Phones galore unveiled at Mobile World Congress in Barcelona

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The smartphone market has been rebooted with new premium handsets announced overnight.

At the annual Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, Huawei, LG, Lenovo and Nokia all held events to announce new phones. That’s additional to TCL which yesterday launched the BlackBerry KEYone handset, and HTC which unveiled its U Ultra and U Play phones a week before MWC.

Sony, Alcatel and Oppo are due to launch handsets in the next day.

Market leaders Apple and Samsung did not front the event. Apple doesn’t exhibit at MWC while Samsung is delayed the unveiling of its Galaxy S8 flagship until late next month as it works to overcome battery technology problems.

Mobile World Congress is the world’s premium annual mobile industry event and this year there is a drive towards 5G, artificial intelligence, better cameras, phones that are waterproof and dustproof, longer battery life, and fast charging.

China phone maker ZTE unveiled its ZTE Gigabit (1 Gbps) phone that takes 360 degree panoramic VR video, aids instant cloud storage, fast caching of ultra high definition Hi-Fi, movies and video.

ZTE isn’t the only manufacturer offering a lighting fast cellular data connection. Rival China phone maker Huawei last night unveiled its P10 smartphone, saying it would be the first phone to support 4.5G LTE — a service launched by Optus last week with a theoretical speed of 1 Gbps.

Huawei also announced smart watches that use Android Wear 2. Its Huawei Watch 2 comes in two varieties. One pairs to a smartphone using Bluetooth while the other uses stand-alone communication.

Richard Yu, chief executive of consumer business group at Huawei, said the stand-alone watch could be assigned the same phone number as the consumer’s smartphone number. In Australia this would depend on carriers agreeing to offer duplicate SIMS for a single number.

Huawei said the watch battery could last 7 hours used intensively for heart rate checking, 2 days with regular use and 3 weeks if used just as a watch.

New premium phones include:

BlackBerry KEYone

China phone maker TCL Communication bought the rights to use BlackBerry branding on its phones late last year so the announcement is a TCL rather than BlackBerry event. The handset includes BlackBerry software and services, a 4.5-inch display and an old-style BlackBerry Qwerty keyboard. It runs the Google Android Nougat 7.1 operating system.

LG G6

LG has dropped the “Friends” modular system that came with the G5 and returned to a more traditional handset. Being able to handle a big phone is a big deal as far as LG is concerned. The catch cry is “the big screen that actually fits your hand”. You get a large 5.7-inch QuadHD “fullvison” display with an unusual 18:9 screen format, a departure from the cinema-style 16:9 ratio that elongates the screen further. It’s also water and dust resistant.

HTC U Ultra

Announced just before Mobile World Congress, the U Ultra has a 5.7-inch QuadHD screen with the top of the screen acting as a second screen. It can display detail even when the rest of the screen is off. For example it can show important information in your life, like a shortcut to the people whom you have contacted recently so you can call them, or a selection of six especially chosen apps.

Huawei P10, P10 Plus

It’s housed in metal with a diamond-cut finish, and less than 7mm thick. The P10 concentrates on basics such as water and dust resistance, a 12 megapixel dual lens camera system like its predecessor, P9, fast performance, super fast charging, and fast operation. The P10 has a 5.1-inch IPS LCD screen with 1080p HD screen resolution where the P10 Plus has a larger 5.5-inch display with QuadHD resolution. Both models have an 8-core Cortex-A53 processor with 4 cores running at 2.4 FGHz.

Nokia 3310

Nokia has added to the nostalgia of the BlackBerry keyboard comeback with a comeback of its own. The revamped Nokia 3310 is an updated, app centred version of the 3310 first produced in 2000. Some 126 million 3310 handsets were sold at that time. There are 3 other handsets: Nokia 6 with a 5.5-inch full-HD screen, Dolby Atmos sound and a 16MP camera; Nokia 5 with 5.2-inch HD display, 13MP camera and fingerprint sensor, and Nokia 3 with a 5’’ display, 8MP camera on both front and rear.

ZTE

It’s been a big month for ZTE. It unveiled its first premium phone in Australia, Axon 7. Overnight it announced what it says is the world’s first Gigabit phone, for 5G networks. It’s an impressive effort but the problem is that there are no public 5G networks to use the handset on. 5G networks are slated for around 2020. Your only chance of using 5G phones earlier is possibly at a trial at the 2018 Commonwealth Games on the Gold Coast or the Winter Olympics at Pyeongchang in South Korea the same year.

Lenovo Moto G5, Moto G5 Plus

These are mid range phones with near premium features. The Moto G5 and Moto G5 Plus have 5.0 and 5.2-inch full HD displays respectively, and a fingerprint sensor. The smaller Moto G5 has an 8-core Cortex-A53 processor rated at 1.4GHz, the larger G5 Plus has 8 cores rated at 2.0 GHz. Both use Android Nougat 7.0 and have fast battery charging, FM radio, and a microSD card slot for up to 256GB of extra storage.

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