While the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona is dominated by big name players such as Samsung, Nokia and LG, there are a number of devices that few have heard about – but really should. Some of these device manufacturers have made a real impact, while others are just hoping to get noticed.
Variety is in part the main attraction of the annual congress, as manufacturers of all sorts flock to the event to show off their wares.
IT News Africa has rounded up a list of ten devices that users should really be aware of – be it for real practical use, or just because they stand out in the clutter.
1. Yezz Andy A5QP
With a 1.2 GHz Quad Core Processor and 3G and HSPA+ on the 850/1900 or 900/2100 bands, Yezz is a new entrant in the African market – starting with North Africa. With 4 GB internal memory and 512 MB Ram, the device isn’t the fastest. “Designed for a multifaceted generation that includes lovers of art, innovation, friends and family, like yourself, YEZZ gives you access to a global family of high end technology and diversifies the way you communicate,” the company says.
2. CAT B15
Built for extreme outdoor conditions, CAT (which is usually associated with mining equipment and outdoor boots) has developed a smartphone that can be thrown, drowned and rattled – and still remain intact. With over 16 hours of talk time, the device can survive a fall from 1.8 meters. With a screen that can still be operated when wet, naturally, the phone is dustproof and waterproof. In terms of features, “The B15 runs Android 4.1 Jellybean and gives you access to over 850,000 apps from the Google Play store. Facebook, Twitter and YouTube are all at your fingertips when you need them.”
3. Firefox Operating system
Visitors to Mobile World Congress 2014 got a glimpse of the much anticipated Firefox OS. Users no longer have to be locked into an Android or iOS device, as a number of manufacturers have already started to roll out units with Firefox, such as ZTE. “Firefox OS is packed with the features that made you want a smartphone in the first place. It fits your life perfectly so you can fit in with the world around you,” Firefox explained. The company also highlighted the OS’ difference. “Most smartphones are made by a small number of people, all in one place, probably pretty far from where you live. Firefox OS phones are different. They’re made by a huge global community and are the only smartphones that understand and deliver what you want and need.”
4. Lenovo VIBE Z
As part of their new flagship line-up, Lenovo (usually associated with tablets and Thinkpad laptops) launched a whole range of smartphones at Mobile World Congress – including the VIBE Z. Making use of a power-efficient Qualcomm Snapdragon 800 processor, 4G LTE and dual high resolution cameras, the device boasts a 5.5″ 20/20 Vision Full HD display. Running on Android 4.3 Jelly Bean, the Vibe Z measures 77mm x 7.9mm x 149mm and only weighs 147g. “The VIBE Z makes you centre of attention with its 5 megapixel front camera and 84° wide angle lens for high quality self-shots, plus amazing video chat. You can also capture sensational images, even in low-light conditions, with a 13 megapixel rear camera with BSI sensor, and shoot 1080p HD video,” Lenovo says.
5. Acer Liquid E3
Just as with the Lenovo, users shouldn’t discount smartphones made by PC manufacturers. The E3 makes use of Acer’s new Liquid user interface, which has been streamlined to provide for a better experience than the previous version. In terms of performance, the E3 has 4.7-inch HD IPS display, quad-core 1.2GHz processor, 1GB of RAM, 4GB of internal storage, WiFi and GPS. The device will launch with Android 4.2.2 and features a 13 megapixel f/1.8 camera on the back-end. Size-wise, it measures in at only 8.9mm and weighs in at 135 grams.
6. Yota Phone
Yota Phone is unique in almost every way. Besides normal smartphone functionality, the device features a rather intuitive second screen on the back of the device. Second screen functionality has become the in-thing, and while it is still early days, Yota is one of the front-runners. The screen at the back is able to mimic almost anything from the main screen – such as a map, contact details, email- and can also serve as an e-reader. The screen second screen isn’t color though, so at the moment it is best suited to text-based applications.
7. FLIR One
Users who enjoy spy or military films will know that the protagonist always uses thermal imaging technology at some point to see heat signatures through walls or outdoors. Well, if users ever wanted to do that themselves, internationally-recognized thermal imaging company FLIR have developed a case for the iPhone 5 that will offer users just that. “FLIR ONE is a non-contact device that detects infrared energy (heat) and converts it into an electronic signal, which is then processed to produce a thermal image on your phone screen and perform temperature calculations,” the company explained. “Heat sensed by an infrared camera can be very precisely measured, allowing you to use the FLIR ONE in a variety of practical and fun ways by revealing a thermal world not visible to the unaided eye.” And the iPhone case is no gimmick – it actually works, as IT News Africa was given a short demonstration.
Want to keep the NSA at bay? Refuse to be tracked by any server? Well, get a Blackphone. The smartphone is the first integrated smartphone from some of the best privacy minds in the industry. To create the phone, Silent Circle and Geeksphone have partnered to combine best-of-breed hardware with all the skills and experience necessary to offer PrivatOS, an Android based operating system without the usual compromises. In short, the device and its accompanying PrivateOS operating system, allows users to block unwanted tracking, tracing or discovery.
9. Sony Z2
Sony launched their Xperia Z2 at the congress. While it isn’t exactly the top mobile device brand, users shouldn’t write Sony off in favour of other big players. “With Xperia Z2 we have taken our premium Z series to the next level, delivering unique experiences that only Sony can offer,” said Kunimasa Suzuki, President and CEO, Sony Mobile Communications. With a new 20.7 megapixel camera built-in, users will be able to take images in full 4K resolution. “We have redefined the smartphone once again through our camera. Xperia Z2 offers an innovative experience that captures memories in stunning detail through 4K video shooting, or offers new ways to use the camera with our unique Xperia camera apps,” the company said.
10. Sandisk 128GB memory
One can never have enough memory, and Sandisk tends to agree. The company showed off their latest microSDHC at the congress, and it boasts a whopping 128GB of memory. “Today’s mobile devices feature advanced photo and video capabilities, so you can record all of life’s exciting moments. SanDisk Ultra microSDHC and microSDXC UHS-I memory cards allow you to capture, carry, and keep all those moments at your fingertips,” the company said. The card in question can go up to 30MB/s in terms of transfer rate, and has been certified as having Class 10 performance for recording Full HD video. For damage control, the card is waterproof, temperature-proof, X-ray-proof, magnet-proof and shockproof.
Charlie Fripp – Consumer Tech editor