Android, LTE set to dominate in Barcelona

The phone manufacturers that use Android will struggle to stand out, says analyst

An abundance of products based on Google's Android OS as well as modems for the next-generation mobile network technology LTE (Long-Term Evolution) will greet visitors at Mobile World Congress, which starts on Monday in Barcelona.

Last year's show lacked big news surrounding Android, but since then the platform has gained a lot of traction and is now ready to dominate this year's event, market research company CCS Insight wrote in a recent research note.

More than 50 products are expected to be on display on the show floor, including smartphones, netbooks and tablets, according to CCS Insight. Alcatel, Dell, HTC, Huawei, LG, Motorola, Samsung, Sony Ericsson and ZTE are all expected to launch products, the note said.

The big challenge for the vendors will be to stand out from the competition, and the lack of differentiation will lead to lower prices, according to Geoff Blaber, analyst at CCS Insight said.

Phone vendors aren't the only ones showing more interest in the Google-backed platform. Chip maker Broadcom has added support for Bluetooth 3.0 and for the Wi-Fi Direct specification to its software stacks for Android devices, and will demonstrate both features in Barcelona, it said earlier this week. Also, Fraunhofer IIS is introducing audio codecs for surround sound.

Besides new devices, Google CEO Eric Schmidt is one of the keynote speakers and Google will host an Android Developer Lab, at which developers will, for example, learn about games development. Motorola will host its own event for Android developers.

However, Google and Motorola aren't the only vendors that will court developers. Vodafone, Research In Motion and Sony Ericsson are also taking part in App Planet, which is an new "event within an event" at Mobile World Congress, according the show organizers.

Android will, of course, not be the only smartphone platform at the show. Microsoft is expected to launch Windows Mobile 7, and CEO Steve Ballmer will be in town to explain why his company's OS is still relevant.

Windows Mobile has been losing market share, and Microsoft will need to do something drastic to start attracting consumers, according to Roberta Cozza, principal research analyst at Gartner.

Samsung is expected to launch the first device based on its Bada platform, which will open up Samsung's proprietary OS to developers.

Symbian's biggest supporter, Nokia, will be in Barcelona, but won't have a stand at the show. However, the Symbian Foundation will be on the show floor to explain how the OS will catch up to the ease of use that Apple's iPhone and Android-based devices offer.

Mobile World Congress isn't just about new smartphones and applications. LTE will also play a prominent role at the show.

"The most exciting thing for me is that we are able to show a number of real devices," said Ulf Ewaldsson, vice president and head of product area Radio at Ericsson.

Ericsson will demonstrate products from five vendors, including Samsung, according to Ewaldsson, who didn't want to name the other vendors. But the number of vendors could have been higher -- some dropped out at the last moment because they weren't ready, he said.

Telefónica and Nokia Siemens Networks will demonstrate LTE using "pre-commercial" terminals, according to a statement.

Separately, Huawei and ZTE have said they plan to show modems for LTE. NEC will show a mobile thin client concept device and NTT DoCoMo plans to demonstrate a prototype cellular handset for LTE.

Huawei is also planning to demonstrate both next-generation LTE -- also known as LTE-advanced -- and HSPA+ (High-Speed Packet Access) at theoretical maximum download speeds of 600M bps (bits per second) and 84M bps.

Mobile World Congress will continue through to Feb. 18.

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Mikael Ricknäs

IDG News Service
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