As you might be able to imagine, Mobile World Congress is kind of like Christmas for us, with CES a close second on the list of shows we eagerly await each year. You can see why, considering that many of the market’s leading smartphones are unveiled at this Barcelona event – with Apple the only real ‘no-show’.
2016’s tech event proved just as intriguing as the last, from the unveiling of the Samsung Galaxy S7 and S7 Edge (two impeccable smartphones), to a surprise appearance from Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg and a whole fleet of gadgets brought along from Lenovo. Mobile World Congress definitely brings something for everyone. Here’s four things we learned from this year’s show:
1. Your smartphone’s trusty fingerprint sensor might not be as foolproof as you think
Who else uses their smartphone’s fingerprint sensor to unlock their phone, pay for apps or log in to PayPal? We know we do. Despite being perceived as a gimmicky smartphone feature back in 2013, Apple’s Touch ID and other smartphone fingerprint sensors are now part of many mobile user’s security precautions – but can they be trusted?
Apparently not, according to sensor manufacturer, Vkansee. Whilst we’ve had wavering doubts about the reliability of the fingerprint scanners before now, the high-resolution fingerprint reader manufacturer demonstrated how a clay-moulded fake finger is enough to fool a smartphone’s sensor.
The Chinese company’s president did highlight that big security breaches are usually to databases and that the benefits of stealing one person’s fingerprint is likely not worthwhile for criminals at present. He noted that as more people opt to make payments via their mobile, security threats from fingerprint sensors could become more prominent.
Watch the BBC’s video to see the hack in action
2. Mobile World Congress is basically Samsung’s launch platform
Whilst Apple hold their launch events outside of tech trade shows, Samsung continue to unveil their flagship styles at Barcelona’s Mobile World Congress. They launched the Galaxy S6 and the Galaxy S6 at the 2014 and 2015 events, respectively, and continued in the same fashion at this year’s show by unveiling the new S7 and S7 Edge.
Despite having had several mishaps in the past, Samsung’s launch event was a hit this year. From their two new flagship smartphones and a 360-degree camera to the fact that they streamed part of the press conference in virtual reality and then went on to surprise us with a guest appearance from Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, the event was not at all reminiscent of their Galaxy S4 unveiling disaster.
Both the Galaxy S7 and S7 Edge have seen upgrades and we’re particularly fond of both handsets. Read Tech Radar’s review of the hotly-anticipated duo.
3. There’s a one-of-a-kind smartphone for everyone
When it comes to individual style, your smartphone isn’t exactly the first place you look to make a statement. From the iPhone 6 to Samsung Galaxy S7 and a few more Android’s in between, it’s pretty plausible that everybody you know holds one of about 10 devices in their hand. Whilst we can’t offer you Pimp My Ride‘s answer to mobiles, we can give you a smartphone that’s unique from all of it’s companions – well, HTC can.
Rather than launch a successor to the One M9, HTC instead launched three mid-range smartphones at MWC this year, the Desire 530, Desire 630 and Desire 825. The company also brought the HTC One X9 to Europe after it’s December 2015 launch in China. Whilst the models sport average specifications and seen-before features, they all offer a distinctive new finish called Micro Splash. As opposed to finishing the phones in a single colour, the handsets now see a spray of colour scattered across the fascia for a one-of-a-kind finish – no two handsets are alike.
4. There’s more to life than Apple and Samsung
It’s easy to head back to your contract provider and upgrade to the latest iteration of the iPhone or Galaxy range but there’s more on the market than these flagship designs. With HTC’s affordable options, a premium device from Xiaomi in the Mi5 and a whole fleet of gadgets from Lenovo, there was a lot to be said for the challenging brands.
It was the LG G5, however, that truly caught our attention. Premium in design (albeit still less eye-catching than the glass-and-metal Samsung Galaxy S7 hybrid), the G5 is the first modular phone from LG which blends an all-metal body with spectacular internals. Previously, the LG G4 couldn’t compete with the Samsung Galaxy S6 for its plastic and leather externals. This time round, LG have launched one of the bravest Android smartphones to date, all in an impressive package.
The G5 sports a 5.3-inch quad HD screen, runs Android 6.0 Marshmallow and sports a fingerprint scanner too (please refer back to point one). Unlike everything else we’ve seen though, the bottom of the phone is removable, which exposes the battery and an expansion port. This modular design allows the owner to add more accessories and add-ons by literally putting them in to the phone. We think it’s a pretty good idea.
Mobile World Congress 2016 unveiled some exceptional quality smartphones from the likes of Samsung and LG and we’re looking forward to the handsets being released soon (with both Samsung options looking at a March 11 release date in the UK). We saw some truly premium devices from their competitors too, notably in Xiaomi’s Mi5. All in all, most of the devices were true to the leaks and rumours before the show, however we were surprised to have not seen a successor to HTC’s One M9.
Smartphones aside, we were particularly impressed with the amount of virtual reality gear on offer at the show. Just as wearables and tablet-come-laptop hybrids have become a tech event staple, VR looks set to become a much bigger thing this year. Watch this space.