Five smartphone and tablet trends from Barcelona

Lower-cost models will open up the global market

This year's MWC may have been lacking in high-end smartphone launches, but the "W" stands for "world" and lower-cost models shown this week are needed to open up the mobile-phone market to more people globally.

Here are some of the trends that indicate where the smartphone market is headed.

New OSes

Mozilla's smartphone operating system, Firefox OS, got the most attention, but the Tizen camp led by Samsung Electronics and Intel, Jolla and its Sailfish, as well as Canonical, which is hard at work on Ubuntu for smartphones and tablets, were all in Barcelona.

Alcatel One Touch, LG Electronics and ZTE are all developing smartphones based on Firefox OS with prices expected to be below US$100 without subsidies. Huawei Technologies also said it will come out with products later this year and Sony has voiced its support, but hasn't made a final decision on whether it will develop commercial products.

Smartphones using the other three platforms are also likely to arrive before Dec. 31.

Even though they are doing more to improve the smartphone-user experience, Canonical and Jolla are in for an uphill struggle. The advantage they have is that their size means they don't have to sell as many phones as a company like BlackBerry to make a go of it.

HD Voice spreads to the low end

According to the latest research from GSA (Global mobile Suppliers Association), 160 products with support for HD Voice have been announced in the market, which is 120 percent more than a year ago. Showing it is a technology for phones in all price ranges, Nokia introduced the HD Voice-compatible 301, a feature phone that costs ¬65 (US$85) without taxes and subsidies.

The improved quality HD Voice offers is possible thanks to the use of AMR-WB (Adaptive Multi-Rate - Wideband), a speech-compression algorithm that doubles the range of voice frequencies transmitted (50 to 7000Hz versus 300 to 3400Hz).

Investment in mobile networks and devices with HD Voice is a worldwide trend and will accelerate in 2013. All manufacturers are urged to ship their feature phones and smartphones with W-AMR activated by default, according to Alan Hadden, president of the GSA.

For HD Voice, both the caller and the receiver need a compatible phone, and the network also needs to support the technology. In the beginning of the year, 61 mobile networks had implemented the technology.

LTE smartphone price drop

As 4G technology continues to be rolled out across the world, there is a growing need for LTE-capable smartphones in lower price ranges.

Smartphones that cost around $200 wholesale will emerge toward year's end, starting with midtier phones from Huawei Technologies, LG Electronics, Samsung and operator Orange.

This development will continue as processor vendors such as Nvidia develop new processors customized for use in cheaper LTE smartphones and tablets.

Continued experimentation with screen sizes

Whatever screen size your heart desires, there is probably a smartphone or tablet that can make your wishes come true.

At MWC, Samsung launched the Galaxy Note 8, which has an 8-inch screen. ZTE introduced the Grand Memo, which with its 5.7-inch screen is the latest product in the growing product category that sits between phones and tablets. The Grand Memo's existence owes to the success of the Galaxy Note and Note II. However, without Samsung's brand and marketing might, ZTE and other vendors may find it difficult to repeat that success, but a little competition never hurts.

Dual-screen was a form factor that made a comeback at MWC. The Medias W from NEC has two 4.3-inch screens -- each have a 540 x 960 pixel resolution -- that are separated with a hinge that allows the device to be folded in the middle.

The battle for the enterprise

Enterprises that want to equip their employees with smartphones and tablets, or allow them to bring their own, have a growing number of options to choose from.

Just before Mobile World Congress started Citrix Systems launched XenMobile MDM, which is an integrated mobile-device-management offering based on the company's acquisition of Zenprise, and IBM presented MobileFirst.

At the show, Samsung launched KNOX, which offers a container that separates business and personal use of a mobile device. Management software vendors like AirWatch will integrate with the technology to provide a more complete offering.

Send news tips and comments to

Join the PC World newsletter!

Error: Please check your email address.

Tags Huawei TechnologiesLG Electronicshardware systemsZTEtabletsmobilesonyAndroid tabletsMWCconsumer electronicssmartphonesSamsung ElectronicsMobile OSes

Our Back to Business guide highlights the best products for you to boost your productivity at home, on the road, at the office, or in the classroom.

Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.

Mikael Ricknäs

IDG News Service
Show Comments

Most Popular Reviews

Latest News Articles


PCW Evaluation Team

Azadeh Williams

HP OfficeJet Pro 8730

A smarter way to print for busy small business owners, combining speedy printing with scanning and copying, making it easier to produce high quality documents and images at a touch of a button.

Andrew Grant

HP OfficeJet Pro 8730

I've had a multifunction printer in the office going on 10 years now. It was a neat bit of kit back in the day -- print, copy, scan, fax -- when printing over WiFi felt a bit like magic. It’s seen better days though and an upgrade’s well overdue. This HP OfficeJet Pro 8730 looks like it ticks all the same boxes: print, copy, scan, and fax. (Really? Does anyone fax anything any more? I guess it's good to know the facility’s there, just in case.) Printing over WiFi is more-or- less standard these days.

Ed Dawson

HP OfficeJet Pro 8730

As a freelance writer who is always on the go, I like my technology to be both efficient and effective so I can do my job well. The HP OfficeJet Pro 8730 Inkjet Printer ticks all the boxes in terms of form factor, performance and user interface.

Michael Hargreaves

Windows 10 for Business / Dell XPS 13

I’d happily recommend this touchscreen laptop and Windows 10 as a great way to get serious work done at a desk or on the road.

Aysha Strobbe

Windows 10 / HP Spectre x360

Ultimately, I think the Windows 10 environment is excellent for me as it caters for so many different uses. The inclusion of the Xbox app is also great for when you need some downtime too!

Mark Escubio

Windows 10 / Lenovo Yoga 910

For me, the Xbox Play Anywhere is a great new feature as it allows you to play your current Xbox games with higher resolutions and better graphics without forking out extra cash for another copy. Although available titles are still scarce, but I’m sure it will grow in time.

Featured Content

Latest Jobs

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?