The Mobile World Congress is what sets the agenda for how mobile devices and related technologies evolve during the rest of the year. Here is a wrap of what we thought were the strongest trends in smartphones and beyond.
4G+ & 5G
When Xiaomi launched its Mi 5 one the sidelines of MWC, vice-president Hugo Barra made sure he underlined that this was a 4G+ device, or LTE advanced as it is called in some other parts of the world. 4G+ has the ability to combine bands to offer speeds of up to 600mbps as in the case of the Mi 5.
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There is also a lot of talk now about 5G or the next generation, with prototypes expected as early as 2018, with full roll-out in 2020. The big difference here is that 5G will use all spectrum types and bands. The trend is being driven by chipmakers like Qualcomm and Intel, who are convinced there is no other way to manage and connect the billions of smart devices and the entire Internet of Things across the world.
This is certainly the year in which virtual reality is going mass, what else could explain the hundreds of people walking around like zombies with their heads inside VR headsets from different manufacturers.
While most seem to agree that mobile devices are the main consumption devices for VR at the moment, this is expected to change as products like the HTC Vive and Oculus Rift become more mainstream. But the mobile will continue as the most popular device to create VR content, even though companies like Nokia are working on professional 360-degree cameras like the Ozo.
The fact that this heavy duty content will be streamed to consumers is one of the reasons why there is an immediate need to improve data pipelines. Also, processors like the Qualcomm Snapdragon 820 have been built to make virtual reality as smooth as possible on the smartphones.
Faster battery charging
The battery life continues to be the biggest pain point for smartphone users. So this year the push seems to be towards making them charge faster than making them larger. Chinese smartphone major Oppo showcased the latest Super VooC charging technology, which is able to charge a 2500mAh battery in just about 15 minutes. While all stakeholders seem to be working on some sort of fast charging protocol, this seems to be the best at the moment. We can expect similar fast charging capabilities in most mid and high-range phones launched this year.
Smartphone makers seem to have finally grown out of their fetish for mega pixels and seem to be focusing on improving the actual image quality. Oppo again said it was testing SmartSensor image stabilisation, the first time stabilisation has been done on a smartphone camera sensor and not the lens. They intend to offer three axis stabilisation for the sensor, while most camera now offer two axis stabilisation on their lenses.
Meanwhile, the Mi 5 will be the first smartphone to offer four-axis image stabilisation on the lenses. All this means, cameras will be able to handle shake and low light much better this year than before.
Internet of Everything
When we talk about Smart Cities in India, we end up forgetting that this will be led by devices that are connected. While the idea is to make everything from bulbs to roads embedded with sensors that send out data, the smart aspect will be in using this data intelligently. At the Qualcomm booth was a great, practical, example from New York.
The big apple now has a LinkNYC project that is converting its existing phone booths into points with free wi-fi and local calls. They will be self financed thanks to the use of the space to display ads. Then there are smart garbage cans that send a signal once they are full, this way you don’t need to waste resources collecting garbage from these dumpsters everyday.