Android dominates, operators look for traffic salvation

Attendees at the Mobile World Congress will see the latest smartphones and ways to handle the traffic they generate

A new generation of smartphones with bigger screens, faster processors and speedier Internet access is set to be announced at the Mobile World Congress, with vendors also pitching products for operators that continue to be challenged by increasing traffic volumes.

A mixture of leaks, hints and already announced products gives a glimpse of what can be expected at this year's show, which is likely to attract more than 50,000 visitors, according to show organizer GSM Association.

Android will dominate smartphone and tablet announcements. At least 200 Android products will be on display, according to market research company CCS Insight.

The event opens to the public on Feb. 14, but Samsung, Sony Ericsson and Nokia are all planning to announce products on Sunday.

Samsung will announce a new version its Android-based Galaxy S, which is expected to have a bigger and better screen than its predecessor. The smartphone may also have a dual-core processor and a faster Internet connection, using HSPA (High-Speed Packet Access) at 21M bps (bits per second).

Samsung along with vendors like HTC and Huawei are also expected to announce tablets.

Another expected trend in the smartphone segment is the addition of 3D screens. LG has taken the lead and plans to unveil the Optimus 3D, a smartphone that will allow consumers to record and view 3D images and videos without glasses.

Smartphones vendors are showing a growing interest in mobile gaming. On Tuesday, HTC announced it has invested in OnLive, which delivers online, on-demand gaming services over broadband Internet connections to TVs, PCs and Macs.

But the interesting example of this trend is Sony Ericsson's Android-based PlayStation phone, the Xperia Play, which was unveiled Sunday in a TV ad during the Super Bowl game in the U.S.

If LTE (Long Term Evolution) subscribers outside the U.S. are lucky, there will also be announcements for smartphones that take advantage of the new network technology.

The introduction of Apple's iPhone and App Store has changed the focus from hardware to software and applications, which will also be apparent at Mobile World Congress. Nokia, Hewlett-Packard, Research In Motion and Samsung are all organizing developer conferences. Apple may not attend, but the Macworld Mobile conference will still offer iOS developers a chance to network and learn more.

At the show, 50 developers will be demonstrating their latest phone and tablet applications at the Android booth, Google said in a blog post.

The growing number of applications and smartphones is straining operator networks and other news from the show will focus on how operators can get a handle on this issue.

For example, Ericsson and Alcatel-Lucent have announced a new generation of smaller base stations that aim to make roll outs easier for operators as well as cut electricity bills and management costs. End users stand to gain better coverage and higher mobile broadband speeds.

Some vendors are aiming at lowering the amount of signaling traffic that applications generate when they talk to the network.

Seven's Open Channel works by monitoring all requests for data made by the mobile applications and only connecting to the network if new updates are available. The first version of the software is compatible with Android handsets and is now in carrier trials in the U.S. and Europe, the company said in a statement. Again, lowering signaling traffic will result in better performance for subscribers.

Mobile World Congress' importance is mirrored in the CEOs who are scheduled to speak at event. Prominent figures include Microsoft's Steve Ballmer, Nokia's Stephen Elop, Jim Balsillie from Research In Motion and Cisco's John Chambers. Also speaking are CEOs from operators AT&T, China Mobile, Vodafone and NTT DoCoMo.

Send news tips and comments to mikael_ricknas@idg.com

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Mikael Ricknäs

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