Mobile World Congress 2012 Preview
Without hesitation, February always seems to be the most hectic time of the year for the mobile industry, thanks primarily to the annual Mobile World Congress held in Barcelona, Spain. The show has long been considered the proper venue for phone and tablet vendors to show off their latest and greatest innovations. Naturally, the internet is been set ablaze with plenty of rumors and even a few official product announcements from companies hoping to benefit from some solid pre-show buzz.

In this guide we'll take you on a tour and walk through the hardware we already know will be shown off at MWC, as well as what we should likely expect to see and the things we'd really love to hear more about but probably won't. Join us after the break, won't you?

LG

Certainly the eager beaver of the group, LG didn't waste any time announcing a flood of various handsets it plans to show off at MWC. We've counted a grand total of six smartphones already made official by the vendor, and it's quite possible we'll have a few other surprises in store for us.

Optimus 4X

LG decided to save the best for last. Having unveiled a litany of dual-core Gingerbread smartphones over the course of the week, the company waited to out its new flagship device, the long-rumored Optimus 4X. Previously known as the X3, it features quad-core goodness, a 4.7-inch HD display and -- tada -- Ice Cream Sandwich.

Known specs: 1.5GHz quad-core Tegra 3, 4.7-inch 1,280 x 720 IPS display, 1GB RAM, 8.9mm thick, 2,150mAh battery, 8MP rear BSI sensor and 1.3MP front-facing camera, 16GB internal storage

OS: Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich




Optimus Vu

If you liked the style of the Pantech Pocket and enjoy the size of the Samsung Galaxy Note, you're going to love the LG Optimus Vu, since it's essentially a combination of the two. Offering a 5-inch display with a 4:3 aspect ratio, the Vu will have one of two possible outcomes: it will be either the show stealer or the laughingstock. We can't wait to find out.

Known specs: 1.5GHz dual-core CPU, 5-inch IPS LCD display, 1,024 x 768 resolution, 8MP rear camera, 2,080mAh battery, 8.5mm thick

OS: Android 2.3 (ICS upgradeable)

Optimus 3D Max (Cube)

It's hard to be terribly excited about a sequel to the Optimus 3D (aka the Thrill 4G in the US), but it's here either way. With a slightly faster CPU, speedier HSPA+ and inclusion of NFC, it's a moderate bump in specs. Perhaps that's all it needs to be a success, but we're not betting on it.

Known specs: 1.2GHz dual-core CPU, 4.3-inch 3D WVGA display, Gorilla Glass 2, NFC (LG Tag+), 5MP stereoscopic rear camera, 1,520mAh, MHL, 21Mbps HSPA+

OS: Android 2.3 (ICS upgradeable)



Optimus LTE Tag

The original Optimus LTE plus NFC minus the gorgeous display equals the Optimus LTE Tag. Its main draw is the introduction of LG Tag+, a new feature that takes advantage of special NFC tags which will, when swiped, automatically change your phone's settings to your own programmed mode. Tag+ aside, it appears to be a midrange offering with a subpar display.

Known specs: 1.2GHz dual-core CPU, 4.3-inch WVGA IPS display, 5MP rear camera, 1.3MP front camera, NFC (LG Tag+), MHL, 1,700mAh battery

OS: Android 2.3 (ICS upgradeable)

L-series

What, no Optimus this time? Indeed, it appears that LG's ushering in a new phone series focused on style and design, with the first three devices coming in the first half of the year. The press release didn't give us many details, but we expect the trio to be less fancy on the specs due to its focus on its looks and materials.

Known specs:

L3: 3.2-inch display, coming March 2012
L5: 4-inch display, Android 4.0, coming H1 2012
L7: 4.3-inch display, Android 4.0, coming H1 2012



Miracle

Android, Android, Android... Windows Phone! Yes, LG will likely have one of those as well, judging by the gazillions of leaks we've seen of the device. Rumored to be called the Miracle or Fantasy, it appears to be your run-of-the-mill Mango phone, but it's hard to tell -- if we're so lucky, perhaps we'll get a glimpse of Tango running on it, but we don't count on that happening.

