2009 Mobile World Congress Preview

What Mobile
January 26, 2009

Sony Ericsson already announced new products at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas at the start of January, including the C510, W715 and W508. At MWC, we expect to see the announcement of the C903 – a slider based around the C905 but with a 5-megapixel camera instead. The phone is likely to include GPS and possibly Wi-Fi (a new feature for non-smartphones being incorporated in other models, including the W705 and W715). Other models likely to be announced will include the C901 (with 5-megapixel camera) and the W395, a no-frills sliding Walkman phone with 2-megapixel camera and motion sensor.

Having announced its intention to produce an Android based smartphone, we also hope to see a concept – but wouldn’t expect a working model just yet. Nor would we expect to see an Xperia X2 announced (and probably not looking like this!), although a new smartphone would help Sony Ericsson in its bid to focus on higher-end models in 2009. Rumours have circulated for some time that until Symbian Foundation devices are announced nearer the end of 2009, Sony Ericsson may simply licence and release models using Nokia’s Series 60 user interface as a ‘stop-gap’, having allowed UIQ to lie dormant and eventually die.

Picture: Nokia E75 integrates QWERTY keyboard, but no touchscreen


Nokia managed to allow its 2008/9 road map to get leaked onto the web, so we can be pretty sure there’s going to be some interesting kit announced – such as the E75 and the long awaited E90 Nokia Communicator successor that will be similar to the N97 but placed in the Eseries category, and with a higher resolution screen. Another Internet Tablet using the Linux-based Maemo platform is rumoured, and this time it’s likely to include an embedded SIM to allow data communication even when you’re away from a Wi-Fi hotspot (and don’t fancy pairing up with your own mobile phone).

HTC has also had its 2008/9 road map leaked but with low-res pictures and loads of variations of the same theme, we don’t expect there to be that many individual products announced in one go. Indeed, some may be variants for different territories, or even individual networks. What we would expect to see is the next Android-based product (to be released around May), which is likely to be offered to multiple networks keen to jump on the Google-phone bandwagon (but not by using the underwhelming G1). The G2 isn’t likely to include a keyboard, meaning the user will have to rely on using the screen instead. We hope application developers have been taking this into account!

HTC Road Map leak
Picture: One of the many new HTC devices on its way in 2009

Microsoft won the battle of the keynote speeches earlier this month, offering the beta release of Windows 7 to the general public, at the same time as Apple was announcing minor updates to its applications and the intention to start dropping DRM from iTunes – long after many other music service providers had already done so. But what about mobile users? Windows Mobile has always had its fair share of critics, and that has even extended to people within Microsoft, who recently admitted it hasn’t stood the test of time (although some might argue it was bad from day one).

The release we’re all waiting for is Windows Mobile 7, which has been designed almost from scratch to take on the latest generation of fingertip controlled user interfaces. Sadly, MWC is only likely to see an end-of-life update for V6. Windows Mobile 6.5 is unlikely to be significantly different to the current 6.1 operating system, but will have some modified applications and a new front-end, much like the devices offered by the likes of HTC and Sony Ericsson to allow you to keep the stylus stored in the phone for a bit longer than normal.

Windows Mobile 7 ISN'T coming to Mobile World Congress
Picture: Windows Mobile 7 will NOT be coming to Mobile World Congress

Rest assured, at some point the current OS will force you to look for the pointy stick – especially when using third party applications. What we should see is a new range of applications to share files and data, between your PC and smartphone, plus other platforms including Mac. What we won’t see is any devices for a while, or upgrades being offered to existing Windows Mobile users (Microsoft claims the new OS requires more memory, making it near impossible to add to older devices).

And what of the rest?

We’re pretty sure Motorola is going to try and get back into the game with some announcements, but so far we’ve not been able to get any reliable information or rumours – beyond the assumption that its going to announce an Android based smartphone (hardly a big surprise considering its one of the founding members of the Open Handset Alliance).

The struggling mobile division clearly cannot rely on the cool, but limited, AURA for its future or even the A3100 announced at the CES (a sexy looking Windows Mobile smartphone that will probably do rather well in the US, but will probably barely register on the radar over here). What Motorola needs is another iconic phone like the V3, StarTAC or even the MicroTAC, for those who can remember the early days of cellular.

Unlike the AURA, this icon will actually sell in large numbers. If Motorola does that, it must then avoid the mistake of assuming it will carry the whole brand for years simply by changing the colour and doing minor updates. An icon is one thing, a proper portfolio is another!

Motorola needs another icon to survive
Picture: Motorola needs another icon to survive

We hope that the lack of information doesn’t mean Motorola is going to let us all down, but rather surprise us and steal the show as Palm did in Las Vegas. Will it happen? Well, we’ll have to wait and see – but if Motorola doesn’t do well at MWC, it may as well give up and sell up.

Samsung and LG has also kept things on the down-low, but one thing is pretty certain; if either one announces a phone with some fancy new bits of technology – the other will probably match it. Sometimes we wonder why LG and Samsung don’t simply merge! All we could find for LG was a high end music phone, the KM900 (aka LG Opera Touch), and some talk of other touchscreen devices – but no specifics. Update: We’ve now discovered the VX9600 Versa (as in Versatile) that will be a seemingly ordinary touchscreen phone until you hook up additional devices, like a QWERTY keyboard, gamepad or an Internet module with integrated Wi-Fi. It also appears to have a Samsung Omnia attachable stylus, meaning the UI presumably won’t be totally usable with fingertip control.

Samsung always announces loads of new kit too (this year will be no exception), but listing anything here would be pure guesswork. it’s safe to assume the following things will feature; imaging, music and touchscreens! Update: We’ve been told that Samsung is going to announce its ‘biggest release of the year’ on February 9th – a whole week before MWC.

A new player in the UK is yet another Korean firm, Hyundai Mobile. Already selling rather basic phones in Germany and Hungary, the company should be using MWC to unveil some more exciting kit, with better features and looks.

Mobile World Congress will also be the place where lots of new services are announced, which PR agencies will promise to be the ‘most revolutionary’ or ‘most exciting announcement of the year’. We’ll wait until the show kicks off before we even begin to start checking these out!


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