What to expect from Mobile World Congress 2019: Multi-camera phones, 5G moves

Images said to be official renders of the Nokia 9 PureView smartphone. PHOTO: TWITTER/ISHAN AGARWAL
Images said to be official renders of the LG G8 smartphone. PHOTO: TWITTER/EVAN BLASS
Official renders of the Xiaomi Mi 9 smartphone. PHOTO: XIAOMI

BARCELONA - Samsung may have stolen a march on its rivals by announcing its Galaxy S10 smartphones, as well as the foldable Galaxy Fold on Wednesday (Feb 20) in San Francisco.

This was less than a week before the largest annual mobile industry trade show, Mobile World Congress (MWC), opens its doors in Barcelona.

The riposte from other smartphone brands will come fast and furious at MWC 2019, which runs from next Monday to Thursday (Feb 25 to 28), with many expected to tout handsets sporting multiple cameras - three seems to be the magic number - and others with new fangled features like the ability to fold or make sound from the phone's screen.

Smartphone makers have been drip-feeding teasers in the run-up to the show which, together with the usual leaks and rumours, have given us some idea of the products that will be showcased. The majority of these devices will debut on Sunday, a day before MWC 2019 opens.

Huawei, which briefly became the world's second-largest smartphone maker last year, is expected to launch its own foldable smartphone at a press conference in Barcelona. There are scant details about this device, except that it will be a 5G device. The firm had revealed that its upcoming P30 smartphone will not be at MWC, with Huawei planning a Paris launch in late March instead.

LG has already announced that its G8 smartphone will be unveiled at MWC. It will have a front-facing time-of-flight (TOF) camera for facial recognition, augmented reality and virtual reality applications. In addition, the G8's Oled screen can also act as a diaphragm, vibrating to produce sound - a feature that was previously seen only on Oled television sets.

LG also said it will launch three new mid-range smartphones with features such as a camera app powered by artificial intelligence to recognise objects, a dedicated button to summon the Google Assistant as well as multiple rear cameras.

HMD, which makes Nokia-branded phones, is rumoured to show off a new flagship smartphone with five rear cameras.

Dubbed the Nokia 9 PureView, it is also said to have the usual high-end features, such as wireless charging and waterproofing. But the word is that it will come with last year's flagship Qualcomm Snapdragon 845 processor instead of this year's Snapdragon 855.

Going by the past few MWC announcements, HMD may again tap the nostalgia factor and re-launch classic Nokia handsets with a modern twist.

Microsoft may have exited the smartphone market, but it also has a media event at MWC, headlined by chief executive Satya Nadella. The rumour is that there will be a new version of Microsoft's HoloLens mixed-reality headset, possibly with a built-in chip for artificial intelligence processing.

Prior to MWC, Oppo announced that the key technologies in its latest smartphone include a triple-camera system that can achieve 10x zoom without losing any details. The unnamed device is also expected to have an improved wide-zone optical fingerprint sensor that can detect your fingerprint over an area up to 15 times that of the current sensor in the market.

Sony has teased an ultra-wide display, possibly with a 21:9 aspect ratio, for its upcoming MWC media conference. Likely to be found on its flagship model, this display will lead to a taller, thinner design. Other rumours indicate that Sony may also mount a triple-camera system on this smartphone, following on the heels of rivals like Huawei and LG.

Like Samsung, Xiaomi has already revealed its flagship Mi 9 smartphone before MWC 2019. Sporting a triple-camera system, Qualcomm's latest Snapdragon 855 chipset and a gradient design at its back, the Mi 9 is still likely to grace Xiaomi's press event on Sunday.

Xiaomi president Lin Bin previously showed off a foldable phone in a video posted to Weibo, but it is uncertain if the device will be at MWC. More likely, we'll see 5G versions of Xiaomi's other top phones, such as the Mi Mix 3.

5G networks

Aside from exciting new mobile devices, MWC will also see businesses, telcos and government officials coming together to collaborate and discuss the hottest topics in the mobile industry.

There will likely be announcements related to next-generation 5G cellular networks, which are gradually being rolled out in some countries this year. Start-ups and businesses will talk about how they can tap 5G's strengths - low latency and fast speeds - in diverse fields ranging from healthcare to manufacturing.

Expect the usual buzz, too, for technologies, such as artificial intelligence, the Internet of Things and data analytics.

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