The rise of Chinese hardware, open source OSes and phablets: What's in store at MWC 2013

Mobile World Congress is missing a few big name players this year, but there's still plenty happening, including an influx of oversized devices and open-source efforts.
Written by Ben Woods, Contributor
MWC 2012

With Mobile World Congress 2013 starting in just a few days in Barcelona, what's going to draw the crowds at the show this year?

Unlike in recent years, Mobile World Congress 2013 is going to be missing some of the big handset manufacturers. That's not to say there will be nothing of interest from the familiar names, but there will likely be less than in previous years; instead, I expect more focus to go on M2M communication, services and advertising issues around mobile.

NFC and mobile payments will be high up on the agenda too — but I remain unconvinced that NFC payments will grow significantly until the ecosystem around it also grows.

Services aside, there will obviously be some handset announcements, and some notable omissions, but I'm not expecting an influx of surprise tablet announcements.

If anything, Ubuntu OS running on smartphones and tablets will likely be among the more exciting things to check out at the show. However, 'phablets' (oversized phone-cum-tablet devices) are likely to dominate, with several having already been announced before the show and more expected to land during it.  

Samsung will be present on the show floor and is rumoured to be lifting the lid on an 8-inch Galaxy Note tablet device. It's worth noting that last year's big hit from Samsung (the Galaxy S III) wasn't announced at the show and there are few expectations that we will see its successor make an appearance in February.

HTC is another company that seems to be favouring holding its own events. It has already unveiled its new range-topping One handset, which should really have a different name to avoid confusion with the One S, One V, One X, One X+ or of course, the One VS. What's left to reveal at the event? We'll have to wait and see but HTC doesn't have a big press event going on at the show.

Similarly, LG has already announced its new high-end handset in the form of the Optimus G Pro, but is expected to roll out a fleet of other devices that slot in somewhere below the top end.

Sony, on the other hand, will be present and will be holding a press event to show off its latest wares that it hopes will take on the likes of Samsung and HTC.

However, while a lot of the big name manufacturers are choosing to skip MWC or have a minimal presence, ZTE and Huawei — both of which have expressed an interest in becoming household names in the smartphone sector in Western Europe — will have products to show off.

ZTE is planning to unveil at least eight devices, including multi-core, LTE-capable handsets, and Huawei will be planning to make a splash too, with handsets that could include the rumoured Ascend P2, suspected to have a whopping eight CPU cores. I'd also expect to see the company making a fair amount of noise about its upcoming Firefox OS-based device.

I'll be on the ground the whole gruelling time so you don't have to — be sure to check back for our coverage next week.

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