It wouldn't be a high-profile trade show without a company or two trying to get an edge up on the competition by hitting the press circuit a little early. This year, we've already seen HTC officially launch the HTC One in an attempt to boost the hype going into the show. LG has also taken a similar approach, albeit on a much quieter scale, with the Optimus G Pro. The company has announced Korean and Japanese availability for the 5.5-inch smartphone so far (with a North American launch in Q2), but we're hoping it will be hanging out somewhere in Barcelona during the show -- and, if we're lucky, accompanying an announcement for additional availability. LG also launched the next L series (dubbed the L Series II, shockingly enough), so we expect to have the opportunity to play with its awkwardly named trio of phones.
But that's not all. This year's show is already off to an amazing start, and we haven't even reached the Fira yet. Continuing on with pre-show announcements: ZTE introduced the Grand Memo and teased a Mozilla (Firefox OS) device; Google confirmed to us it would not have its booth at this year's show; and Ubuntu revealed it would offer tablet support. On the chipset front, NVIDIA took the covers off its new Tegra 4i chip, while Qualcomm has announced its first global LTE chipset, the RF360, as well as the lower-end Snapdragon 400 and 200 chips.
A Mobile World Congress without showstopping news from Nokia? Never! Two years ago, Stephen Elop announced that the Finnish phone maker would be going all-in on Windows Phone, while last year's hit product was a Symbian device with imaging superpowers. What will happen this year? It's difficult to say exactly what unique announcement we'll hear from Nokia -- if any -- since it's already launched the Lumia 920, 820 and 620 in the last few months.
It's quite likely that Nokia will push out at least a couple new Asha devices on the low-end, and developer logs (as well as a regulating body or two) seem to confirm that a Lumia 720 and 520 are at least on the way in the near future, so MWC would certainly make a fine venue for such an unveiling. None of these stand out as attention-grabbers, however, so it leaves us wondering if Nokia will actually have some sort of product that takes us all by surprise. We don't expect to see a tablet, though a few rumors have at least pointed to the fact that the company's working on something in the genre, so we won't rule it out entirely.
A couple years ago, Samsung used MWC as a platform to launch its latest Galaxy S flagship device. Last year, however, the company took a completely different direction and (wisely) chose to unveil the Galaxy S III at its own independent press event. Given its strong success -- and the fact that Samsung isn't even holding a traditional keynote or conference -- it's pretty safe to assume that the Galaxy S IV will be announced exactly the same way.
But if that isn't launching, what is? The Galaxy Note 8 is pretty much a go at this point, though nobody knows for sure exactly what it looks like. (We're hoping it doesn't look like the leaked photos, to be honest.) Additionally, we wouldn't be surprised to see a few more mid-range to low-end handsets get quietly released, and we're fully expecting to see the previously announced rugged Xcover 2 make an appearance in Samsung's booth. Lastly, we've heard whisperings about a Galaxy Tab 3, which -- if it's in the same league as its predecessors -- would be a solid low-cost option for tablet buyers.
Earlier we discussed the already-announced Optimus G Pro and Optimus L Series II, but what else might make an appearance at LG's booth? If that wasn't enough, the company has also outed a couple F-series devices, the F5 and F7, a couple of Jelly Bean devices with LTE and a variety of other features. Of the four letters that LG teased earlier this week, only one of them (V) hasn't been shown off at this point, so we still at least have a little bit of an unknown going into the show.
Still, we're not sure if we've seen everything LG has to offer in the G, L and F categories. There's very little chance that we'll see the mystical Optimus G2 -- the original model got its own launch event last fall, and we're counting on LG taking a similar approach with the sequel (though we'd love to see one show up earlier in the year).
Sony has a press event on Monday morning, but the company has kept relatively quiet about it. At this point, we'd assume the Xperia Tablet Z, announced a little over a month ago, will be on display, but nothing else has been officially teased at this point. Granted, it wouldn't take us by surprise at all if we learn that Sony has a couple mid-range or low-end Xperia phones ready to go for the show -- after all, there are still a few letters in the alphabet that haven't been used yet.
