Gregg and I spent the beginning of this week out in Barcelona at the mobile world congress. Whilst we were there we posted a few brief updates on here but wanted to bring you a bit of a roundup of the event, the things that jumped out at us and the things we weren't impressed with. I also took a load of video which I'll be going through this weekend with the intention of bringing you a roundup vlog and a 'hands on' vlog in the next week or so over on the giffgaff YouTube channel.
MWC as an overall event is huge! The conference centre had 9 halls, most of which were packed with exhibitors showing off a range of tech from smartphones to smart watches, bluetooth-die (to tell the number rolled to a tablet game) to temperature sensor chips (with no specified purpose) and a whole range of other things. To cover everything we saw would be impossible (and probably a little dull) so here are some highlights.
The Samsung Event
On Monday night we got to be in the crowd as Samsung announced their 3 new products: the Samsung Galaxy S5 (coming soon to giffgaff!), the Gear 2 and the Gear fit. Being part of an event like that was incredible, the size of the auditorium alone was surprising. The event kicked off with an orchestra playing before we were shown the 3 products and demo'd their key features. In particular I was impressed with the Gear fit's nice curved design, although it was a shame we never got to try out the S5.
Lots of you asked us to check out smart watches and so we did! We saw smart watches from Samsung (and even got to try out the Gear 2 and Fit), Qualcomm (the Toq), Sony and one from a sensor company (although whilst described to us as a smart watch it only measured your temperature which we didn't think really counted).
Personally I haven't quite understood the need for smart watches but could really see the fitness potentials with the Gear Fit (and really liked the slick, curved design), I was also impressed with the interface on the Qualcomm Toq which was really intuitive and works with all Android devices, plus boasted a 7 day battery life. The only downside of smart wear at the moment seems to be pricing which would be the main decider for me.
We also had a couple of requests to check out Firefox OS and whilst we didn't track down the $25 phone we did play with some made by different manufacturers all running Firefox OS. I have to say I was pleasantly surprised, the device was easy to use (fairly similar to Android) and the touch screens were pretty responsive. On top of that their App Store was packed with the apps most people use everyday which at launch gives it huge potential. I have to say I was pleasantly surprised by Firefox at MWC.
At the MWC Nokia launched their 1st 3 Android phones. The X, X+. The X, X+ and XL run a Nokia customised version of Android which looks completely different from any Android device I've ever used borrowing heavily from the Windows interface, whilst I found this different approach to Android refreshing some sites have suggested this hybrid design and customisation may cause issues with apps.
All 3 phones adopt a selection of bright colours which Nokia seem to be into and are actually really nice phones, although I personally thought the XL was too big,
If there was a company that was going to get Gregg and I talking we never thought it would be Asus but somehow they did it! Early on in the conference we checked out the Asus Padfone and Padfone mini, essentially an Android smart phone that also slots into the back of a tablet for the times when you want a larger display.
This combination approach is something I hadn't seen before and Asus have done a really good job with it making a responsive phone with a slick design even when it's slid into a tablet, whilst this made the tablet slightly thicker than your average tablet it is a really clever idea and one which I think has huge potential... certainly something to keep a look out for.
The things that impressed us less...
There were bound to be a few things that left us disappointed but only a couple stood out. The Sony Z2 (launched at the event) is a really nice phone but felt and looked like the Z1 (although when the 4k video was displayed on a big screen it looked incredible.
Secondly we eventually found an Ubuntu stand. For a while Ubuntu have been developing a smartphone and operating system and so I was interested to have a go having been impressed by their desktop operating system in the past, however I wished I hadn't! The touch screen was really unresponsive and the operating system wasn't remotely intuitive....I spent about 5 minutes trying to unlock it and only managed to find (what I think was) the favourite apps menu. For something that I thought had huge potentially it was underwhelming in person.
All in all it was a fantastic couple of days and much bigger than I imagined it to be with plenty to see and do, when the vlog goes live it'll give you a chance to get a bit more of a feel for the event. It was interesting to see big manufacturers and lesser known ones alongside each other all making some really good products (android really seems to have opened up the market with different manufacturers).
If there's anything I haven't covered in this blog do comment and I shall try and answer it! If you have any ideas for uses of the temperature sensor that didn't have a specified use feel free to comment them too, Gregg and I shared a range of ideas the best being one which you stuff into a chicken and will communicate with your smartphone when the chicken is cooked!