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MWC 2014 recap: Android hits, misses, surprises and snubs

The Mobile World Congress, along with the association that organizes what’s generally regarded as the world’s largest exhibition for the mobile industry, dubbed GSMA, are weird.

MWC gadgets

This year’s trade fair was barely wrapped up, and the GSMA announced the winners of the 19th Annual Global Mobile awards, among which you had a one-year-old Android smartphone, and a four-month-old tablet whose creator didn’t even bother to put together a booth in Barcelona.

Meanwhile, the “most innovative device manufacturer of the year”, LG, came to Catalonia with a pair of handhelds it chose to unveil earlier this month, plus a slate of staggeringly lackluster low-end, low-cost phones. Innovation at its best, eh?

So, what happened with honoring the actual show’s exhibitors? The gadgets that debuted on the Barcelona stage this week? Apparently, we’ll have to wait a full year to see if the GSMA deems them worthy of any accolade.

MWC 2014

Or we can commend them ourselves. And bash those that deserve it. Also, how about we single out the OEMs we expected more from at MWC 2014? Here it goes:

MWC 2014 – Android hits

Sony Xperia Z2 and Z2 Tablet

To be clear, the Z2 and Z2 Tablet are knockouts just by comparison. They’re not breathtaking, revolutionary, or incredibly innovative, since they share a lot of common ground, almost too much with their predecessors.

SONY_XPERIA_Z2

Still, as Sony’s main competitors either snubbed MWC, or came to the show unprepared, the Z2 duo has no real challenger for the “best smartphone” and “best tablet” crowns. Now if only the Japanese would also know how to price and market them to unlock their true potential.

HTC Desire 816

They tried the “hero” approach, failed, and are now back to square one: trickling out various devices to cater to diverse needs and budgets. You know, the Galaxy strategy. Only for once, HTC looks to have actually put some thought into a non-flagship phone.

htc-desire-816

Instead of downsizing and making sacrifices all around, they’ve cut costs in a few departments, but not drastically. Nothing’s dramatically reduced at the Desire 816, yet rumor has it the plastic 5.5-incher shall cost no more than $300. Jackpot!

Samsung Gear Fit

Okay, calling a wearable gizmo right now a hit might be a bit of a stretch. Also, technically, the Gear Fit doesn’t run Android. Or Tizen. It’s something in between, simpler, more elementary, with less bells and whistles.

Samsung Gear Fit

But dat curved AMOLED display! And the battery life! The price! This is what people want from wearables, Samsung, not overpriced, jumbo-sized “smartwatches” they need to charge every frigging five hours.

MWC 2014 – Swing and a miss

Samsung Galaxy S5

There, I said it. The “next big thing” is, in my book, the biggest disappointment of MWC 2014. Sure, it’s not far behind Sony’s Xperia Z2 on paper, but since when is being a close second good enough for Samsung?

Samsung-Galaxy-S5-Band-aid

The design is off (way off), the 2 GB RAM underwhelming, the camera upgraded but not enough, the battery less than stellar, and, oh, did I mention the crappy design? What’s that, a Galaxy S5 “Prime” with everything but the kitchen sink on it is coming in May? Great, but right now, this is Samsung’s spearhead. And it’s blunt.

ZTE Grand Memo II LTE

Ugh, not again. I mean, did ZTE really learn nothing from its unfortunate CES experience last month? Apparently not, or else they’d have thought twice before taking to the Barcelona stage for the intro of a 6-inch 720p phablet with Snapdragon 400 power… in 2014.

ZTE-Grand-Memo-II

MWC 2014 – Biggest surprises

Nokia X, X+ and XL

I know, I know, Nokia’s first foray in Android (-ish) land was well documented for months, with concrete evidence, photos, online listings and all, yet there were still people doubting they’ll go through with it. Also, three AOSP-based phones right off the bat? We did not expect that.

Now, is the X family a pleasant surprise, or a bomb waiting to explode? It depends on how you feel about Android being butchered skinned, and Microsoft’s services as an alternative for Google. I for one think all’s fair in love, war and technology, so honestly, I’d give these fellows a whirl just out of curiosity.

nokia-x

My biggest beef with them? Designs. It’s unacceptable for a 5-inch smartphone to tip the scales at 190 grams, no matter how dirt-cheap it is. And besides, the X, X+ and XL are not even that cheap if you compare them to, say, Motorola’s Moto G.

MWC 2014 – Snubs

What happened with Samsung’s Galaxy Tab 4 slates? Did the Koreans fear they’d maybe steal Galaxy S5’s thunder? Or would two flops have been simply too much for one event? And sorry, I can’t help dissing LG one more time.

In theory, no, they weren’t MWC’s biggest clowns, as they brought the G Pro 2 and G2 Mini to the expo. But their “news” was the F70/F90 duo. Again, “most innovative device manufacturer”? Hilarious.

lg-mwc-girls

Other Android players traditionally active at shows like CES and MWC that were unusually quiet this week include Lenovo, Asus and Acer. Well, sure, Lenovo did showcase a trio of budget-conscious smartphones and a sleek, “multimode” 10-inch tablet.

But somehow, I feel they could have done better. Like, maybe take advantage of Samsung’s mishaps, and roll out a genuine high-end handheld contender. Asus and Acer? Guess they’ve started realizing the low-cost tablet market is flooded, and now they’re out of ideas.

Bottom line, this clearly wasn’t the greatest Mobile World Congress ever. But with HTC’s All New One announcement looming, the Galaxy S5 Prime around the corner, and possibly LG’s G3 too, who has time to think about that? Oh, and don’t forget Project Ara. Or the Nexus family’s swan song(s).