March is nearly upon us and that means four days of mobile mayhem in the Spanish city of Barcelona as it plays host to the world's largest mobile shindig, Mobile World Congress (MWC).
There are dozens of tech conferences each year, but if there's one place you're sure to get the first glimpse of the latest smartphones, wearables, and other mobile tech, it's MWC, which kicks off on March 2.
Of course, the show offers much more than product launches. It also hosts keynotes from tech leaders and discussions on topics such as spectrum, 5G, telecoms policy, and the Internet of Things. Last year MWC drew over 80,000 attendees and was the venue where Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg explained why Whatsapp was worth more than the billons that the social network paid for it, and lay out the company's ambition to connect the next billion people.
The Samsung Galaxy S6
The real stars of the event are undoubtably the newest flagship devices and this year there's none bigger than Samsung's latest Galaxy handset. Samsung is slated to take the wraps off the device at its Galaxy S6 'Unpacked' event on March 1, ahead of the official start of MWC .
The good news for Samsung fans is that the company is almost certain to finally replace the plastic back and metal frame combination found on the Galaxy S5 with a full metal body.
According to Bloomberg, Samsung has developed two flagship devices under its Project Zero codename. One of them will have a wraparound or three-sided display that was seen in the Galaxy Note Edge variant of the Note 4.
The report backs up long-running rumours of a twin device launch scheduled for MWC. The devices will reportedly both have 5.1-inch displays, meaning Samsung us not making them bigger than the Galaxy S5. The devices will also run Samsung's latest Exynos chips.
Samsung has been making bold bets on the design front this year, launching metal unibody construction on the mid-tier Galaxy A-series devices, the handsets which are also known for their slim design.
Following a difficult 2014, Samsung looks to be approaching 2015 with a new attitude, which it's been showcasing in TheNextGalaxy campaign on Instagram and Twitter, suggesting the company has gone back to the drawing board for the S6.
Samsung's latest video in the series suggests the device offers a smooth flowing, liquid-like metal design that does away with borders. While the metal message is fairly clear, its reference to a borderless design is more mysterious. In the past, the company talked about the "borderless aesthetic" found on the Note Edge, which simply referred to the curved and expanded display. A question mark remains over the price of the Galaxy 6 Edge, given that the Note Edge was markedly pricier than the Note 4 and still left some wondering whether the additional space and apps added value.
T-Mobile this week gave one of the clearest shots of what's thought to be the Galaxy S6 Edge.
If Samsung gets it right this time, it may go some way to taking the steam out of Apple's iPhone 6 and 6 Plus, which have hit Samsung at the high-end. Meanwhile the Korean company's lower-end devices face stiff competition from Xiaomi, Lenovo, and others in China and equally tough competition from the former and local manufacturers in India.
HTC reinvented with an all-glass fronted M9
As CNET recently reported, Taiwanese smartphone market HTC is looking to transform itself from a smartphone maker into a devices and software company, with products such as its Re camera.
Samsung may have had a tough 2014, but HTC is coming off the back of three hard years. The company will reveal more about its new identity at MWC, where it is expected to launch a device called the M9 One on March 1 at its mysteriously-named "utopia inprogress" event.
The rumour mill has been erratic when it comes to the M9. Some have suggested it will retain the same basic design of the M8, and will include a device with two camera modules on the back. Others suggested it will have a larger rear camera module, while still more pointed to two front-facing speaker grilles. On top of that, other rumours reference two speakers in small slots like those found on the newest HTC Desire models.
The latest leaked images, however, may indicate HTC has completely overhauled its flagship design, employing edge-to-edge glass and demoting its BoomSound speakers. If the images from once prolific leaker @evleaks are on the mark, HTC may also launch two devices: a larger smartphone with a physical home button or fingerprint scanner and a smaller one without a home button. Both would have a single camera top and centre.
In January, Bloomberg claimed the M9 One would have a 20-megapixel rear camera and HTC UltraPixel front camera. The report claimed HTC will also launch a smartwatch that works with Under Armour's new fitness service, UA Record, and its MapMyFitness suite of apps. HTC announced earlier this year it would design a range of products to work with the apps.
LG to show off wearables and low-end handsets
LG has taken the wraps off of several high-end devices over the past six months, including the LG G3 in the middle of last year and the G Flex 2 this January. At this year's MWC, the Korean company has confirmed it will launch several budget smartphones, continuing its push for the sub-$100 category.
Sony: an Xperia 4 at MWC?
There's been some anticipation that Sony will release the Xperia 4 at MWC, following on from its launch of the Z3 last September, which would fit with the six-month cycle for new flagships.
However, there are signs the company isn't yet ready to launch its next big device just yet. Sony had plenty of wearables to show off last year so it may be these that it will put under the spotlight this year in the absence of a flagship.
Like LG, Sony may have a bigger story to tell around budget devices, having introduced the Sony Xperia E4g, which adds LTE to the E4 announced earlier this month.
The company may also launch an Xperia Compact and Xperia Ultra at MWC.
Microsoft: a new Lumia?
Last year's MWC was a little messy for Microsoft with the Nokia acquisition yet to close and the Finnish firm's launch of its short-lived Nokia X-branded Android phones with Microsoft software on top. Its own focus last year was a reference design for budget smartphones using Qualcomm chips that it hoped partners would go on to use.
Microsoft is gearing up for the launch of Windows 10 and will be pushing its new universal app platform for developing apps across desktops, tablets, and smartphones.
While Microsoft has confirmed a new high-end smartphone using Qualcomm's Snapdragon 810 is in the works, it's unlikely to release the device at MWC. Given the company's efforts building interest in Windows 10 for IoT devices and its recent partnership with Raspberry Pi Foundation, it could have some interesting tech besides phones on display.
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