OS: Windows Phone 7.5 (Mango)

HTC


If any manufacturer were to get a prize for the most leaks ahead of a trade show, it'd be HTC. We've heard a lot of specs, a lot of name changes, and while it seems as though the rumors have this one nailed on the head, we have a feeling that whatever the manufacturer has in store for MWC goes a lot deeper than just a couple smartphones. Here are some of the specs and rumors we've compiled so far.



HTC Endeavor

It's definitely not a well-kept secret: the Endeavor is poised to be HTC's flagship, and it appears to have some great components. We still haven't seen an official announcement yet, but it probably doesn't matter -- if the top-end specs listed below are accurate, the Endeavor may very well win first prize at this year's show.

Rumored specs: 4.7-inch 720p HD display, Tegra 3 quad-core CPU, 8MP camera, 1080p HD video capture, 32GB internal storage, 1,800mAh battery

OS: Android 4.0 (Ice Cream Sandwich)

(image credit: PocketNow)

HTC Ville

The Riker to HTC's Picard, the Ville has been earning rumors nearly as long as the Endeavor. And according to word on the street, it's poised to be a decent mid-range offering in the MWC lineup.

Rumored specs: 4.3-inch qHD display, 1.5GHz dual-core CPU, 8MP rear camera, 1080p HD video capture, 1,650mAh battery

OS: Android 4.0 (Ice Cream Sandwich)

(image credit: PocketNow)


Samsung

We haven't even arrived in Barcelona yet and Samsung's already lost the race. How so? It's all because of one single number: three. More specifically, the Galaxy S III. Sammy has a two-year history of taking to the MWC stage to announce its flagship Galaxy S device, but that all ends this year as the manufacturer's explicitly stated that the next in line will not arrive in time to be shown off at the show. Not only that, no press conference will be held at all. We can still expect to see the highly anticipated handset unveiled within the first half of the year, but that's all we really know at this point.

With that said, Samsung isn't showing up to BCN empty-handed. In fact, we've already seen four devices announced ahead of next week's mobile bonanza. Here's what we know so far.


Galaxy Ace 2

Announced as the logically named successor to the Ace, the sequel is a decently-specced device that will arrive in the UK this April before rolling out globally.

Known specs: 3.8-inch WVGA TFT display, 800MHz dual-core CPU, 768MB RAM, 1,500mAh battery, 5MP AF camera with LED flash, 720p video recording, 4GB internal storage, HSDPA 14Mbps

OS: Android 2.3 (No confirm on ICS yet)

Galaxy Mini 2

Another sequel, the Mini 2 will be targeted strictly at the low-end, making its way to France in March and spreading across the globe after. It certainly won't be stealing your breath away, but at least its likely budget-friendly cost won't be robbing your wallet.

Known specs: 3.27-inch HVGA display, 800MHz single-core CPU, 512 MB RAM, 3MP fixed-focus camera, HSDPA 7.2Mbps, 1,300mAh battery

OS: Android 2.3 (No confirm on ICS yet)



Galaxy S Blaze 4G

This is both a blast from the past and the future. Likely meant to be a successor to T-Mobile's Galaxy S 4G, this device -- also branded as the Galaxy S -- gets a respectable bump in processing power and also has the ability to connect to T-Mobile's fastest speeds. It's 2010 meets 2011, and will arrive at T-Mobile stores the end of March for $150.

Known specs: 4-inch Super AMOLED, 1.5GHz dual-core Snapdragon S3 CPU, 5MP rear camera, 1.3MP front-facing cam, 720p video capture, HSPA+ 42Mbps

OS: Android 2.3 (No confirm on ICS yet)

Galaxy Note 10.1

Okay, this may be the wildest rumor of the bunch, and certainly came out of the blue. However, since we've seen the instance of the Galaxy Note 10.1 on more than one occasion, there may be some amount of truth to it. First, the device surfaced on a Samsung Developer site when it announced the devices that would be highlighted at MWC, and then popped back up in an ad seeking actors for a commercial being shot this month. Could it be a typo? It's quite possible. But then again, is it so difficult to imagine Sammy springing a whole new series of Note devices -- featuring the company's fancy S Pen -- to life? With the sudden success of the 5.3-inch version, it's likely Samsung is ready to invest a whole lot more time and money into turning the Note into a franchise. We're not betting money on seeing this one show up next week, but we wouldn't be one bit shocked either.

