The best of Mobile World Congress 2012

mobile world congress 2012 fira de barcelona fountainsIf you’ve seen the acronym MWC plastered all over this this site the past week without a clue… well, we forgive you. While the blazing spectacle of excess we call CES has become a household name among the gadget faithful, Mobile World Congress remains a rising star in the world of electronics. If an analogy would do you better, MWC is like the Javier Bardem to America’s Clint Eastwood. Bardem may not have the reputation of Eastwood, but he’s getting there and can definitely kick some ass. Such is the Mobile World Congress.

Though cell phone diehards have been flocking to Barcelona for MWC since 2006, the show has only gained steam with the wildfire adoption of smartphones across the world and the rising popularity of Android. This year, it shattered attendance records by reeling in 67,000 people. Next year, organizers have already planned to relocate it to a bigger convention center in anticipation of an even greater attendance. 

Besides the fact that Barcelona substitutes sunlight and fountains for neon and casinos, Mobile World Congress thrives because it lives up to its name. It gives mobile products a chance to shine on their own, without the overwhelming clutter of a show like CES. Yet even with this narrowed field of gadgets, innovations, and announcements, there were plenty of stand outs. Some, we would argue, even outshine the best of CES 2012. If you’re looking to catch it all without sifting through six days of coverage, we’ve rounded up the top 10 MWC 2012 highlights right here.

nokia pureview 808 41 megapixel camera phoneNokia 808 PureView

In case you haven’t heard, Nokia has unleashed a smartphone with a 41-megapixel camera sensor.

Yes, 41 megapixels is excessive. Yes, the front of this phone bulges out like John Goodman in lederhosen. Yes, it runs Symbian, the mobile operating systems Nokia keeps pledging to kill. But no, it’s not a gimmick.

By coupling an enormous sensor with sophisticated software that distills the raw resolution into something more usable, Nokia might actually have a shot at producing the best smartphone camera on the market, and may even outdo many point-and-shoots along the way. We’re not ready to call it a victory just yet, but would like to give the Finns (and Brits) at Nokia a much-deserved pat on the back for the innovation, especially after ribbing them over Symbian for all these years. (But seriously guys, put it on Windows Phone 7.)

htc one xHTC One X

HTC has always had a strong showing at MWC, so it should come as little surprise that its flagship this year was one of the strong points of the show. If we could take home any phone, this would likely be it.

The uberfast and power-efficient Tegra 3 processor inside makes a good start to any class-leading smartphone, but the real appeal of the HTC One X lies in the details. A built-in driving mode allows it to play music, provide turn-by-turn directions, and even read texts while you drive. A dedicated imaging processor provides lightning-fast shutter speeds, burst mode, and even the ability to snap photos as you shoot video. Its 4.7-inch, 720p screen looks gorgeous. Oh, and it’s just 7.9 mm thin. When do we get our review unit again?

Sony NXT series at MWC - Xperia P WhiteMagicSony Xperia P WhiteMagic

Let’s not beat around the bush: Sony’s Xperia P looks like a pretty ordinary Android phone, but we’re really all about the screen. Sony’s WhiteMagic technology adds a white subpixel which, through some technological tomfoolery, actually makes it one of the brightest screens out there, and exceptionally resistant to the sun. No really, we actually tested it and it works pretty damn well. Those of us in Digital Trends’ Portland offices may only appreciate this feature once or twice a year, but for people in sunnier locales, this might be one of the most useful smartphone features to come out in recent years. Have you ever tried to use a smartphone screen in southern California? Those poor people have to step into their Lamborghinis just to read text messages.

Windows 8 Consumer Preview

Chalk this one up as one of the least surprising but most pertinent announcements of the show. Microsoft has finally unveiled the consumer preview version of Windows 8, which will meld a touch-friendly tablet interface known as Metro with the traditional Windows desktop. It stills seems like there are plenty of kinks to work out (see our hands-on assessment here) but there’s no denying that a radical shift in Windows will reshape the future of computing as we know it.

samsung galaxy beam projector phone hands on impressionsSamsung Galaxy Beam

Samsung’s second Galaxy Beam – the first was very similar – is a smartphone with a built-in DLP projector. We don’t really present things on walls enough to actually need or want a projector phone, but the sheer novelty of this thing deserves a mention. You can show movies, PowerPoint presentations, or even project a live view from its built-in camera. For three hours no less! And unlike the original, it’s thin enough to use as a real phone.

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