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MWC A Windows rebirth

Samsung and LG may have captured the attention of most the tech world at the start of MWC but they weren’t on their own. The HP Elite X3 made more than a few people take notice thanks to its high-end specs and the decision to embrace Microsoft’s unpopular mobile OS. It was undoubtedly a headline act of a successful show for the boys at Redmond with more phone makers jumping on board the 2 in 1 train, some specialised heavy-duty devices and even a nice shiny reward.

HP Elite X3

The stats on HP’s first foray into the phone market for two years match anything offered by Android manufacturing. A snapdragon 820 processor with 4GB of RAM, expandable memory, 16 megapixel camera, 2HD 5.96 inch display and water resistance maintains the same standard set by Samsung and LG. Yet the Elite also packs in a massive 4150mAh battery which even outpaces the G5 with the additional modal and an iris scanner for windows hello.

The numbers are impressive but what makes the Elite x3 standout is the Continuum feature of Windows 10. This allows the phone to act as a desktop PC with mouse and keyboard support with the help of the HP Desk Dock which also provides USB, HDMI and Ethernet ports. Microsoft’s own Lumia 950 and 950xl have shown of this versatility before but HP have taken it a step further with Mobile Extender which turns the phone into a laptop. Using the power of Windows 10 HP have created a phone which could conceivably replace your computer, at least in a casual sense. Unsurprisingly the Elite x3 is aimed at enterprise but hopefully we will see a commercial release as it appears to be the high-end flagship that Windows Mobile has been screaming but is it enough. Check out the hands on from Techradar from the show floor and make up your own mind.

Huawei Matebook

The other major Windows 10 hardware announcement was a portable 2 in 1 Surface inspired PC from this notable phone manufacturer. Huawei is not the first to jump from the unprofitable and bleak pack of Android tablets as Samsung announced the Galaxy Tab Pro S last month at CES. If anything was obvious at MWC it’s that the future of tablets is the PC and consumers will see more competition between phone makers and traditional OEM’s.

As you might expect the MateBook is a 12 inch tablet with detachable keyboard and stylus in keeping with the Surface formula. Users have a choice of Intel processors up to the m7 and 4 or 8 GB of RAM with a whole day of battery life. This makes it slightly less expensive option compared to the Surface Pro but the MateBook doesn’t offer the same performance as the more expensive Pro 4 configurations and is probably more suited to casual PC uses. Looking at the price breakdown in this Gizmodo review it seems that Huawei may have got ahead of themselves as the Matebook doesn’t come in too much below the entry-level Surfaces but we will just have to wait and see.

Best of the rest

These two announcements may have stolen the spotlight for any other windows announcements but they weren’t the only things on offer. Vaio showed off the 5.5 inch Phone Biz handset hat also supports desktop like functionality through Continuum but with a snapdragon 617 processor and 3 GB of RAM it’s more of a mid range option. Unlikely to be seen in western markets the Phone Biz is a well put together and sleek device joining the Alcatel OneTouch Fierce XL and Acer Jade Primo announced at CES showing support for Microsoft’s mobile platform. The guys from Redmond weren’t to be left out announcing the budget Lumia 650 which has a more premium look than other Lumia handset but with low end specs is only meant to be an affordable option.

Similarly the MateBook was not the only windows 10 tablet announced at MWC with Alcatel adding to its Windows lineup with the Plus 10, a 10 inch tablet with 4G LTE keyboard. These Surface like combinations are starting flood the market but the Alcatel is a little unusual as it has 4G connectivity built into the keyboard alongside extra battery life rather than the tablet itself. Personally this seems a little odd as the ideal time to rely on 4G would be when using the device as a tablet without the keyboard. Even so if priced right LTE connectivity is a rarity on windows tablets and it might bring strong interest. Another unusual device obviously designed for a niche market is the Panasonic Tough Pad FZ-F1 which is a 4.7 inch phone like tablet meant for heavy-duty environments. It’s a device created with a single focus in mind to replace the bulky hand help PDA used by postal workers and the like. A more mainstream announcement was the raft of yoga transformers from Lenovo which is using so many different numbers to distinguish the line it’s starting to have an identity crisis.

