Team Engadget is slowly trickling into Barcelona as you read this, which can only mean one thing: The beautiful nightmare of Mobile World Congress is nearly upon us. The next few days will see some of the world's biggest, most important industry players try to outdo each other with smartphones, tablets and plenty more. If that sounds like an insane week, well, you're right (and we wouldn't have it any other way). Read on for a preview of what we expect the biggest news to be.
Samsung's MWC announcements are usually easy to guess. This year we're definitely getting our first look at the Galaxy S7 and S7 Edge. Don't expect a dramatic redesign of last year's S6/S6 Edge formula, though, since the originals were (for the most part) very well received. This year is all about refinement, and if all these leaked photos are to be believed, they're two handsome devices with curved backs like the Note 5. Curiously, it seems like the Edge might be physically bigger than the regular S7, though both are rumored to feature either a Snapdragon 820 or Samsung Exynos chip depending on the market.
More importantly, rumors suggest that Samsung has been listening to all of our feedback. These next-generation Galaxys are expected to be IP68 water-resistant and bring back the microSD card slots that were notably absent on last year's models. The one potential downside is that Samsung has reportedly gone with a 12-megapixel rear camera sensor instead of the 16-megapixel module used in the S6. Rumor has it that the sensor comes with an f/1.7 aperture lens, though, so low-light performance could be much improved.
While Samsung's news gets leaked to hell and back, LG takes a different approach: It just goes ahead and drops some news in the weeks leading up to the show. So far, we know that the LG G5 will have an always-on display (you know, like smartwatches) and can play nice with some new touch-enabled flip cases. Oh, and Qualcomm basically confirmed on Twitter that its new octa-core Snapdragon 820 chipset will power the G5. Surprise, surprise.
— Qualcomm (@Qualcomm) February 17, 2016
That's not to say LG is immune to leaks. Some intriguing reports point to the G5 having a "magic slot" for additional hardware, including an extended battery and what appears to be a grip with physical camera controls. Further reports claim the phone will have a metal body, a fingerprint reader and a 5.6-inch display (likely with Quad HD resolution, the same as the G4). Could this be the year that LG gives Samsung what for? Considering the rough year Sammy had, maybe.
It also seems that LG Pay -- an odd duck of a mobile payment system that involves a universal credit/debit card -- won't make an appearance at the show. Bummer. But we will, however, get a closer look at the recently announced LG X Cam and X Screen. No, we don't know what LG was smoking when they came up with those names either.
Sony will be hosting a press conference this week, but so far the company has done a good job keeping the particulars under wraps. The Xperia Z5 family is still fresh in people's minds so we're not terribly optimistic there'll be new smartphones. That said, Sony tends to show off new tablets in Spain, too. All told, despite the company's enormous size (making it a bigger target for leaks), we're sort of still in the dark about the Sony's plans. With any luck, we'll see the company showcase a fresh Android Wear smartwatch, and we can't think of any other company (besides Samsung and HTC, anyway) in a better position to help virtual reality go mainstream.
The rumor mill has been churning out reports that HTC will unveil a sequel to last year's M9 flagship called -- what else? -- the M10. If the leaks are anything to go by, it bears some visual similarities with the iPhone-esque One A9, but don't expect to hear too much about this from the show floor. HTC isn't holding its customary press conference this year, but a report from a Japanese blog claims we will finally learn the price of the Vive VR headset.
This Chinese giant has upped its game in a big way over the last year: It had a hand in crafting the much-loved Nexus 6P and then showed off its new flagship Mate 8 at CES last month. Even so, Huawei seems to preparing a sequel to its high-end P8 -- the P9, naturally -- with a metal body, curved display and a curious dual-lens camera. It's also said to feature some of the same specs as the Mate 8, including its fantastic fingerprint reader and the Kirin 950 chipset, albeit with a smaller, 5.2-inch display. Still, one phone isn't enough to warrant an entire press conference, so we'll keep our eyes peeled for more.
Motorola and Lenovo
Or "Lenovomoto," if you prefer. Lenovo is a mainstay at MWC and it's likely to show off at least one new smartphone (as evidenced by this tweet from Lenovo India). Right now, it seems like the device's biggest selling points are its metal body and dual speakers. If AndroidCentral's hunch is right, we're actually looking at an international version of the Lemon 3, a pretty damned robust smartphone with a 5-inch 1080p screen, Snapdragon 616 chip, 2GB of RAM and a 13-megapixel camera.
— Lenovo India (@Lenovo_in) February 15, 2016
Not too shabby, especially since it sells for under $150 in the company's native China. And since this is Lenovo we're talking about, we'd be shocked if it didn't have some tablets to show off too. Motorola, on the other hand, has been awfully quiet. We're not counting on the Lenovo subsidiary to show off any new smartphones, but Moto president Rick Osterloh will be around to give us a better sense of what its future looks like.
Chinese upstart Xiaomi is gearing up for its first major trip to MWC, where it will introduce us to its new Mi 5 smartphone. We know for sure that the Mi 5 will rock one of Qualcomm's Snapdragon 820 chips (yes, Qualcomm is real winner in all of this), while rumors suggest it'll have a 5.2-inch display, Quad HD screen and 16-megapixel camera that shoots 4K video. What's really exciting here is what a presence in Barcelona means: Could we finally see Xiaomi phones go global? We can only hope, but there's really no better stage for it.
Last year at MWC, BlackBerry CEO John Chen showed off a very early version of what would become the BlackBerry Priv. If we're lucky, Chen might take the opportunity this year to officially unveil yet another rumored smartphone: the Android-powered BlackBerry Vienna. If the rumors pan out, the Vienna will be a way for BlackBerry fans to experience Android for significantly less than what the Priv costs and with a physical QWERTY keyboard, to boot. On the other hand, those attending may just be in for another sermon about how great BlackBerry security is (though we really hope not).
Apple never shows up at MWC, but I'm willing to bet that the company chooses that week to issue invitations to its rumored March event. Last year, invites went out while HTC was showing us the One M9, so I wouldn't be surprised if Apple once again went out of its way to steal some its rivals' thunder.