Cutting Room: Handsets do the talking at MWC

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Michael Garwood takes a look back at a record-breaking Mobile World Congress, where the handset manufacturers made the most of their time in the spotlight

The 2012 Mobile World Congress (MWC) was billed as the biggest yet, and it was. Close to 70,000 people flooded the palace grounds of the Fira in Barcelona – an all-time record spanning 27 years.

The interest was noticeable, and while the GSMA’s keynote speeches failed to reach the same heights of interest as in previous years, thankfully the handset manufacturers did.

In fact, such is the trend to present and unveil the latest handset portfolios early that for many, Mobile World Congress began and ended before the Fira’s gates were even opened – with Sony, LG, HTC, Huawei all hosting at their own venues outside the Fira walls the night before.

Samsung went a step further and announced its line-up before the pubs called for last orders on the Saturday – presumably in a bid to own the technology headlines for at least one day.

In total, a staggering 55 handsets were unveiled during the event– with features rather than designs taking the spotlight.

And the biggest talking points surrounded speed and the emergence of quad-core processors, with HTC, LG and even Huawei each trying to cut above the rest with their new portfolio.

Huawei, which was making its first appearance as a handset manufacturer under its own branding, went as far as to declare its new Android powered Ascend D quad as the fastest smartphone in the world.

Market disruptors
Huawei, in particular, had a point to prove as it looked to remove the tag of being a budget manufacturer. And the channel, certainly here in the UK, may need more convincing. But it’s ever increasing portfolio both in build and features is undeniably more suited to the high end of the market.

Chinese rival ZTE, which is embarking on the same strategy to become a known brand for handsets, also impressed with its Era quad-core device, and its sponsorship of the lanyards worn by 70,000 people will ensure no one left the event without knowing who it is.

Alcatel One Touch, a player in the UK market for more than 20 years, focused on the lower end of the market, and it and relative newcomer to mobile Acer provided interesting line-ups and may end up being decent competitors.

For HTC, Nokia, Sony and LG, MWC was more about reasserting themselves after a less than impressive 2011.

Full article in Mobile News issue 509 (March 12, 2012).

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