Among new gadgets showcased in Barcelona is a processor that can deliver surround sound from a mobile phone
Sony's new Xperia Tablet Z is waterproof, making it idea for the bath or inclement weather
Ford has teamed up with Spotify to bring the music-streaming service to some if its cars in Europe
A cinema experience on your phone: Qualcomm Snapdragon 800 7.1 surround demo, by DTS
There was a time when a mobile phone speaker was a joke. But things are changing, and phones and tablets due out in the second half of 2013 will pack a number of features designed to give them enough power to become your home entertainment hub. The new Qualcomm Snapdragon processor comes with the ability to replicate a 7.1 surround sound speaker system – even through a pair of standard headphones. Dubbed Headphone:X, the technology is very clever, especially when you add in the processor’s ability to play 4k video.
Better photography: Nvidia Tegra 4i HDR camera demo
Nvidia is Qualcomm’s biggest challenger in the mobile processor space. Aside from games - the company is due to launch its own Tegra 4-powered Android console called Project Shield later this year – it has been showing off real-time High Dynamic Range photography capabilities that automatically adjust a picture for light and dark areas on the fly. It’s something that today’s cameras struggle to do, and certainly something where you need lots of power under the hood.
A superior tablet: Sony Xperia Tablet Z
There are many tablets on show at Mobile World Congress this year, including ones that are also trying to be a phone. The Sony Xperia Tablet Z caught my eye for a number of reasons. Firstly it’s a real change in product design from Sony – in a good way – but secondly the tablet, like the company’s new Xperia Z phone, is waterproof, making it ideal for the bath, or those that find themselves working out and about in tough conditions.
Safer shopping with a Paddle
Paddle is a shopping system that tries to make shopping online easier and safer. The idea is that e-commerce sites add a “buy with Paddle” button at the checkout, simplifying the payment process. It does this by generating a QR code for you to read with a dedicated app on your phone. Once you scan the code, all the merchant details are ready for you to check, and because the app has all your payment details, all that’s left is for you to press “buy.” The fact that you have to scan a QR code on the screen also means there is an extra level of security. It’s currently being internally tested by Marks & Spencer in the UK.
Streaming music in cars: Ford Spotify AppLink
Ford has teamed up with Spotify to bring the music-streaming service to its Ford Sync AppLink cars in Europe, starting with the EcoSport later in the year. Ford SYNC AppLink allows drivers to control smartphone apps from the driver’s seat, using voice control. Understanding voice in the car is going to be one of the key battlegrounds for cars in the near future. Ford says it has spent a lot of time making sure the EcoSport has a good microphone and the capacity to actually hear the instructions you give, meaning you can keep your eyes on the road and your hands on the wheel.
A mobile phone that is … a phone: Nokia 105
While the flagship handsets get more and more powerful, Nokia isn’t forgetting those that don’t need a 5-inch display, a powerful processor, or the ability to download a play a host of games. It has launched a phone that costs just €15 (about $20) and has 35 days of stand-by from a single charge. What’s clever is that it’s a phone that is actually just a phone. Sometimes keeping things simple really works.
Free apps on your phone: Firefox OS
When the original iPhone launched, it didn’t have apps, it had web apps – free programs that bring the best of the web to your phone. Apple soon realised that a better and more lucrative way of doing things was to create paid-for apps, and the rest is history. Jump forward five years and Mozilla, the organization behind the Firefox browser is trying to bring back free web based apps with a mobile operating system completely built on HTML 5. The beauty here is that the OS will be free, and the handsets needn’t be powerful. With lots of backing from major players, it’s already punching above its weight. Certainly one to watch.