Smartphones and tablets and phablets and apps; that's all that occupied my mind last week at the 2013 Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, a tradeshow that attracted more than 72,000 visitors from over 200 countries. It was a busy several days, as multitudes of products were launched and myriad trends were spotted. We've already looked at what the Twitterverse took in; here's a sampling of what @MollyMobile saw. (At left are some cool cases and tablet keyboards from Belkin.)
You think the 5.5-inch Samsung Galaxy Note 2 is big? What about LG's 5.5 inch Optimus G Pro or the 5.7-inch ZTE Grand Memo? Or the Huawei Ascend Mate, which dwarfs them all, at 6.1 inches? "Phace" it, the phablet is here to stay. (See it next to the Galaxy Note 2 over on Digital Trends. "It's so big it makes the Galaxy Note 2 look small," says editor K. T. Bradford.)
In an effort to give you options of every size, Samsung announced the Galaxy Note 8. Like the Galaxy Note 2, it has a stylus, but the 8 in its name refers to its 8-inch size, not its version. The Note 8, which is due out in spring, is a bonified tablet, but, you can use it to make calls too (headset recommended).
Every electronics trade show has something truly weird, and at MWC, the prize goes to Asus for its Padfone Infinity. It reminds me a bit of Motorola's Atrix device that launched at CES a few years ago, a smartphone that had an optional dock that turned it into a netbook. In this case, the Padfone Infinity is a 5-inch smartphone that can be docked into a 10-1-inch tablet and thus transformed.
Not everything at the show was huge in size. Nokia and Samsung each launched small, entry level phones, including the Nokia 105 and 301 (pictured) and the Galaxy Fame and Galaxy Young. Each are geared at newbies that don't need a huge screen or the latest and greatest features.
Move over Android, Apple, BlackBerry and Windows, there are some new mobile OS players in town, among them Firefox (pictured) and Ubuntu. Intel also jumped into the fray with its Tizen OS in partnership with Samsung. I'm looking forward to watching how this all shakes out.
Believe it or not, there are already a few Firefox phones out there, the first of which is the Alcatel One Touch Fire, a 3.5 inch smartphone in Firefox orange (pictured). ZTE has also partnered with Firefox.
You've probably heard about security concerns when it comes to Android apps, as the Google Play store isn't locked down like Apple's is. The same software security firms that protect your PC have jumped in to keep your smartphone safe too. I met with Trend Micro to discuss their mobile security app for Android smartphones and tablets, which warns you if download iffy apps or click on dubious website links. Norton/Symantec, Kaspersky and many others offer similar solutions.
Mobile health was another big trend at MWC. Several mobile companies demonstrated health-related apps on the show floor. Bluetooth SIG (special-interest group) showcased winners and finalists of their Bluetooth Breakthrough Awards. One winner is a smart inhaler, the Asthamapolis, which can track the time and location that an inhaler is used, to give doctors detailed information about their patients with asthma or COPD.
Finally, Nokia and Burton Snowboards partnered to create a Windows Phone 8 app (exclusively for Nokia Lumia phones) that helps snowboarders get ready for the slopes with forecasts and equipment information as well as capture image sequences of their jumps and stunts. You can find more info about Burton's app in the Windows Phone store, but it can only be downloaded directly from a Nokia Lumia smartphone. Burton also created some neat-looking insulated cases to protect phones from cold weather.