Mobile World Congress 2012: smartphone roundup

Mobile World Congress is a dignified affair held yearly in Barcelona that companies take very seriously. For example, unlike CES, there are lots and lots of suits -- after all, this is a congress. Here, some of the most unique and desirable handsets meet the eyes of press, analysts and buyers for the very first time. Accordingly, anxieties were high among company leaders as they put their best foot forward and held their breath for the first round of impressions. This year's show has been a wild ride, and we've seen many devices stretch the boundaries of our imagination. There were more than a few stunners, and as the dust settles, companies such as HTC, Nokia, LG, Huawei and Asus can all hold their heads high. Join us after the break as we reminisce the most notable smartphones from Mobile World Congress.


This past year, many smartphones from HTC fell just short of being ideal. The One X is proof that the company has listened to the critiques, and oh, how times have changed. This incredibly slim handset features an understated yet elegant design, yet inside it packs a Tegra 3 SoC with a quad-core 1.5GHz CPU (or a Snapdragon S4 with a dual-core 1.5GHz processor in AT&T's variant), a beautiful 4.7-inch 720p Super LCD display, 32GB of internal storage and an oh-so-desirable f/2.0, 8 megapixel camera that effortlessly captures beautiful imagery at a rapid pace. It features Ice Cream Sandwich with a Sense 4.0 overlay that's much less obtrusive than previous versions, and our interactions with the phone were buttery smooth. Put simply, the HTC One X stole the show at Mobile World Congress. So long as battery life is up to par, it'll set the pace for every smartphone to follow in its wake.


The HTC One S is positioned as the company's mid-range device, but in all seriousness, it could very well be an ideal smartphone for anyone that finds the One X's 4.7-inch display a bit excessive. It shares many of the same design cues as its larger sibling, and HTC's attention to detail is very apparent -- for example, when swiping across the screen, your finger will effortlessly cascade off the glass. It features a 1.5GHz dual-core Snapdragon S4, a 4.3-inch qHD Super AMOLED display, a similar 16GB of storage and the same 8MP camera that's found in the One X.

Nokia 808 PureView

The Nokia 808 PureView won the official Best of Show award here at Mobile World Congress, and while the device has undoubtedly moved the cameraphone to a new echelon, it's somewhat a niche product. Put simply, the 808 PureView is a middling (and slightly clumsy looking) device with an amazing 41-megapixel camera. It features a 1.3GHz CPU, a 4-inch ClearBlack AMOLED nHD display (640 x 360 pixels), and packs quadband GSM and pentaband HSPA connectivity -- all in a device that runs Symbian Belle. That said -- yeah, we want one.

Huawei Ascend D Quad

Could you have ever dreamed that one of the standout smartphones of Mobile World Congress would be from Huawei? We've known for a while now that the scrappy competitor had ambitions to join the top-tier ranks of smartphone manufacturers, but it wasn't until we laid our hands on the device that we realized just how serious (and capable) the company was. Paling only in comparison to the HTC One lineup, the Huawei Ascend D Quad boasts some of the finest aesthetics that we've seen at the show. It features a 1.5GHz quad-core CPU, a 4.5-inch IPS display with 720p resolution, an 8MP camera, quadband GSM, pentaband WCDMA and, wouldn't you know it, a big bite of Ice Cream Sandwich.

LG Optimus Vu

The Optimus Vu has literally met the boundaries for how wide a smartphone can be. It's a short and broad device that's undoubtedly LG's answer to the Galaxy Note from Samsung. It features an excellent 5-inch IPS display with a rather unique 4:3 aspect ratio. While it may appear a bit clumsy, we found its width to be quite ideal for text input on the virtual keyboard. Naturally, it also features stylus input, though we still prefer the Galaxy Note in this arena. Internally, there's a 1.5GHz dual-core CPU, an 8 megapixel camera and a 2,080mAh battery. At just 8.5mm, it's an incredibly thin device, through you'll certainly want to test drive this one in your pants pocket before making the commitment.

ASUS PadFone

The ASUS PadFone is certainly one of the more unique handsets to rear its head at MWC. While we question its mass-market appeal, it has a coolness factor that can't be ignored. The phone is designed to be slipped into an accompanying 10-inch tablet, and naturally, any work done on the slate remains available once the handset is on its own. The tablet accessory is also capable of charging the PadFone and, get this, the tablet's keyboard accessory also holds a battery that'll charge both the tablet and phone. Yep, it gets complicated rather quickly, but there's also a certain amount of elegance to the setup that makes us smile. The PadFone itself features a dual-core 1.5GHz Snapdragon S4, a 4.3-inch Super AMOLED qHD display and its internal storage will vary between 16GB and 64GB.

Acer CloudMobile

It'll be interesting to see how the Acer CloudMobile stacks up against the competition once it hits the market in Q3 of this year, but for the moment, it holds the potential to be a strong contender in the mid-tier. It's not the most refined device we've ever come across, but we're incredibly fond of its pixel-dense 4.3-inch 720p display and its top-notch viewing angles. The phone includes a Snapdragon S4 SoC with a dual-core 1.5GHz CPU, along with an 8 megapixel camera that's said -- but not confirmed -- to feature zero shutter lag with continuous shot-to-shot performance.

LG Optimus 4X HD

The sequel to the Optimus 2X is here, and it asks to be called the Optimus 4X HD. As the name implies, it now packs a Tegra 3 SoC with a quad-core 1.5GHz CPU and a large 4.7-inch IPS display with 720p resolution, along with an 8 megapixel primary camera. While there's no doubt plenty of power with this handset, LG's software struck us as rather slow and cumbersome -- which is, sadly, all too reminiscent of the Optimus 2X. Nonetheless, we were rather fond of the device's build quality and its display, but further software optimization will be necessary to get this one off the ground.

Samsung Galaxy S Blaze 4G

It's no game-changer, but there's still plenty to love about the Galaxy S Blaze 4G. It takes many of the design cues of the original Galaxy S lineup and crams Galaxy S II innards into the handset. It features a 1.5GHz dual-core Snapdragon S3, a 4-inch Super AMOLED display, a 5 megapixel camera and will support T-Mobile's 42Mbps HSPA+ network. Once T-Mobile lowers the $150 price to a more palatable level, it promises to be a very strong mid-tier contender.

Nokia Lumia 610

It's difficult to stir our passions with a low-end device, and just to be clear, value-conscious consumers will likely find better options elsewhere, but Nokia has proven that it's ready to take Windows Phone down to a level that's accessible to a larger audience. That on its own makes the Lumia 610 worth a humble mention. It features an 800MHz CPU, 3.7-inch WVGA TFT display, a 5MP camera and quadband GSM / EDGE / WCDMA.

Xolo X900

What discussion of potential game-changers from Mobile World Congress would be fully complete without Intel and its new lineup of Medfield chips for smartphones? We happened to grab some time with the Xolo X900, a slab that's based on the 1.6GHz Z2560. While the device is currently destined for India, it offers some worthwhile insights to what we might expect from handsets that'll land closer to home. We found performance to be plenty responsive on the stock Gingerbread phone, but we're most intrigued by the battery life claims -- for example, the phone's relatively meager 1,460mAh cell is said to last up to 14 days on standby and offer up to eight hours of talk time, all thanks to the chip's advanced power management features. The Xolo X900 itself features a 4-inch, 1024 x 600 LCD screen, an 8 megapixel camera and is said to ship in Q2.