The icing on the cake

The highlight of Microsoft’s MWC may have been more symbolic as the Surface Pro went back to back winning the award for best mobile tablet and beating out all its fiercest rivals including the iPad Pro. It’s more than this victory however as it is clear that the slate has changed the consumer perception of what a tablet should be since everyone is coping the formula. Microsoft will be hoping that this success might be able to filter into mobile with new exciting hardware in the Elite X3 to get consumers interested. Who knows? Maybe the boys at Redmond might give us another surprise at Build which is now only about a month away.

Here’s hoping,
Jono

MWC Launch of the Flagships

Day one of Mobile World Congress was all about the newest flagships from LG and Samsung. The last couple of weeks have been full of speculation but now it’s official let’s check the special that matter.

Galaxy S7 and S7 edge

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The big predictions all came true with Samsung announcing the return of expandable memory through microSD support, water resistance and microUSB charger. In addition Samsung has listened to consumers and sacrificed weight for better battery life with a 3000mAh powering the 5.1 inch S7 and a 3600mAh in the 5.5inch edge.  This is a large improvement from the 2550mAh in the S6 and miles ahead of the 1750mAh in the iPhone 6s and will hopefully translate to better life. Unsurprising the rest of the internals have been upgraded with a 2.3ghz 64 bit octa-core processor and 4GB  of RAM which translates to a 30% improvement on its predecessor.

The key to a good phone isn’t just the hardware and Samsung hasn’t forgotten  to upgrade it’s version of Android bringing Marshmallow out of the box.  It also comes with a new always on feature like the LG G4 which allows uses to check the time without waking the phone and therefore saving battery life.  The other major change is the duel pixel technology which allows the camera to operate better in low light conditions and focuses faster to get the most out of the camera.  The edge also brings with it a few new features in the ‘tasks edge’  to pin specific tasks and ‘edge panel’ for widgets. Over the next few days at MWC every one will be putting these through their paces so check back for a hands on.

LG G5

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I have never really paid much attention to LG as a phone maker since it took them a little while to move passed cheap Android phones. The main point of difference with the S7 is that the G5 is a modular phone with the ability to swap out components.  These modules can be used to added extra battery life, physical camera buttons and an amp with 32 bit audio output.

The internals are comparable to the S7 with a 5.3 inch display,  4 GB of RAM, a 2800mAh battery upgradeable to 3000mAh,  microSD support and a 64 bit Snapdragon 820 processor. Beside the module upgrade slot the other point of difference is the inclusion of a double rear camera with a 16mp and a 8mp ‘wide angle’ which captures 135 degrees compared to 75 for the main shooter.  Based on the early first impressions it sounds like this is something uses will have to get use but should hopefully decrease the appearance of the selfie stick.  Not having used an LG before I’m not sure how their particular flavour of Android compares to the TouchWiz UI found on Samsung phones but for many this may be the deciding factor.

Not to be Forgotten

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Desire 825

 

Some what overshadowed by the other announcements HTC revealed four new handsets including the One X9 with an octal-core processor, 3GB of RAM and a 3000mAh battery which makes it a decent middle to top range handset but nothing to get excited about. The Desire 825 and Desire 630 share the same date snapdragon 400 and 2GB of RAM but the larger Desire 825 has a slightly bigger battery to power the 5.5 inch screen. HTC’s final device the Desire 530 is obviously aimed at the budget market with a snapdragon 210 and only 1.5 GB of RAM it’s hardly a device to really get much attention.

