SMP, but didn't provide details. More info.

Bitstream

Bitstream observed the one-year birthday of its Bolt server-enabled mobile Web browser by releasing Version 1.7. New features include Twitter integration, enhanced download manager, additional usability and streaming video features, and support for widgets. Bitstream claims it's the only mobile browser that can let all mobile phones run streaming video from sites such as YouTube and MySpace. More info.

Bug Labs

Bug Labs announced the Bug 2.0 hardware platform, a set of snap-together electronics modules (communications, camera, etc) that you let create the mobile device of your choice. The 2.0 product runs on the Texas Instruments OMAP 3 processor and supports the Android operating system, for the first time. With partner Accenture, the company is demonstrating at MWC a range of mobile Bug applications for healthcare monitoring, vehicle fleet tracking and home automation. More info.