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MWC 2014 preview and rumor roundup: Samsung’s one-man show?

Though inaugurated in 1987, so lacking the great history and tradition of the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, Barcelona’s Mobile World Congress (previously held in Cannes) has relatively quickly established itself as the go-to global event for leading mobile players and their glitziest product announcements.

Mobile World Congress

Universally considered the world’s largest exhibition for the mobile industry in the past few years, MWC is set to outshine CES again in 2014, mostly due to a somewhat unexpected strategy shift from Samsung.

After pretty much giving MWC the cold shoulder in 2012 and 2013, at least as far as high-end device intros were concerned, the Galaxy S3 and S4 makers had a sudden change of heart recently, scheduling the so-called “Unpacked 5” conference for the very opening day of this year’s Mobile World Congress.

The highest form of flattery for Barcelona’s gathering? Definitely, but it remains to be seen if MWC 2014 will turn into Samsung’s one-man show, or be able to keep its distinct identity intact. Count on Sony, LG, HTC, Huawei or Nokia to do everything possible to steal (some of) Sam’s thunder.

MWC-Entrance

Without further ado, here’s what Android aficionados can expect from all those, as well as a few potential shockers we could encounter between February 24 and 27.

Samsung at MWC 2014

There are a number of theories floating as to GS5’s “pedigree”, each with support from multiple seemingly reliable insiders. It’s nearly set in stone two S5 variants will ultimately come to light, albeit only one may do so at MWC.

galaxy-s5-concept

The “Standard” model is probably made of familiar plastic, packs a Snapdragon 800 or 805 chip, 2 or 3 GB RAM, along with a Full HD display. The “Prime”, meanwhile, may or may not rock an all-metal exterior, but it’ll surely swap the Snapdragon SoC for an Exynos 6. 32-bit, though. Also, it’ll likely up the screen resolution ante to Quad HD, aka QHD, aka 2K.

Interestingly, Samsung isn’t expected to swing by Barcelona solely for S5’s introduction, suggesting the Koreans don’t trust their “next big thing” to knock our socks off. Either that, or the Galaxy Tabs 4 and Gear 2 are the real duds, so the least public attention they get, the better.

Samsung MWC

The latter certainly makes sense regarding the fourth-gen GTabs, whose leaked specs are unremarkable (to be kind), but if Gear’s follow-up smartwatch isn’t a big deal, why is Samsung in such a hurry to roll it out? Food for thought, eh?

Sony

I was determined to pinpoint LG as the biggest threat for Samsung, but since they’ve taken the wraps off their spectacular G Pro 2 early, Sony moves into the first runner-up position. What do the Japanese have in the pipeline?

Sony Sirius

At least one high-end handheld, which we’re still unsure whether to call Z1’s sequel or rehash. Or maybe ZL’s follow-up. Also, an upgraded Xperia Tablet Z. Hopefully, with a smarter balance between power and affordability.

HTC

Right now, HTC is the wild card of this race for glory and limelight. Sure, their rumored “M8” (aka One Plus, or One 2) definitely fits the description of Galaxy S5 direct rival (probably better than both Sony’s Xperia Z2 and LG’s G Pro 2), but the Taiwanese are yet to confirm they’ll even fly to Catalonia for 2014’s Mobile World Congress.

htc-m8

Instead, HTC could hold off until March, and, taking a page out of Samsung’s (old) playbook, unveil their next-gen spearhead at a dedicated press event in New York City.

LG

So the G Pro 2 is out already. I mean, not out out, but it’s official. And pretty darn sleek-looking, impressive hardware-wise, as well as up-to-date in the software department. Clearly, the phablet will be showcased at MWC too, although you have to guess people won’t exactly flood LG’s booth there just to touch a gizmo previously seen by so many.

lg_g_pro_2

On the plus side (for LG), they seem to have multiple tricks up their sleeve, including a G Arch smartwatch, G2 mini and Optimus F3 II. Not quite “born to be stars” material, though the G2 mini may end up making a few waves if the 4.7-inch HD gossip checks out.

Nokia  

It’s weird to even mention Nokia’s name in an Android-centered preview, but you should have started settling in to the idea of the Finns moving to the “dark side” by now. After all, the Normandy/X has been around in the rumor mill for, what, two, three, twenty months?

Nokia Normandy

Huawei

By far the biggest disappointment of CES in January, Huawei is looking to turn the page with a no doubt cheap mystery smartwatch, octa-core Ascend D3 smartphone and uber-slim Full HD MediaPad X1 7.0 tablet. Alright, Huawei, you’re forgiven.

Oppo

Normally filed under “others” at these previews, or forgotten altogether, the creators of the exceptional CyanogenMod-running, rotating camera-toting N1 phone have the chance of a lifetime. They can at last ditch their underdog status for top dog ranks, thanks to the Find 7, which we believe will rock a Quad HD panel, 3 GB RAM and possibly even a Snapdragon 805 CPU.

Oppo Find 7

Others

It’s bizarrely quiet on the Asus and Acer fronts, but it might be prefacing a storm, as both OEMs have been tremendously active during past MWC installments. Lenovo? Don’t hold your breath for anything groundbreaking, as they’re currently cooking up a Western invasion, aided by Motorola. But that’s a little ways down the road.

MWC

Then you have ZTE, Archos and Alcatel, which are nearly guaranteed to (try to) take Barcelona by storm. But they’ll fail. I mean, maybe they’ll snatch a few headlines, enjoy their 15 minutes of fame, followed by yet another fall into anonymity. It’s the circle of life for these dark horses, they’re used to it.

Regardless of the “others” looking unable to challenge the greats, be sure to save the dates, ladies and gentlemen. February 24 – 27. It’s going to be epic.