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Photos: The world's biggest mobile shindig

From industry bigwigs to booth babes...
By Natasha Lomas, Contributor on
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From industry bigwigs to booth babes...

Delegates arrive for the first day of the world's biggest mobile phone trade show, Mobile World Congress, which took place at the Fira exhibition ground in Barcelona last week.

According to industry body the GSMA, which hosts the show, more than 47,000 people walked through the gates this year - a figure that is several thousand down on last year and smaller than 2006 when the Fira saw more than 50,000 visitors for MWC. Not a keynote speech passed without reference to the worldwide economic downturn and the challenges it poses to the industry.

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While visitors to Mobile World Congress may have been thinner on the ground than in previous years, there was no shortage of mobile hardware on show...

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Sony Ericsson was among the mobile makers to announce an iPhone rival at the show - previewing a touchscreen smartphone based on the Symbian OS and sporting a 12.1 megapixel camera, Walkman and video playing features. The device, codenamed the Idou, will be available in the second half of this year.

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The mobile maker's sole Windows Mobile effort, the Xperia X1 - previewed at last year's MWC - was also in evidence, shown here loaded with web panels including Facebook and Skype.

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Elsewhere, Taiwanese maker HTC drew the crowds to its stand - launching updates to its Touch Pro and Touch Diamond smartphones.

However, Android phones were the biggest draw with delegates patiently queuing for a chance to get hands-on with the first Google OS device, the G1, which launched last year.

At the show, Google also announced a second Android phone - called Magic (pictured right) - which will be exclusive to the Vodafone network. Magic is set to arrive in the UK this spring.

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Meanwhile Japanese phone giant NTT DoCoMo was showing off a collection of prototype handsets - including this 'active style' bangle.

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The company also had plenty of real phones on show too - including this waterproof mobile, shown here dipped in liquid, and a kids' mobile featuring GPS and a built-in panic alarm.

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Meanwhile over on the Qualcomm stand the chipmaker was demoing its mobile broadcast tech in action on a range of handsets.

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Here, attendees check out the Samsung stand - including the OmniaHD smartphone which it claims is the first handset capable of capturing HD video.

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While Apple wasn't showing off any new kit at MWC, that didn't stop trade body the GSMA getting creative: this slide illustrating the proliferation of connected devices seems to be anticipating the arrival of an iPhone nano (top left).

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There was action outside the Fira too: Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer arrived in Barcelona to announce Windows Mobile 6.5 just across the road in its executive briefing centre.

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Other big names at the show included César Alierta, CEO of Telefónica, shown here giving a keynote. The telecoms sector is not part of the economic problem but could be part of the answer, Alierta told delegates.

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Telefónica Europe's CEO also spoke at MWC, with the interview shown on one of the Fira's big screens.

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Vodafone CEO Vittorio Colao also took to the MWC stage. His concern? The need to monetise "these beautiful [data] services".

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Nokia's CEO Olli-Pekka Kallasvuo addressed MWC delegates on the need for more collaboration in the mobile industry.

"We will have to work together with competitors, new players and partners in different ways far more than in the past," he said.

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Microsoft's Ballmer was more cautious - talking of being "open enough".

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Google's VP of engineering, Vic Gundotra, used MWC to get to grips with "one of my most favourite devices", the Palm Pre, during a demo. The mobile data boom is being fuelled by the latest generation of browsers, he claimed.

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Android co-founder and Google employee Rich Miner gave a talk on mobilising open source to an audience of developers, showing how execs at mobile OS companies treat keynotes: wear jeans with no tie and shun that podium.

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Symbian Foundation director Lee Williams follows Google's Miner - both in the schedule and in dress code.

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But it wouldn't be a trade show without the requisite number of 'booth babes'...

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…and conference attendees enjoying their company.

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The conference winds down for the day and exhausted delegates perch on steps to check their email.

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As the sun sets on MWC 2009, industry professionals are left to queue for taxis home and wonder whether they'll be here next year.

Photo credit: Natasha Lomas/silicon.com

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