Speedier phones, fresh tablets, news of all things mobile. This city is the center of the wireless universe this week as more than 60,000 people attend the Mobile World Congress, one of the industry's top annual gatherings.
Set within the backdrop of a Spanish palace, the show attracts about 1,400 exhibitors, 12,000 app developers and executive headliners such as Google's Eric Schmidt, Cisco's John Chambers, Nokia's Stephen Elop, and Ford Motor's William Clay Ford Jr. Facebook Chief Technology Officer Bret Taylor is also scheduled to speak.
Later in the week, Microsoft is expected to unveil the "consumer preview" for the Windows 8 operating system.
Of course, this is also a device-centric event. A variety of ever thinner phones will be on display, some with more robust quad-core innards. LG announced the new LG Optimus 4X HD, a quad-core phone that runs Android 4.0, and is showing off the LG Optimus Vu, a device that's between a tablet and smartphone and is vaguely similar to the Galaxy Note that rival Samsung is already selling.
Creative Strategies President Tim Bajarin, a leading tech analyst, says Microsoft and Nokia might announce lower-priced phones slated for the U.S.
Among other early announcements at the show: AT&T teamed with HTC on the quad-core HTC One X, a device coming this spring that will run on the carrier's fast LTE network. It's AT&T's first smartphone with Beats Audio, and it runs Android 4.0.
The handset is part of a new HTC One series of devices that will be available globally. (T-Mobile will sell a version in the U.S. called HTC One S.) CEO Peter Chou clearly has the rival iPhone 4S in mind as he touts the HTC One's impressive new camera features that include the ability to shoot in 0.7 seconds and auto-focus in the blink of an eye.
"HTC seems to have learned from mistakes it made in 2011," says U.K.-based Informa Telecoms & Media analyst Malik Saadi. "The company aims now to concentrate on what they do best," he says.
Sony Mobile unveiled two Android smartphones due midyear, the Xperia P and the Xperia U. They join the previously announced Xperia S. They include a "transparent element" band that encircles the base of the phone and lights up when you get calls, texts and notifications.
Samsung announced the Galaxy Tab 2 series, tablets in 7- and 10.1-inch versions, and Galaxy Beam, an Android smartphone (running Gingerbread) with a 15-lumens projector. You will be able to project maps, video clips, pictures and other content in high-definition onto a ceiling or wall up to 50 feet wide.
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