(image on right is Galaxy Tab 10.1)



Nokia


In a way, it seems so difficult to comprehend the fact that it's been a full year since Nokia made the gutsy decision to offer its promise ring to Microsoft's mobile OS. But here we are, one MWC later, and the Lumia family sure is growing like a weed. Espoo already has two Windows Phones for sale with a third on the way in the very near future, but we expect to see at least a couple more additions to the genealogy chart -- and if we're so lucky, perhaps even a sneak peek at Tango, the next rumored update to the platform. In addition, we're expecting to see a tantalizing Symbian-running camera flagship as well as more Asha devices equipped with Series 40.



Lumia 910

The odds of seeing a worldwide version of AT&T's Lumia 900 are pretty high: we first heard whispers from Eldar Murtazin about its existence, followed up by Reuter's recent confirmations of the device's impending announcement alongside the Lumia 610. As the rumor goes, we could be seeing the 910 officially on sale sometime in May.

Lumia 610

Could this be the long-rumored Champagne? This particular device, whatever it is, has done a good job of eluding leaks, but Reuters spilled the beans earlier this week as to this device's existence. What the report didn't dive into, however, was any specifics: we have a strong hunch that this particular Windows Phone will be a low-end model that runs Tango, Microsoft's upcoming update, and should be targeted at emerging markets. Anything beyond that is anybody's guess at this point.






Nokia 808 PureView

Nokia has an established history of pumping out Symbian-running flagship phones with mind-blowing cameras, and we're likely going to see Stephen Elop & Co. use MWC as a launchpad for the next one in line. We've seen it teased in a brief 20 second video that shows off a series of masterful images and ends with the tag line "get ready to capture a pure view." The device, rumored to be called the Nokia 808 PureView, probably won't look anything like our depiction to the left, but it's said to offer no less than a 12MP rear camera, 1.4GHz CPU, a 4-inch ClearBlack AMOLED display and Symbian Belle. Will this be the Symbian swan song, or the first in a brand new series of PureView phones?

White Lumia 900

There's not much to say about this one: we may get a glimpse of AT&T's upcoming Lumia device in white during the show. It seems to be pretty much a done deal -- as close as a phone can get to official without an announcement, anyway. Having seen press shots of the device pop up on an official blog post and Facebook page, it's tough to deny its existence. What we're not sure of yet is when, where and how much.


Sony


Sony won our hearts with a strong showing at last month's CES, but we're pretty sure we didn't witness everything the company has up its sleeve. The new Sony Mobile Communications is among the vendors keeping their lips zipped shut, but doesn't stop the rumors from coming in at full speed. So, what have we gathered so far?


Xperia U

According to leaks, the Xperia U (Kumquat) seems destined to be considered the Xperia S's little brother. Armed with roughly the same look but in a smaller 3.5-inch package, it doesn't seem to be a show stealer by any stretch.

Rumored specs: 3.5-inch FWVGA 854 x 480 Reality Display, 1GHz dual-core CPU, Exmor R sensor with 720p video, 1,290mAh battery

OS: Android 2.3.7 (ICS upgradeable)

(image credit: it168)

Xperia P (Nypon)

To be honest, the rumors are all over the place on this one. Again, the tale is as old as time here, but its story may finally be told as early as April, according to roadmaps leaked last month. If this is true, it certainly puts the timeline right in line with a MWC announcement.

