Mobile World Congress wrap-up: 3 big trends from this year's show

Mobile World Congress wrap-up: 3 big trends from this year's show

A single product doesn't define this year's MWC

We've just spent week in Barcelona, wading through wearables, sampling many smartphones, and even trying out a tablet or two. Also, tapas were involved.

But you're not interested in jamón, almendras fritas, or any of the other treats of Catalonia. What you came here for was to find out about the stories that will define the 2014 edition of Mobile World Congress.

Ultimately, it's probably not going to be a single product. While the Galaxy S5 was easily the biggest product to debut in Barcelona--with wearables from Sony and Huawei also garnering their fair share of attention--it's not that revolutionary a release for Samsung. (Though we'll concede that some of its software features make for impressive additions.) Instead, a trio of trends kept reappearing as we made our way from one end of the Fira Gran Via to the other.

Low-end phones: Forget flagship models like the S5: Phone makers were more content to tout low-cost handsets. We're thinking specifically of Mozilla, which was on hand to show off phones running the Firefox OS that could sell for the low, low price of $25. Even when phone makers had a big handset to announce--say, Sony and its Xperia Z2--there was usually a lower-priced model (like the Xperia M2) along for the ride.

It seems that phone makers are looking beyond consumers who want the latest and greatest technology to people who have more basic needs that aren't met by a full-featured (and pricey) smartphone. In particular, emerging markets are proving to be an attractive target for new phones. Take Nokia, which is getting into the Android arena with a trio of phones built on the Android Open Source Project. That's allowed Nokia to give the X, X+, and XL a Windows Phone-style tiled interface, which it can sell to consumers in what the company calls "growth markets." And if they get used to that Windows Phone feel by the time they're ready to upgrade to new phones, Nokia reasons, all the better.

Top tablets: A pair of tablets caught our eye at Mobile World Congress, starting with the Yoga Tablet 10 HD+ from Lenovo. It's a sleek-looking tablet with a crisp display--a definite improvement over the look of previous Yoga models. The promised 18-hour battery life is a welcome feature, too.

HP's Pavilion x360 takes a page out of the Yoga's book, with a hinge that lets you use this laptop as either a conventional notebook or a tablet. If the versatility doesn't grab you, the $399 price tag will.

Better audio for mobile: If you're less than satisfied with the sound on your mobile devices, manufacturers have heard your complaints loud and clear. Or at least, they see audio improvements as a way to make their products stand out in the crowded mobile space.

Start with Sony, which built noise-canceling technology into its Xperia Z2 smartphone. The Desire 816 may be a midrange model for HTC--the phone maker is planning to reveal the successor to its flagship HTC One in late March--but the phone still offers the kind of dual front-facing speakers you'd expect in a higher-end device.

Missed any part of our week in Barcelona? You can find all of our coverage from the show on our Mobile World Congress page.

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Tags consumer electronicssmartphoneshardware systemsPhonesmwc 2014tabletssonyWearablesMWC


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