MWC 16: What you can expectBy Robin-Leigh Chetty 16 February 2016 | Categories: feature articles
Mobile World Congress might be a week long event that covers every aspect of the mobile industry, but it is the hardware, and more specifically the smartphone and phablets, that take centre stage each year in Barcelona. 2016 will be no different, as each manufacturer tries to outdo the rest, and if last year is anything to go by, the South Korean smartphone makers are the ones to beat. While we're yet to confirm every expected arrival for MWC 16 next week, these are the ones which have gained momentum in recent months.
2016 is shaping up to be an important year as far as BlackBerry's hardware goes. To date, the company has received a rather tepid response to their smartphones, and even though devices like the Passport (review) and PRIV (review) impressed us, they have not had the desired effect that the company most likely hoped for.
Late last year, BlackBerry showcased its first foray into the world of Android smartphones with the PRIV slider. This year, it looks to continue the trend with the unofficially named Vienna. While specifics for the device are hard to come by, the Vienna is believed to sport a physical keyboard as well as a touch display, akin to the Passport, with Android 5.1 running atop.
This Chinese manufacturer made quite the impression during 2015, launching a strong lineup of devices in South Africa. If Samsung is indeed worried about the threat that Chinese smartphone makers pose, Huawei is certainly leading the charge. MWC 16 will most likely not see the debut of a new flagship device, as Huawei often leaves such announcements for standalone events.
Instead, it is Huawei's other areas where we could see refreshes, such as the Huawei Watch, which debuted at last year's MWC. That said, Huawei's 21 February slated event will see the unveiling of “a brand new Huawei device that will meet the demands of the next generation of mobile innovation,” although such an open-ended definition makes the device in question hard to pin down.
Do you remember Motorola? The American phone maker is now owned by Lenovo, and while it's still making devices under its own name, Lenovo has also been trying to make its mark on the Chinese smartphone space as well. Now, a yet-to-be named device will see the light of day at MWC this year, with Lenovo India confirming the news via Twitter.
Based on early renderings, it will have a Huawei P8 (review) look to it, with slightly more rounded edges. What kind of dent Lenovo can make in an already crowded smartphone space remains to be seen, but this latest device is rumoured to be aimed at the entry-level market.
It has been just shy of two years since LG blew us away with the power and specifications of its G3 (review) smartphone, with the follow-up G4 failed to do the same. Perhaps this is why the upcoming G5 is garnering so much attention. This device is rumoured to be all new, sporting not only an aluminium body, but also a few design changes to distinguish itself from the rest of the flagship crowd.
LG's MWC 16 event is scheduled for 21 February, which will see the South Korean company go up against Huawei and Samsung. As such, it should prove interesting to see which of those three will make the biggest splash, the day before MWC officially gets under way. Along with a new flagship, LG is also said to be showcasing its NFC-powered LG Pay platform in full. Which would see it do battle with Samsung, as well as Apple and their respective versions.
When it comes to Mobile World Congress, Microsoft has remained relatively quiet. That looks set to change in 2016, as the company has enveloped the Lumia brand into its fold. To that end, we could see two new devices sporting the Microsoft Lumia logo. At this stage, the rumour mill points towards the Lumia 750 and 850 being debuted.
For now, both devices' attendance at MWC 16 remains unconfirmed. Also difficult to know is whether either of them will be a flagship device, or fall into the mid-range and entry-level bracket. Given their high number allocation, we'd have to say they are most likely flagships, perhaps one smartphone and one phablet.
The South Korean manufacturer is probably the easiest of all to predict. They made a relatively large-scale announcement for their 21 February dated event, which speaks volumes as to the confidence the company has in its upcoming flagship. The devices in question are likely refreshes to the Galaxy S6 and S6 edge. Unlike those two smartphones, however, it is believed that the new S7 and S7 edge will not change their looks too much, and rather focus on fine tuning.
There is also the chance of more content in the form of virtual reality, with the likelihood of a new Gear VR headset looking good. It has been a while since the headset has received a redesign, and Samsung will try to strengthen its position within the VR space.
The influence of this Japanese manufacturer has slipped slightly, as it loses ground to its South Korean and Chinese counterparts. As such, this year's MWC will be a significant one for Sony. That said, chances of a new flagship are slim, given the Xperia Z5 (review) got unveiled at IFA 2015 less than six months ago. Instead, Sony is believed to be fleshing out the rest of its Z5 lineup, which could very well include a tablet.
At this stage, the tablet would be named the Xperia Z5 Tablet Compact, and cater to PlayStation 4 Remote Play, as its predecessor does. There is also a rumour doing the rounds that we’ll see two variants, with a smaller and thinner version designed to rival the iPad Air.
Xiaomi entered South Africa late last year, and the Chinese manufacturer is aiming to make the same kind of impact in 2016 that Huawei did the year before. As far as MWC 16 goes, a new flagship is indeed on the way, with the mi 5 confirmed.
Perhaps taking a cue from LG's playbook, the mi 5 will load as many high spec components as Xiaomi can allow. To that end, the company's global VP, Hugo Barra confirmed that it would sport a Qualcomm Snapdragon 820 processor internally. Furthermore, it will support NFC, and might even feature two SIM slots. If Xiaomi can get the pricing right for the mi 5, it could very well be one smartphone to keep your eye on, if you're looking to upgrade.
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