If you live for the latest phones and mobile gadgets, there’s no greater place to be than Barcelona, Spain each February. Walking around the halls of the Fira Gran Via for Mobile World Congress is like chugging extra-pulp OJ; you can practically feel the tech getting stuck in your teeth.
More than 94,000 people are filling the halls of MWC this year in roughly 2,200 different booths chock to the brim with new mobile tech, including virtual-reality headsets, smartphones, tablets, wearables, accessories, and apps. Our mobile team flew in from Portland, New York, Edinburgh, and London to cover the show, and you can read and watch everything we’ve produced so far at on our MWC 2016 page, or follow us on Twitter.
But if you just want the good stuff, this is where to find it. We’ve worn our feet out scouring the show floor and press events for the past four days to bring you our seven favorite products at MWC. These are the most useful, innovative, fun, and downright insane products at Mobile World Congress. We hope you enjoy!
Best of Show
LG G5 and its ‘Friends’
When Google first unveiled its modular phone concept dubbed Project Ara a few years ago, it was a moonshot — an impossibility. But now, the modular smartphone is not only possible – it’s here. LG’s G5 and its accompanying Hi-Fi Plus audio and Cam Plus modules are the first realization of the modular smartphone concept in a device that’s as powerful and elegant as it is user friendly.
Add to that a standalone 360 VR headset and 360 Cam, plus an adorable Rolling Bot, and you’ve got something that’s much bigger than a smartphone.
You don’t have to be a technician to pop modules in and out of the G5, and each of them adds a range of intriguing features, from high-res audio to improved camera functionality. It may sound geeky, but the ability to completely alter your phone and grant it new superpowers with a quick switcheroo is nothing short of revolutionary. There are nearly endless possibilities for modules, and LG is just getting started.
Smartphones are enjoying a renaissance, but innovation is also slowing down. LG has reversed that downtrend and hit the gas straight into the future with a fascinating and exciting ecosystem of modules along with a high-powered smartphone. It represents the best of MWC innovation in 2016 and the clearest idea of where phone technology may go in the coming years.
– Malarie Gokey
Phones & Tablets
Samsung Galaxy S7 Edge
The deliberation over which smartphone should win the 2016 award went on and on, and even when a decision seemed to be reached, it was still difficult to close the conversation. Yet, we always arrived at the Samsung Galaxy S7 Edge. All those annoyances over the previous models have been fixed. It’s water resistant again, there’s a MicroSD card slot, the battery capacity has been increased, and the S7 Edge is way more comfortable to hold. By addressing these aspects, Samsung made an excellent phone even better.
Beyond that, the camera takes staggering low-light shots, easily eclipsing the S6 and the iPhone 6S Plus, and it’s compatible with the best smartphone accessory you can currently buy: the awesome Gear VR. Pre-order the phone, and you’ll get one for free, which is a kickass deal. The S7 Edge also gets our recommendation — a first for an Edge phone — because it’s heart-achingly good-looking, especially in the chrome-like silver finish. It’s up there with the most attractive phones we’ve seen, and finally loses the sharp sides that made the S6 Edge painful to hold.
Put simply, it’s the 2016 smartphone-of-the-moment you should buy, because it does everything you could want, and compromises less.
– Andy Boxall
This is the HTC Vive’s third trade show award from Digital Trends, and for good reason: It’s the most amazing product in one of the hottest areas of tech right now. We’re big fans of VR when it’s done right, and the HTC Vive has consistently represented the pinnacle of VR you will be able to buy at home. Using laser base stations to track your location, it creates a surreal experience that’s as close as you can come to a Star Trek Holodeck. Instead of sitting down and looking around, the Vive lets you walk around virtual worlds, interacting with them using a 360-degree motion controller in each hand.
At MWC this year, HTC — and partner Valve software, maker of the popular Steam platform, which will power Vive — gave us a look at the final edition of the Vive, revealed its price ($800), and even showed us a couple new demos. One demo gave us a laser gun in each hand, as waves of flying robot drones attacked from all sides. Dodging with our own body, aiming with our own hands, and pulling up a shield to block shots was so natural we could do it all day, proving that the Vive is capable of redefining even the simplest game concepts. You need to try it to understand, and we highly recommend you do. It goes up for pre-order on Leap Day, February 29, 2016.
– Jeffrey Van Camp
Going from Kickstarter pipe dream to a real, working product that anyone can buy isn’t easy, but Avegant has battled its way uphill to bring its brilliant new multimedia device, the Glyph, to market in the next few weeks. This “mediawear” device is like a cross between a pair of headphones and a VR headset, sourcing just about any media you want — from mobile games to Netflix. The Glyph’s crystal clear display tech trades a traditional screen for two million tiny mirrors to create a thrilling portable media experience, and win our award for best wearable at MWC.
– Ryan Waniata
Project Tango by Google
We can’t wait for the day when finding friends in a crowd, navigating to your seat in a major venue, or finding a specific painting in an art gallery is painlessly easy, and if the latest Google Project Tango demo is anything to go by, we won’t have to wait too much longer. Tango could do for indoor navigation what Google Maps did for outdoor navigation. Although Project Tango isn’t available on any device you can buy right now, it will be coming to a Lenovo phone this summer.
With the right phone or tablet, we can enjoy indoor directions so precise, you’ll literally see a painted trail on the floor leading to your destination. We’ll also be able to find people by looking for their avatars, visible through walls or floors, and attached above our heads, perhaps providing information we want to share. Project Tango tablets coupled with software like Glympse and GuidiGo, gave us a sneak peek at what this will be like, and we loved it.
Project Tango is what the original promise of augmented reality was all about, and it’s within touching distance.
– Simon Hill
There have certainly been smartphones on the market with hi-res audio support in the past, but few have added a solution as innovative and elegant as LG with the G5’s new module, Hi-Fi Plus with B&O Play. LG did its homework here, sourcing top DAC and amplification components from ESS’ lauded Sabre brand, and providing a way to use the module both clipped into the phone or wired in via USB Type-C connection. With its brilliant new design that makes it easier than ever to take your top quality music files with you — no matter where you go — LG’s Hi-Fi Plus module takes home our Audio award at MWC 2016.
– Ryan Waniata
Mu System Worldwide Traveler
This stylish and elegant solution for smartphone charging is simple, but so useful, it’s astounding. The original product was about shrinking down the cumbersome three-pin U.K. electrical plug so you can take it with you easier, but the world traveller system brings European, North American, and Australian plugs into the mix. Clip the connection you need into the body, which sports a standard USB port, and you’re all set. The European plug can be flexed to find the right angle for a comfortable fit.
The Mu comes in black or white and it’s satisfyingly simple to slot together, minimizing the space you need in your bag for a charger. This mobile accessory is an absolute essential for globetrotters.
– Simon Hill
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