This post is about some of the products launched at Mobile World Congress in Barcelona this week that caught my attention. There were loads from home security bots, VR headsets, 360 degree cameras and other products we probably won’t see in South Africa. There were some ridiculous (flashy, LED collars for your dogs with custom messages) and downright outrageous (any wonder the chest massager for women stand was empty?) However, the products that did catch my attention are ones we will most likely see soon or eventually. Not sure how useful 360 degree cameras will be to regular consumers, I think it’s a bit niche.
In no particular order they are:
1. Huawei MateBook
The 12″ Huawei MateBook is something completely new from the company. It’s a 2-in-1 device that can be a tablet or laptop, depending on what you need for the moment. What caught my attention with this product is the slim and stylish design, and it weighs 640g on its own. It runs Windows 10, has a 2K screen, has a 1.5mm thin chiclet keyboard (attachment), 4/8GB RAM, 128/256/512GB SSD, and is powered by Intel’s 6th-gen Core M processor. It is very much a take on the new 12″ Macbook (2015). There are other nice additions like fingerprint reader, a full charge within 2.5 hours (or 60% capacity within an hour), MatePen (accessory), and is available in grey or gold. When I played with it, I still couldn’t wrap my head around a laptop having a touch screen; getting there slowly.
2. KnowRoaming software SIM
KnowRoaming has announced a software SIM for Alcatel phones, which means when you buy an Alcatel phone, you will have connectivity via the built-in app for management, still giving you the same up to 85% off roaming rates when abroad. I currently make use of the KnowRoaming SIM sticker (stuck over my existing nano SIM permanently) when I travel so this is quite a big deal. It will launch in China first, and then other markets. I’m just waiting for the day where we don’t have to rely on a single network for connectivity and calls. With KnowRoaming’s offering, we are getting closer to that. Additionally, they also offer a physical SIM for travellers. I make use of their $7.99 unlimited data a day when I travel on business as it’s usually only for a couple of days; for anything longer I would buy a local SIM. Why I’m a fan of this is that it lets me use my prepaid SIM card when abroad to make calls too (my number is displayed). If you’re on prepaid in SA, you can only get SMS roaming. It has services in over 200 countries.
3. Sony Xperia Ear
I think the best wearable at MWC is Sony’s new Xperia Ear. It’s discreet and small enough not to make you look silly walking around with one, but you can now also talk to it like it’s your PA, which connects via Bluetooth or NFC. You don’t need your phone to send and receive messages, make calls, check your calendar, play music, search or navigate. These functions can now be done by voice commands. Sort of like Google Now but standalone. I can see how this could be used instead of a smartwatch. It’s very small – 1.15″. In addition to this, Sony announced new mid-range devices in the X category, which means the Xperia Z high-end range will carry on receiving an update every 2 years, the way it should be. More info and availability on the Xperia announcements next week.
4. Xiaomi Mi5
I wasn’t in Barcelona when Xiaomi announced the Mi5 (they did not have a stand at Mobile World Congress), so didn’t get to see it. It sort of reminds of the Galaxy S6/S7 Edge, which now has a ceramic back. It’s a 5.1″ handset that, of course, is thinner and lighter than the 6S and S7. The 16MP camera uses Sony lenses, and under the hood you’ll find 3GB of RAM, and 64GB storage. The Mi5 Pro has 4GB of RAM and 128GB storage. Why is it a big deal? Well for a Samsung S7 lookalike, you will be paying about half the price. Let’s hope we see it in South Africa later (or earlier) this year.
5. LG G5 and Friends
Ok I left the best for last; this was my highlight of MWC. I love how innovative the G5 is. Not gonna touch on specs cos that’s difficult to get wrong these days. The modular design lets you swap out the bottom for a dedicated shutter button with more battery life, if you want (great for travelling!); this is the LG Cam Plus. Other add ons are the HiFi Plus, which is a Bang & Olufsen audio dock (B&O Play); a 360 degree camera; LG 360 VR and the Rolling Bot home monitoring system or for monitoring your pets. I tried the VR headset briefly, but couldn’t go on for too long as I was starting to get a headache.
I also can’t wait for Ford’s SYNC 3 to head to South Africa, which I was given a demo of and got to see how Android Auto and CarPlay works. Read about that here.