Mobile World Congress Barcelona: First impressions

Still a few days ahead, so here's a first general impression of the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, with some several shots I captured in Barcelona and at the Congress itself. There's not much news to share yet and to be honest I'm not expecting anything that will blow me away the next days - but one never knows.

Microsoft

It's been three years ago that Microsoft Nokia blew everyone away with the Nokia 808 PureView, and after they managed to keep the whole HoloLens thing a complete secret until its announcement, I hoped there would be a Lumia flagship carrying the proud PureView brand after all. But: there wasn't - call me naive. Microsoft is still pushing the "cheaper" devices, though you can hardly call their performance cheap.

This morning Microsoft's Stephen Elop officially announced the Lumia 640 and Lumia 640 XL - the latter even with a Carl Zeiss 13MP camera module (as captured by me below), but no PureView label since there is nothing that really makes it "stand out" - it's just a good camera.

I was at the Microsoft booth and saw some great images captured in Marrakech with the Lumia 640 XL, but for some odd reason I wasn't allowed to copy those to my PC to share them here. I don't know what that policy is all about in fact, unless they have been working on the shots they are presenting. I'll dig into that later today, when I hope to meet mrs. Kristina Björknäs.

More and more producers are already announcing new products on Sunday, so one day before the congress officially starts - this year it was LG, Huawei, Alcatel, HTC and Samsung. That's certainly too much to attend for one person and in fact I was lucky to be able to attend three - the announcements from Huawei, Alcatel and Samsung.

Huawei

Huawei needed a large hall in the pretentious W Hotel at sea and one hour to announce three wearables. The place was packed, it was incredibly hard to get in and everybody reacted wildly enthusiastic about at new bluetooth headset you can use as a watch around your wrist - the TalkBand B2 (I have to admit it does look pretty good). There's a new headset called the TalkBand N1 for the sportive people and of course yet another watch - applause!

Wearables certainly are hot this year (it sometimes looks like I'm at the Mobile Wearable Congress) and I'm still not tempted to buy any of them. Guess I'm old-fashioned that way. Anyway, we'll have to wait for a few months for the announcement of the Ascend P8.

Alcatel

From the W Hotel it was a great walk to the La Rambla, where Alcatel rented a nice intimate club to announce they actually rock (hashtag: #werock). They put up a nice show for a much smaller audience, announcing the new Alcatel Idol 3 - yes, a smartphone, not a wearable! - and like the Lumia 640 it's coming in two sizes - 4.7 and 5.5 inch.

The 13MP camera module is the same on both by the way, and Alcatel claims its lowlight performance is very good and it has Fast Face Focus so you'll be able to capture a portrait very quickly. From what I've seen after the presentation, both perform as promised during the presentation. I asked about aperture and sensor size as well, but didn't get any specific information. Most of the magic happens in the software apparantly.

Still, I'm looking forward to test it very much, also because of the dual speakers on the front which should make for a great audio experience when watching a video or simply listening to music. Having a speaker on the top and on the bottom, Alcatel thought of something pretty clever too - it doesn't matter how you hold the new Idol 3, it will turn the display to adjust the way you picked it up (HTC should have thought of that if fact). 

Samsung

During the last presentation of Sunday, I missed a similar dual speaker on Samsung's Galaxy S6 - not sure why I though it would be there anyway, must have read it somehwere (more than enough rumours going around before the congress starts every year). I said it before and I'll say it again: I hate leaks almost as much as embargos that end the moment the announcement starts - which is always the case during Samsung's events. You simply attend the event to see the show, without much hope of getting any news you might actually hear for the first time. Still I think I noticed a few interesting things. 

Samsung is proud to announce the aperture on the Galaxy S6 - no wonder, with a whopping f/1.9 aperture. They are boasting its lowlight performance it achieves also because of a larger pixel size on its 16MP sensor, Optical Image Stabilisation and real-time HDR - also on the 5MP front camera, and that goes for the f/1.9 aperture as well! The examples they showed - comparing it with the iPhone 6 - did look extremely impressive, although I can't believe the iPhone 6 is this far behind (we've seen other producers take care of some extra light to boost the low-light performance, haven't we?).  

Samsung also claims the camera is in fact "always on", so it will start within 0.7 seconds when you activate it - I was able to test it after the show and I must say it's blazing fast indeed. It's really impressive - just like the low-light performance appeared to be (although there was quite a bit of light where the devices where, so I still hope to be able to do a lot more testing before or as soon as it's launched on April 10).

It does show a few other important changes though. First, it supports wireless charging. Second, you can't manually remove the battery and it comes with different storage: 32GB, 64GB and even 128GB - why? Because - third - they removed the micro-SD slot as well. In this respect, the Galaxy S6 does remind you of the device it's trying to make you forget about. Still, holding it is something else indeed: I think it's design certainly is an improvement of its predecessor: light, state-of-the-art and very chic indeed.

I'll be looking for more news and nice shots here at the Mobile World Congress and will try to keep you posted here, but please do follow me on Twitter as well. Next post will feature a few shots I'm sure you'll love to see.