5 key takeaways from MWC 2014 (so far)

Android is still hot, Samsung is the Android trendsetter (but it's also looking sideways at Apple), Qualcomm shifts the focus onto 64-bit and adding more cores and Nokia forks Android.
Written by Adrian Kingsley-Hughes, Senior Contributing Editor

Mobile World Congress 2014 is not yet over, but some clear trends are emerging out of the inevitable froth that is generated by these sorts of events. And it will be these trends, and not the crazy niche gadgets that will be shaping the coming year.

So what should we be keeping an eye on over the coming year? Here's what's going to be on my radar.

Android is still hot

Device makers are still enthusiastic about Android. So much so that even Nokia – which is in the process of being acquired by Microsoft – is embracing the platform (although Nokia is going to a forked version that will add to fragmentation worries and is unlikely to make much of a splash).

If you're not Apple and don't have iOS, then Android is the place to be, having replaced even Windows as the platform that everyone – from ODMs to developers – want to exploit, and judging by the raft of new Android-powered devices unveiled so far at MWC, Google will be seeing hundreds of millions of new devices activated over the coming year.

Samsung is the Android trendsetter

While there's no doubt that Google makes some awesome Android hardware – the Nexus devices are some of the best on the market – the real trendsetter is Samsung.

The newly announced Galaxy S5 is crammed with cool new features such as gesture control, an array of sensors, and even a fingerprint reader.  If Samsung actually pulls all this together into a usable package, then the Galaxy S5 will be the best Android smartphone once it is released in April.

Samsung is looking sideways, but not too much

But there's one thing that is clear from looking at the Galaxy S5 – and that is Samsung is looking sideways at what Apple is doing. The new handset features a fingerprint reader, motion sensors, and a sleeker user interface – just like the iPhone 5S.

But let's also give Samsung credit where it's due. The Galaxy S5 has some features that we've never before seen – such as the heart rate monitor, the fingerprint reader includes more features than the one found on the iPhone 5S, and the whole device is IP67 dust and water resistant (which means that it is totally protected against dust and will survive immersion up to 1 meter).

This to me is acceptable, because Samsung is bringing cool stuff to the table.

But be prepared for the attack of the clones.

Qualcomm is taking the PC approach to post-PC device processors

Mobile chipmaker Qualcomm announced new silicon, and it is clearly putting the emphasis on cores and power. The Snapdragon 615 is a 64-bit and 8-core processors while the Snapdragon 610 is a 64-bit part aimed at mainstream devices.

The focus is on cores and the 64-bit nature of the parts.

This is reminiscent of a phase that the likes of Intel and AMD went through with their processors, where it was the numbers that mattered rather than the users experience.

It'll be interesting to see how this works out for Qualcomm.

Nokia goes down the Android path

Or at least down a forked path.

It's understandable why Nokia is eyeing Android. The platform is hot, and the Windows Phone platform isn't living up to the hype. Also, with Microsoft being more focused that ever on services, there's no real reason why it shouldn't cater for Android.

But Nokia is hacking its own path, choosing not to use Google Mobile Services, but instead replace them with Microsoft services. This means that there's no access to the Google Play app store, and that in turn means limited access to apps.

And that's the rub.

Nokia appears to be conceding that Android is a way forward, but doesn't want to embrace the Google parts of Android. It also wants to make the user interface look like Windows Phone, perhaps with the idea of making the device a gateway to the platform.

The problem with this is encouraging developers to develop apps for the platform. While forking Android worked for Amazon with the Kindle Fire platform, Microsoft has had a hard time convincing developers that it's worth pursuing the Windows Phone platform when Google Play and the Apple App Store are more lucrative. Now Nokia wants to convince developers to take a gamble on what seems like a much smaller segment of the market pie.

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