Keep your friends close and your technology closer: the latest wrist-friendly gadgets
Mobile World Congress is a phone geek’s dream – a time when the great and good of the mobile industry showcases what we can look forward to for the rest of the year.
While recent years have been somewhat thinner on the ground in terms of big releases – especially after Microsoft’s decision to follow Apple’s lead and retire from the event – there were still some sexy new devices on display.
Wearable tech was the year’s key trend, with a host of firms scrabbling to emulate the success of the likes of Fitbit and Nike in producing wristbands that monitor everything from your sleep to your heart-rate. Smartwatches persevered despite the less than inspiring debut device from Samsung.
Elsewhere, the gigantification of smartphones continued, with heavyweights including Nokia and Sony releasing new oversized handsets.
Samsung Gear 2
Continuing the trend for wearable technology, Samsung has showcased the follow up to the Galaxy Gear –the Gear 2 and Gear 2 Neo. The addition of a physical start button on the Gear 2 has made navigation of the Smartwatch easier, though reports say it can still be difficult on the small screen. The rubber strap and wacky colours are also likely to divide opinion. It’s unlikely to supplant Rolex any time soon but if you want a watch that monitors your health, look no further.
We first got a glimpse of the Sony SmartBand Fitness tracker last year at the Consumer Electronics Show, but the Japanese company is showing it off again at the MWC. It is powered by the company’s new Core fitness tracker, and in tandem with the accompanying Lifelog app, it can present your daily activity in a beautiful graphs and charts. The band itself also monitors sleep patterns and notifies you with updates from social media. It will finally be released in 60 countries this spring.
Despite the name, Samsung’s “Unpacked” event at Barcelona Opera House on 24 February was, well, packed. The bustling crowds of techies and journalists were eagerly awaiting one product more than any other – the Galaxy S5. After the S4’s disappointing sales the Korean company promised to go “back to basics” with this latest phone. Still, there are plenty of fancy new additions, including water-resistant casing, finger-print technology and a heart monitor. Perhaps the biggest advancement, though, is the 16-megapixel camera.
Mozilla hopes its Firefox OS operating system could be rolled out across the developing world on a host of low-cost smartphones, including the Mozilla-branded device below, which will cost just £15. A number of manufacturers are believed to have started developing devices to run the software, including Chinese heavy-hitters ZTE and Huawei. Mozilla is most famous for its free Firefox web browser, which surprised many by taking a sizeable chunk of the market after its launch in 2002
Nokia may have had a tough time of it over the past ten years, but under Microsoft’s stewardship it’s back. With its new range of smartphones, the company is ambitiously aiming to the attract the “next billion” smartphone users. The Nokia X, X+ and XL, offer a range of free services, including HERE maps, MixRadio for ad-free music streaming and 10GB free online storage. The X is to be released in emerging markets immediately, with the X+ and XL to follow soon. It is currently unclear whether they will be released in the US or the UK.
Sony Xperia Z2
Sony has been one of the few smartphone manufacturers apart from Apple and Samsung to really impress over the last year. Unless you know what you’re looking for, you might struggle to spot what Sony has changed from the phone’s predecessor, the Z1. It’s slightly larger (a 5.2 inch screen instead of 5 inches), thinner (a wafer-like 8.2mm) and packs a powerful new processor. Sony also impressed with its new ultra-thin Xperia Z2 tablet.
Paranoid about James Bond and his chums at GCHQ eavesdropping on your phone conversations? Then why don’t you invest in the Android enabled and enigmatically named “Blackphone” from Spanish company GeeksPhone. Everything on the phone, from the web browser to the custom built operating system (called PrivatOS) is encrypted, so if you deal with sensitive information (or if you’re an international criminal) this could be the phone for you.