The Hottest Smartphones at Mobile World Congress

By Tony Rizzo, Editor in Chief — February 28, 2012

When all is said and done and all of the smartphones at Mobile World Congress 2012 have been reported on, we believe that there will only be a few left standing that are of particular note - that stand out above the crowd, that make a difference. And that are, above all, as far as Mobile Enterprise is concerned, well, "enterprise-worthy." It should be no surprise that the smartphone news at MCW should center on Android-based devices. Apple, for one, doesn't show up at any event that isn't an Apple event. And rest assured that on March 7th it will hold an event that will be every bit as anticipated as MWC has been.
Without a doubt, however, by far the most newsworthy phone to appear at MWC this year was not an Android phone. It was not a rumored Apple phone making the scenes behind the scenes. It was not a Windows Mobile 7 phone - although we're getting warmer…it was, in fact a Nokia phone - but not one that you might expect. It turns out that Nokia has continued to build Symbian phones - this isn't a surprise - there are a lot of older Symbian phones still in Nokia's pipeline that have a shelf life ahead of them for the foreseeable future. 
But this is a rather special Nokia Symbian phone - albeit one that builds on a long standing Nokia tradition of building smartphones with amazing cameras. We've always thought of Nokia's high end Symbian phones as cameras with some phone capabilities thrown in for good measure. Well…now Nokia has outdone itself by introducing the Nokia 808 PureView, a new Symbian phone that sports a 41 MegaPixel camera. That is not a typo - 41 MP. So then, where does one draw the line? This is clearly a camera - and a very special camera. The possibilities here for business use are substantial. Add in those "assorted phone capabilities" and Nokia is clearly on to something. 
We don't anticipate the 808 PureView going anywhere - we think of it more as a proof of concept that Nokia has been working on dating back to its pre-Windows Phone 7 partnership days. But it certainly creates anticipation for what Nokia may have up its sleeve for the really high end of its Windows line - perhaps a bit further down the road with Windows Mobile 8. The good news - Nokia brings back some excitement and anticipation.
Back on the Android front - with its collection of now near-obsolete 8 MP camera devices, the real action is centered on quad-core processors and large format displays. We'll focus on those that are clearly suited to the enterprise. 
The Chinese company Huawei has a reputation for being a fairly low-cost device maker - they have many other enterprise-focused high end technology products and services, but on the device end of things they haven't played in the high end advanced side of things. That all changes with MWC 2012. The Huawei Ascend D Quad is now - at least for the time being - the world's fastest quad-core smartphone. Its design makes use of four ARM Cortex A9 cores and the company claims that it is faster than Nvidia's new Tegra 3 processor.  
The Ascend is one of what Huawei refers to as its Diamond Series smartphones - all of them Android devices with varying degrees of both high end technology and craftsmanship. Huawei won't win any awards for instant brand recognition anytime soon, but there is no doubt that the company brings a serious desire to deliver on the high end. Although not a smartphone, Huawei also introduced at MWC what it believes to be the world's fastest 10 inch tablet - the MediaPad 10 FHD, which runs on Huawei's proprietary 1.5 GHz K3 quad-core processor and leverages the K3 chip's embedded GPU to provide incredibly fast processing power and 3D graphics processing capability - ideal for high definition video clips and large-scale 3D applications.
HTC showed up at MWC showing off its HTC One X, which happens to sport the 1.5GHz quad core Tegra 3 Nvidia processor that Huawei now claims to beat out. The HTC One X continues in the tradition of HTC monster phones that the company has established for itself. This one brings a 4.7-inch display to the game as well as 32GB of storage and 8MP rear camera. It runs Android 4.0 (Ice Cream Sandwich) of course. The display is noteworthy - it offers a 720p HD screen crafted from contoured Corning Gorilla Glass. It is worth noting that the HTC One X will also be available in select 4G LTE markets with an LTE-enabled Qualcomm Snapdragon S4 processor with up to 1.5GHz dual-core CPUs.
Also on the quad core runway is LG's high end Optimus 4X HD, which also runs on Nvidia's new 1.5GHz Tegra 3 processor and as with the HTC, delivers a 4.7-inch HD display. The Optimus has 16GB of storage, the now standard 8MP camera, and it runs Android 4.0 - of course.
Both the HTC One X and the LG Optimus leave one wondering where exactly a smartphone leaves off and a really small tablet emerges. These smartphones are not easy to hold as phones - let's be honest. In fact, it strikes us as strange to hold one up to one's ear, although it is completely do-able. They strike us as very interesting possibilities for mobile devices that can replace both business phones and laptops for admins in unified communications environments.
If one thinks of these smartphones as being rather large, what is one to make of the LG Optimus Vu? It features a five-inch display and a density of 1024 x 768 pixels. Is it a smartphone? As with the Samsung Galaxy Note, the Vu includes a stylus. We're inclined to think of it as a mini-tablet (we're trying very hard to stay away from "phablet" - an ugly word forged from phone and tablet that will hopefully die quickly). The Optimus Vu ships initially with Android 2.3, but LG claims there is a fairly imminent update to Android 4.0. 
We'll wrap up this all too brief overview by noting that Panasonic is trying to make its way back into the smartphone game with the Panasonic Eluga. The name leaves much to be desired, but it offers a clearly cool 7.8mm-thick body that weighs in at a featherweight 103g. The 4.3-inch 960 x 540 pixel display brings us back to the realm of manageable smartphones - a mini-tablet it isn't. In addition to a 1GHz dual-core processor it also provides NFC capability.
Aside from the astounding Nokia PureView and the Huawei tablet, we selected these phones as they provide a solid indication for what the rest of 2012 is going to look like on the Android front. Samsung is notably absent here - the company was not able to deliver its next generation Galaxy in time for MWC - which may prove to be a market issue over the next several months. Apple will be quickly following MWC in March - and Microsoft has begun to leak Windows Mobile 8 tidbits. There is lots of interesting stuff coming down the road.


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