Rumored specs: 4-inch qHD Reality Display, 1GHz dual-core CPU, 8MP EXMOR R sensor

OS: Android (unknown version)

(image credit: Xperia Blog)



Pepper (MT27i)

Another phone that's been in the lexicon for what seems like forever, the Pepper may very well be destined to get officially unveiled at MWC. It's rumored to be the neo V's successor with modest specs.

Rumored specs: 1GHz dual-core CPU, 3.7-inch display with 854 x 480 resolution, 5MP rear cam

OS: Android (version unknown)

(image credit: Xperia Blog)



ZTE

The Chinese manufacturer is such a tease, as it gives just enough information to whet our appetite, but then leaves the biggest stuff for later. Quick to unveil three smartphones, the company then sent out an announcement telling us that it has plenty more in store. In all, ZTE plans to release a grand total of eight new devices at the show, and we have a feeling it'll be hard to keep up.


Mimosa X

We don't foresee the Mimosa X as the highlight of the show for ZTE, but the fact that there are five devices left to reveal leaves us wishing for a quad-core unit to show up and delight. Regardless, the Mimosa's specs, now considered mid-range, will surely be a decent offering -- if the price is right.

Known specs: 4.3-inch qHD display, dual-core Tegra 2 CPU, 5MP camera, 4GB internal storage

OS: Android 4.0 (Ice Cream Sandwich)

PF200

ZTE's also announced a pair of LTE-capable mid-range smartphones running on ICS. First up is the PF200, which seems to pack in a similar set of components to the Mimosa, though with the obvious LTE and a better pair of sensors.

Known specs: 4.3-inch qHD display, 8MP / 2MP rear and front cameras, 1.2GHz CPU, LTE, MHL

OS: Android 4.0 (Ice Cream Sandwich)






N910

The N910 offers an interesting set of specs unique from what the PF200 claims. It has a faster processor, lower-grade rear camera, and also features CDMA / EVDO connectivity in addition to LTE FDD.

Known specs: 1.5GHz CPU, WVGA display (unknown size), LTE FDD, 5MP / 2MP rear and front cameras

OS: Android 4.0 (Ice Cream Sandwich)

Huawei

Talk about a quiet riot. Huawei's got something big up its sleeves, but by golly, nobody gets to know... yet. Naturally, the Chinese manufacturer's invite talks the talk, we just hope it can walk the walk. We know it has the capability: the company is well aware of its reputation as a "budget brand" and is hard at work trying to pump out new lines of higher-end phones and tablets -- the Ascend and MediPad, specifically -- in an attempt to change its image. So what could Huawei possibly surprise and delight us with this weekend?



Ascend D1 Q

We're expecting to see the Ascend D1 Q rise up as one of the shining quad-core stars of the show, but the only leaked photos of the device don't even show off the entire glorious thing. In fact, very few rumors are floating around about the handset at all -- that level of secrecy is quite an accomplishment these days, to say the least, and we're hoping it's worth the surprise.

(image credit: iMobile.com.cn)

MediaPad 10

This particular tablet is giving us the same blind treatment as the D1 Q, with only portions of the slate having been peeked. We've heard a few more details about this rumored device, but still not much: it should come bearing an 8MP camera and ICS.

(image credit: hi-tech@mail.ru)





The rest

The companies listed above will certainly not be the only ones at the show -- with the exhibitor list featuring hundreds of businesses all focused on the mobile industry, we're bound to come away from Barcelona having seen a few surprises. Here are a few more players that we're expecting to see some big news from.

ASUS


ASUS decided to get the MWC party started much earlier than normal by talking up its long-awaited Padfone all the way back at CES. A device that was announced nearly nine months ago, Jonney promised us the phablet phone / tablet hybrid -- in other words, a 4.3-inch smartphone with a 10.1-inch tablet dock -- would ship this quarter with ICS, and we're going to hold him to that.

That's not the only thing ASUS will be showing up with, however. The vendor has released a teaser video titled "Twice the Detail, Twice the Fun," which naturally leads us to believe we'll be seeing a dedicated tablet with a high-res display.

