Smartphones are exploding onto the scene this week at Mobile World Congress, a veritable smorgasbord of hot new mobile technology in Barcelona. While keeping phones that don’t start with “i” straight is never an easy task, we’ve collected some highlights from this week’s mobile extravaganza to help you sort the wheat from the chaff. From absurdly high resolution cameras to tablet copycat capabilities, manufacturers are going all out to make their phones stand apart from the pack.
1. HTC One X1. HTC One X
Mobile gadgets may be multiplying like rabbits over at Samsung, but HTC wants you to know that it’s still just as relevant as ever. The company that broke mobile ground with the HTC Evo 4G has a new flagship phone in store: the HTC One X. The One X will run its own flavor of the hot new Android 4.0 operating system out of the box, and with support for 4G LTE, NFC for nifty tricks like Google Wallet, Beats audio, and a huge 4.7″, stunning 720p Super LCD2 screen. Unfortunately, the the U.S. version won’t pack a monster quad-core processor like its European counterpart, but this powerhouse still looks to give Samsung’s army of Galaxy devices a run for its money. Watch for it on AT&T within the next few months.
2. Nokia 808 PureView
Nokia has a handsome new line of top-notch Windows phones, but the company loves to pull out all the stops when it comes to cameras. The Nokia 808 PureView isn’t up to the Lumia line’s standards in nearly every regard, but it does boast an absolutely absurd 41MP camera. The phone includes support for up to 48GB of expandable memory for all of those pixels, but since it runs on Nokia’s own operating system rather than Windows Phone or Android we can’t imagine it seeing any kind of mainstream adoption. Nokia’s 808 PureView may be little more than marketing stunt, especially considering that HTC’s Titan II Windows phone combines mega-megapixelage with an actually otherwise respectable phone, but it’s still an interesting feat from a company looking to revitalize its brand with some seriously stunning smartphone optics.
3. Galaxy Beam3. Samsung Galaxy Beam
Your head might be reeling from trying to untangle the web of Samsung’s Galaxy-branded devices, but the Galaxy Beam does have a pretty notable trick up its sleeve. As its name would suggest (in a refreshing turn of logical gadget-naming), the Beam packs a built-in projector so you can share images, video, or presentations on your surface of choice up to 50″ wide, which sure beats taking turns peering into its 4″ screen. The notably bright 15 lumens projector can keep its charge for three straight hours of projected video playback, which should meet most professional needs — we’d definitely nod off somewhere in the second hour of PowerPoint slides. The phone runs on an older version of Android (2.3) for the time being, but Samsung claims that Android 4.0 (Ice Cream Sandwich) is en route.
4. Lumia 6104. Nokia Lumia 610
Windows smartphones are arguably just as capable as the Android and iOS devices on the market, but they’ve remained a tough sell due to Windows Phone 7′s late entry into the mobile fray. With the Lumia 610 — a new entry-level Windows handset — Nokia hopes to lure customers in with a list of features and a bare-bones price point.
Being touted as the “most affordable” Lumia smartphone, the 610 is equipped with all the social networking and media functionality you’d expect from a Windows Phone device, including Twitter, Facebook, as well as integrated GPS and music apps. The phone is being marketed to a somewhat younger audience, and its rounded chassis will be available in multiple colors to broaden its appeal. If your interest is piqued by Nokia’s Lumia line but the high-end Lumia 900 looks like overkill, the 610 might just be the phone for you.
5. Asus PadFone5. Asus PadFone
While some companies are attempting to blur the line between tablet and smartphone, Asus has a different plan: a phone that fits inside a tablet. The new PadFone — aside from having the most literal name of any handset we’ve ever seen — is a high-end Android 4.0 smartphone featuring a 4.3″ HD display, 8-megapixel camera, and a speedy Snapdragon S processor.
These stats alone would make it a worthy contender for your smartphone bucks, but the PadFone has another trick up its sleeve: an optional tablet accessory that not only stretches the smartphone’s display to 10.1″, but also. extends its battery life. When plugged in to the tablet, you can use the PadFone just as you would any other Android tablet, and even take calls as you normally would using a Bluetooth headset. The PadFone is scheduled to ship in April, though pricing for the handset and its accessories have not yet been revealed.
Keep in mind that most of these phones won’t be hitting shelves for a while yet, so carrier and pricing details are scarce. Still, it’s not a bad idea to know what’s on the horizon before you sign in blood on your next two-year carrier contract — especially since this wave of devices has some compelling quirks.