The HTC One is no longer a secret, but that doesn't mean it has to be the only thing hanging out in the company's booth. Nothing has been announced aside from the phone formerly known as the M7, but two other HTC devices -- the M4 and G2 -- have been rumored for a few weeks. Since we haven't seen any leaked renders or press images yet, we'd say the chances of either smartphone hitting the halls of the Fira are pretty slim, but anything's possible.
ZTE's press invitation included two hashtags: #ZTEGrandMemo and #ZTEMozilla. The Chinese manufacturer hasn't exactly been the most secretive with its product announcements lately, having pulled a similar publicity stunt with the Grand S prior to CES. The Grand Memo, just as the name implies, is a 5.7-inch smartphone (no, we're not using the "ph" word) with a 720p display and 1.7GHz quad-core Snapdragon S4 Pro.
The Mozilla phone likely won't be much of a mystery, either; we first caught wind of a ZTE-manufactured device running Firefox OS at CES, though neither company was willing to mention anything about the hardware at the time. It's possible that it could have simply been a prototype or reference device that won't actually be sold, but we're willing to bet that it's the real deal.
Lastly, we should find ourselves face to face with the nearly legendary V81 tablet. The slate showed up on ZTE's website last month with a few specs: dual-core 1.4GHz CPU, 1GB RAM, 8-inch (1,024 x 768) display, microSD, full-sized USB and HDMI ports, Jelly Bean and a 3,700mAh battery.
We had the opportunity to interview Huawei Chief of Mobile Devices Richard Yu on our stage at CES 2013, and he gave us a glimpse at what we could expect at MWC: a super-slim Ascend P2 (and, quite possibly, a P2 S) that is rumored to be thinner than 6.45mm. It's also expected to feature Android 4.1.2, a quad-core 1.8 GHz processor (developed in house), 2GB of RAM, 8GB of built-in storage (plus microSD), a 13MP shooter and a 2,200mAh battery. Aside from the P2, however, we're not certain as to what else Huawei intends to show us.
The wild cards
Alcatel: Brace yourself, folks. Alcatel is planning on unleashing a huge wave of smartphones at MWC -- a baker's dozen, to be exact.
Motorola: It doesn't seem possible to hear a rumor about Motorola these days without the term "X Phone" popping up at the same time. We're not holding out hope for any such mysterious smartphone at MWC, but we do expect something since Moto's forking out the cash to put together a booth at the show.
Acer: UK retailer Asda is already offering the unannounced Acer Liquid Z2 for pre-order, so we expect a real-life version will be floating around the Fira. Given the 3.5-inch display, 1GHz CPU and low price (£89), this probably won't be the most important phone Acer will launch at the show. Same goes for the Liquid C1, which was announced late last month; the Intel phone offers a Lexington-based 1.2GHz CPU, 8MP camera, 4.3-inch display and Ice Cream Sandwich.
Also, look out for the Liquid E2, a mid-range handset with 4.5-inch qHD display, Android Jelly Bean, dual-core 1GHz CPU, 1GB RAM, 1,760mAh battery and 5MP camera.
ASUS: Word on the street is a 7-inch, Intel-based tablet called the FonePad is on the docket, which is rumored to offer a 1,280 x 800 display, 1.2GHz Atom processor and a gig of RAM, but the company's keeping incredibly tight-lipped for now. The only piece of tangible evidence we have regarding ASUS's MWC presence is its press event teaser, which shows a number 8 and the tagline "in search of incredible." We're guessing that the 8 actually stand for "infinity" -- quite likely, given the company's Infinity series of tablets.
Hyundai: We're not sure what to make of this, but there have been a couple rumors about a Hyundai-branded tablet called the T7. The carmaker doesn't have a booth at the show, so this particular product would likely be shown offsite somewhere.
Something feels slightly different about Mobile World Congress this time around. Perhaps it's partly due to the new venue the show is being held at; Google's absence will feel a little weird as well. Ultimately, the main difference with this year's show is that half of the major phone and tablet announcements have already been made before Sunday's press conferences. Granted, these types of unveilings happen every year, but not quite to this scale. Regardless, there is still plenty of mystery going into next week's show, and we'll be there the entire time bringing you every possible detail to come out of it. Stay tuned, and enjoy the coverage!
[Image credit: ToniRodrigo]
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