Acer

The first smartphone revealed by Acer won a prize for its design, which would've been great news for the manufacturer if it didn't let the cat out of the bag at the same time. The CloudMobile was outed three weeks prior to MWC for receiving an iF Product Design award, and inadvertently became the second major product announcement for the show (behind the Padfone's CES reveal). Acer played it off like a boss, but we have a feeling it would've preferred to wait just a little bit before the general public knew of its existence. It appears that it won't arrive until Q3, but at least the device will sport a 4.3-inch HD display and ICS when it comes.

Additionally, Acer also added the glossy Liquid Glow to its MWC plate, which appears to be a mid-range device featuring a 3.7-inch WVGA display, 1GHz CPU and 5MP rear camera. It also promises that ICS will be available when the handset launches.


Viewsonic

Viewsonic had a few things to show off at CES last month, but it's not done making large additions to its tablet and smartphone repertoire. First up, the slates: the "super-light, super-thin" G70 will run ICS and feature 1GB of RAM, 4GB internal storage and a 2MP rear shooter with 0.3MP front-facing cam to accompany it. Next in line is the ViewPad E100, a 9.7-incher that brings a 1,024 x 768 IPS display and a 1GHz chip into the fold. Last but not least is the ViewPad P100, a Windows 7 that delivers a 10-inch 1,280 × 800 IPS display and a dual-core 1.6GHz Intel Atom N2600. Pricing and availability -- as well as a few crucial missing specs -- have not yet been announced.

Moving over to the smartphone side, the vendor's introducing a new trio of dual-SIM ViewPhone handsets. We have the 4s, which will bedazzle us with its 3.5-inch 960 x 640 Super Clear IPS LCD -- a breath of fresh air when compared to the OEM's CES phones -- as well as a five-megapixel camera, a VGA front-facing imager and a 1GHz chip. The 4e, however, seems to be a much lower-end choice, packing a 3.5-inch 480 x 320 LCD, a slower processor at 650MHz and a three-megapixel camera. Third on the list is the 5e, a 5-inch WVGA device that's slim on any other details at the moment.

Panasonic


Panasonic has only announced one device so far, but has far-reaching possibilities. The Eluga -- short for "ELegant, User-orientated GatewAy" -- is geared to mark the company's return to the European market with Android 2.3.5, a 1GHz dual-core TI OMAP 4430 CPU, 8MP camera, NFC and 8GB of internal storage. It's also 7.8mm thick. It's definitely not going to be at the high end, but is a stunning device nonetheless, and we can't wait to get one in our hands.



NEC

The Japanese firm has so far brought three devices into the spotlight: a Cloud UX device that uses two 4.3-inch displays that open and close like a book, a 5-inch "large screen in one hand" model, and a 4.3-inch "stylish" device. Needless to say, we're definitely looking forward to playing with the first two options. As for any other models, the company hasn't yet specified.



Fujitsu


At CES we were able to sneak a peek at Fujitsu's Arrows Mu, a Tegra 3-wielding prototype smartphone, albeit from behind a glass box. The manufacturer now appears ready to show it off and, y'know, let us actually hold it. The model being shown off will have a 4.6-inch display, 1.5GHz quad-core Tegra 3 chipset, Ice Cream Sandwich, a 13.1MP rear camera and a fingerprint sensor.




Motorola

Without a press conference or any significant rumors to call its own, Moto seems destined to play a rather low-key role in this year's MWC. We've heard the rumors that suggest we'll behold a Medfield-powered handset, but naturally Motorola's not making a peep about such an idea. We're also hoping to see more European versions of US-based phones, such as the Droid 4 or Droid RAZR Maxx. And even though we're not banking on it, we'd still love to have some personal hands-on time with Blur's ICS upgrade.

RIM

RIM appears to be putting its primary MWC efforts on its software, as the BlackBerry maker is said to be making preparations to exhibit its newest QNX-based OS, BlackBerry 10. We're not expecting the upgrade to actually arrive on devices until this fall, but it's quite likely that Research in Motion wants its new OS to generate some early buzz to help the company ride through the lengthy waiting period.