Mobile World Congress 2018: What comes next

Galaxy S9 and S9+   | Photo Credit: Special arrangement

In The Matrix (1999), Neo, the protagonist, tries to evade arrest by climbing out of the window of a high-rise building, while following instructions delivered to him via a banana-shaped mobile phone. The escape plan fails, and the device is last seen plummeting to the road below.

That falling star was the legendary Nokia 8110, one of the world’s first phones with the slider form factor and a monochrome display. Affectionately known as the ‘banana phone’, it also apparently had too much of a history and marketing pull to be left alone. HMD Global, the Finnish company trying to reinvent and revive the Nokia brand, dragged the geriatric 8110 out of retirement and put it on stage at the Mobile World Congress 2018, the world’s largest phone show held in Barcelona from February 26 to March 1.

The strategy worked — the humbly-specced Nokia 8110 4G was a hit at the event, grabbing attention from heavyweights packing far superior hardware. The phone features a diminutive 2.4” colour screen, 4G LTE connectivity and 25 days of standby time, all wrapped in a bright banana-yellow paint job that Neo could have used to blind Agent Smith. It even has the obligatory Snake game.

Nokia is back, and how!

Apart from the 8110 reboot, HMD Global launched four Android phones at Mobile World Congress 2018. The top dog is the Nokia 8 Sirocco edition, milled from a single block of stainless steel and enhanced with curved glass edges that wrap around a 5.5” 2560x1440 pixels OLED screen. The midrange has been addressed with the Nokia 6 and the Nokia 7 Plus. These three models are also part of Google’s Android One initiative, where phones running stock Android will be the first in line for software updates and security patches.

Mobile World Congress 2018: What comes next

But the most interesting of Nokia’s 2018 line-up — and one that is likely to do well in India — is the Nokia 1. Expected to cost around ₹5,500, the phone is part of the first batch of Android Go launches — this is Google’s latest attempt at dominating the entry-level market with barebones devices running a stripped-down version of Android Oreo. Google has promised that the Go phones won’t be so frustratingly slow, that you would want to smash them against a wall.

AI, the in thing

MWC is a reliable indicator of buzzwords we will be hearing for the rest of the year. And for 2018, expect the marketing spiel to focus on Artificial Intelligence (AI). Samsung showed off the Bixby AI with neat tricks up its artificial sleeves — point the camera at a sign in a foreign language, and the phone’s AI returns an instant translation. Or you can use it as a food calorie counter, a makeup assistant or even to create ‘AR Emojis’ — personalised emojis that look like a cartoon version of you. Similarly, at MWC, ASUS claimed that its upcoming ZenFone 5 series is stuffed with 10 AI features that, among other things, can detect what you are shooting and automatically adjust the camera settings. Even LG is in the fray — the recently launched V30 has been beefed up with extra RAM and storage, and now features a smarter AI-powered camera. It will be sold as the V30S ThinQ. Meanwhile, Huawei took matters out on the streets, by using a Mate 10 Pro to autonomously drive a Porsche. The phone managed to identify props placed on the road and steer the car around these.

Blame it on Apple

Mobile World Congress 2018: What comes next

A highly polarising feature on the iPhone X is the notch on top that cuts into the display. At MWC, many Android phone manufacturers turned up with phones sporting a me-too notch. ASUS was the most prominent culprit with the notched ZenPhone 5. Apart from ASUS, you can also pick up a notch-enabled iPhone X clone from lesser-known brands like Oukitel, Vinovo, Leagoo, iLA, Owwo and Doogee. And, if the rumour mills are spinning correctly, upcoming phones from Huawei, Xiaomi, OnePlus and OPPO will also boast of a notch.

And the winner is…

The biggest news from MWC 2018, however, was the launch of the Samsung Galaxy S9 and S9+ phones — while they may look like incremental updates to last year’s S8/S8+, Samsung has done enough to ensure that the phones lead the specs-race this year. Their standout feature is the phone camera with an industry-first mechanical aperture — this should result in superior low-light images, and allow you to capture super slo-mo videos at 960fps. No wonder the S9+ was declared the Best New Connected Device at the 2018 Global Mobile Awards, given by GSMA, the organisers of MWC.

Rounding up

This year, the closest Android competitor to the Samsung S9/S9+ — at least on the specs front — is Sony’s Xperia XZ2. Sony has finally ventured into the thin-is-in territory and added a 3D scanning feature to the camera, along with an intriguing dynamic vibration option that literally shakes the phone in sync with the audio from the extra-loud stereo speakers.

Mobile World Congress 2018: What comes next

Though the prize for packing the maximum number of innovations in a phone has to go to Vivo. At MWC, it demoed the APEX concept phone, where the entire bottom half of the screen doubles up as the fingerprint reader. The phone also eliminates the bezels almost entirely, with an incredible screen-to-body ratio of over 98%. The job of the earpiece is passed on to the screen, which doubles up as an audio transmitter, while the front camera has been tucked inside the phone — it pops up when required. Too bad, the phone is just a concept for now.

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Printable version | Oct 16, 2021 3:37:41 PM |

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