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Not to be left out Sony announced a whole new Xperia line of handsets. The midrange XA offers an edge to edge slightly curved display which is left out from its more powerful siblings but gives it a unique selling point. An upgrade to the flagship the Xperia X packs a snapdragon 610 processor and 3 GB of RAM alongside a 23 megapixel camera, an upgrade to that found on the Z5. Finally, the X Performance is equipped to fight with the big boys as it pairs the same impressive camera with a snapdragon 820 and includes water and dust resistance. Although it has created a little confusion with Sony’s existing line up of Xperia phones the X line up gained plenty of admires at MWC and seems to have faired better than HTC less inspiring announcements.

Stay tune for more from MWC including a wrap of the other major phone announcements,  tablets and virtual reality.

Cheers
Jono

CES wrap up

The consumer electronics show in Las Vegas is done for another year and the tech world is already turning its eyes towards MWC in a couple of weeks. However, I thought we should take a look at the major trends appearing this year and what it means practically for consumers in the real world.

Automotive
To nobody’s great surprise major car companies used CES to showcase everything to hydrogen powered cars to the latest in driverless car technical. New concepts from BMW and a new player in Faraday Future may have captured people’s attention but it was other announcements that are more likely to make a difference in the consumer market. Mainstream manufacturers Kia with is Drive Wise range of semi to fully autonomous vehicles, Toyota FCV hydrogen powered concept and Ford’s Smart mobility program which includes current road testing of experimental driverless cars all put forward an exciting vision of the future. In addition, Volkswagen unveiled the BUDD-e an electric powered van and Chevrolet showed off their own take on the electric car in the Bolt. It’s no wonder that CES is become the Car Electronics Show. As wonderful as all this sounds however it’s important to remember that a lot of these plans won’t start becoming a reality until 2020 not least of which because of the need for uninterrupted internet connectivity.

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BMW i8 Spyder3

 

Drones and Robotics
The CES floor was no doubt buzzing with new drones but the biggest announcement was the Yuneec’s Typhoon H. Using Intel’s Real Sense technology and Sonar senses the Typhoon H is able to avoid large obstacles in conjunction with the standard high end features it isn’t surprisingly that it captured a fair amount of attention. Most of the other announcements like the DJI Inspire Pro 1 and Phantom 4K offered upgrades to existing models. On the robotics side it was undoubtedly the Ninebot the collaboration between Segway, Intel and Xiaomi. No word yet on price but I suspect when it hits the market late this year that it will be out of reach for most consumers.

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Internet of Things
Just in case you have been living under a rock the new age of computing connects all kinds of device to the internet in order to make our lives easier. The IoT is yet to really take off with consumers but with big announcements from Intel with the Curie and Samsung’s partnership with Microsoft might mean that this is the year that IoT starts building for the future. Intel’s plan with New Balance to print custom shoe inserts caught my interest as it might offer everyone with flat feet like myself an easier solution.

Virtual and Augmented reality
The biggest news in VR broke before the convention got started with Oculus Rift announcing their pricing for their long awaited headset. A $600 US price tag seemed to get a few people upset but considering the price of other products and the inclusion of an Xbox One controller this appears reasonable. Now if any US techies really want to get worked up they can think about the $920 plus postage for Australian preorders, now that’s ridiculous. In addition, the other major developers including HTC and Sony used CES to demo new virtual reality content and their latest builds. One thing is for certain 2016 is definitely going to be the year of VR.

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Oculus pre-order package

Mobile
MWC in February is when most phone and tablet makers except Apple announce their major product news but that doesn’t mean they didn’t bring anything to Vegas. Acer showed off their first Windows 10 handset the Liquid Jade Primo while the Huawei Honor 5X seemed like a premium Android handset. At the more affordable end LG’s K series and Alcatel’s Windows and Android phones got plenty of attention. PC makers seem to be following Microsoft’s lead making more hybrid Surface like devices that focus a little more on sleek design. Out of all these tablet convertibles my favourite was definitely the Samsung Galaxy TabPRO S, a high-end Windows 10 tablet with a full keyboard cover. Notably this marks the first time that the Galaxy brand has not been associated with Android suggesting that Samsung has recognised the benefits of Windows in the tablet market, we will just have to wait and see if this trend continues.

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Samsung Galaxy TabPRO S