It’s been over a week since we went to Mobile World Congress, but it seems like only yesterday. Unlike previous years, this edition was far from perfect and in that sense, more human. I, for one, loved that, especially in the broader context of AI, a force which is becoming more alike us with every. passing. day. There were mistakes, of course, demos that didn’t work, devices that we didn’t like at all and gadgets we absolutely loved. This is our very personal take on #MWC18!
First of all, a couple of words about the major trends we saw last week in Barcelona. Everything seemed to revolve around AI and 5G. If the devices didn’t speak loud enough, the booths sure did. These keywords were visible everywhere we looked, in CAPS (like we saw at Qualcomm) or lowercase (like LG used). Then, AR/VR and audio – Samsung, Sony, Noa and many others made sure to draw our attention to these features either through crazy demos or loud shows.
When it came to products, we took a deep breath and eyed them up. At the end of the week, the votes were in. We…
LOVED: Asus ZenFone 5, Samsung Galaxy S9, Vivo Apex, Pepper with a cloud-brain and Vital Moto Mod. The list could go on, of course, but these really made us giddy!
Asus ZenFone 5 has brains and brawn. Watch are all the other reasons this phone has a place here.
Samsung Galaxy S9 – there’s a lot to love here but in our hands-on, we were most impressed with Bixby Vision. They’ve really upgraded it now to the point where I can see us shopping directly from the streets. The 3D emojis weren’t so bad as you hear, by the way – we appreciated the fact that it created avatars after you, instead of applying preset masks.
Thanks to Cloudminds, Pepper got smarter. The cloud robotics company in SoftBank’s portfolio showed us how they can give humanoids like Pepper a “cloud brain” with the same neural network as human beings have. We had an actual dialogue with Pepper with replies that went farther then “Thank you” and “My name is Pepper”.
Finally, Lenovo Vital Moto Mod took us aback. A smartphone accessory that took my blood pressure, respiratory rate, heart rate and oxygen levels in a pinch deserves an award in our book. Put it on your forehead and it can also take your temperature.
HATED: devices that copied others. Okay, so it’s not breaking news the fact that small companies tend to copy big players in terms of design just to get ahead. We know that. Yet, we couldn’t help but feel disgruntled when we saw exactly those replicas at the Congress with no great features to speak of. Leagoo was a double copycat, replicating iPhone X design (even setting up an Apple-style wallpaper on the home screen!) and borrowing Samsung’s flagship name, “S9”. At least, if it had some noteworthy specs!
DEBATED: 3D scanning, haptic feedback, hidden webcam, feature phones.
Sony enabled 3D capture on the front-facing camera, which meant… 3D selfies, right? Yes, if you’re in luck. After waiting for minutes that seemed hours to test the demo, the software failed. It worked on others, don’t get us wrong, but our personal disappointing experience just stressed one thing: the system is not 100% reliable yet.
The Xperia XZ2 Dynamic Vibration System teasers got us excited until we tried the phone ourselves. Turns out, the vibrations are more subtle, not as remarkable as on the Sony gaming controllers. For some, they might not be even as welcomed, just annoying during an action-packed movie.
Huawei MateBook X Pro‘s hidden webcam is not just the result of a brainstorming night. The company wanted to shave those bezels, even with the risk of putting the camera in an awkward place. Some may argue that underneath the keyboard it can’t “spy” on you but we thought it was also a sign of an underlining trend where webcams are starting to become a nuisance instead of a necessity.
Last but not least, Nokia Banana Phone was the poster child of feature phones this year. It brought a beloved design back, along with a vivid color, 4G connectivity, Snake and apps. But it wasn’t enough to make us stay at the booth and it’s not enough to make us buy it tomorrow.