Editor’s Note: Technology journalist Stuart Miles is CEO and founder of gadget review website Pocket-lint. He can be found tweeting at @stuartmiles
Screens have been main focus for mobile developers this year, says Stuart Miles
Resolutions are up, screen clarity is crisp, and some of the screens are stunning are stunning, he says
Phones are quicker, but manufacturers don't know what to do with the speed, Miles adds
The devices announced at this year’s Mobile World Congress (MWC) have better screens, are faster, and promise to do so much more than your current model – so what will your next phone look like?
The big push from phone makers this year is screens. It is the part of the phone we spend the most time looking at and the one that allows us to fully enjoy this pocket gateway to another world that we own.
At every turn, every company is keen to tell you just how good the screen on its latest device really is. Marketing speak, gobbledygook, and buzzwords that don’t mean anything have been trotted out to all those who show up.
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Take Sony, for example. Aside from telling us that it can “make our dreams a reality,” its screen technology has not one, but two buzzwords associated with it – one of which even has the word “magic” in the title (WhiteMagic and Reality Display, if you’re interested). Both are designed to make the screen better when it comes to viewing it inside and more importantly for those sunny summer days, outside too.
Of course, Sony’s press conference, like many at MWC, was held in a windowless room after dark so you have no way to prove the “sunlight” claims until months later.
But whatever tech manufacturers use it is clear that the screen is one area where many see they can differentiate against each other. And they are doing a good job. Resolutions are up, screen clarity is crisp, and some of the screens, Sony included, are stunning.
But soon that differentiator will be gone too, so the speed of your phone is being trumpeted this year as well.
At the show the big battle has been between Nivdia and Qualcomm, with many manufacturers hedging their bets and going for both. HTC’s new flagship phone features the Nvidia 4-Plus-1 quad-core Tegra 3 processor. Yes, four plus one does equal five, but don’t let that worry you. The best way to think of it is as a “ninja core” that does stuff you don’t really want to understand.
That’s great says HTC, but don’t forget our second flagship phone, made from a more premium material, that they incidentally use on space satellites, that features Qualcomm’s latest S4 chip. It might not sound as fast, but it supposedly is and it is better on the battery life too.
It’s not just Qualcomm and Nvidia though – Intel’s new mobile processor offering has also tried to squeeze in on the action, while others like Huawei and Samsung have opted to make their own chips that come with their own array of speed and performance claims.
The reality is somewhat different, however. There is no denying the latest and greatest phones are going to be “Superman fast,” offering you the chance to open an app that little bit quicker, but at the moment many manufacturers seem puzzled as to what to really do with all that power.
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Asus’s answer is to create a phone that can transform into a tablet, before transforming into a laptop. It’s called the Padfone, and the company has deemed all the processing power so powerful that it is a “one device to rule them all” solution.
HTC has gone for the more traditional, safer, route of using the power that it has combined with the new improved crisp screen to create a better camera experience. The new One series phones will let you snap dozens of shots in burst mode so you never miss a shot. You will have lots of photos of the same thing to sort later, however.
Given the huge popularity of games in all the different app stores, not one company focused on gaming in their presentations this year. But then software as a whole has taken a back seat too as manufacturers still play catch-up following Google’s Ice Cream Sandwich launch in October last year.
Android is, of course, everywhere, but it is also fast becoming the elephant in the room when it comes to upgrades. “What operating system does it run?” is the standard question when presented with a new Android phone. If it is not the latest version, the question that quickly follows is “when, and even if it does sport the latest version, will it be upgradable?” Phone makers just can’t win.
It isn’t just “Mobile World Android,” although it feels like that sometimes. Windows Phone 7 and BlackBerry OS 7 operating systems are at the show, but both taking a back seat, with the former opting to detail some small performance updates and the latter waiting for the next version to be revealed later in the year.
So what will your next phone be like? If MWC is anything to go by, it will be something fast with a big crisp screen, but very much the software experience you are probably already enjoying on your phone at the moment.