Every February, Barcelona’s Fira Gran Via is host to the Mobile World Congress, stuffed to the gills with mobile phone manufacturers selling their wares and hyping products to retailers and journalists.
Although Apple never attends, preferring to stage its own dedicated events, most other brands are out in force. As a result, nearly all the phones revealed were smartphones using Google’s highly popular Android operating system with its plentiful apps.
Samsung often launches its flagship Galaxy phone at MWC but this year, after the problems surrounding the Note7, it’s taking a little extra time to get everything right and focused its launch on tablets this time.
But Apple and Samsung’s rivals had plenty to reveal. Here’s what the future of the phone looks like.
Huawei P10 and P10+
USP: For pro photographers
The camera is a key feature on mobile phones now and Huawei has announced two designed to make you leave your DSLR at home. The P10, which has a 5.2-inch screen and the larger P10+ with its 5.5-inch display, both have two cameras on the back. There’s a 12MP colour sensor and a 20MP black-and-white one, both made in partnership with high-end camera company Leica.
The two sensors work together to improve photo quality, though you can also shoot with just the monochrome camera for moody, atmospheric black-and-white shots. The P10 pair are also the world’s first to have a front-facing camera designed by Leica, so your selfies can be top-notch.
The phones come in a range of eight colours. Two — Dazzling Blue and Greenery — have been designed in collaboration with the Pantone Colour Institute and both are head-turners.
The phones have different finishes, including “hyper diamond cut” on the blue model which has a softer, more textured finish. Huawei has also come up with more traditional colour options like white, black, silver and gold.
The P10 and P10+ have classy looks, a slim profile and the best cameras on any Android phone.
Out this month, from £550, huawei.com
USP: The digital detox phone
This is as far from a smartphone as you can get and will suit someone wanting a simpler way to use a mobile. First launched 17 years ago, when Nokia was the world’s biggest phone-maker, this new version has been the hands-down hit of Mobile World Congress.
There are no apps here, though the popular game Snake is back to while away the hours. It makes calls, sends texts and, well, that’s more or less it — you can access the internet but it’s very slow. The camera is basic (two megapixels) and images are saved to a removable memory card.
So why would you want it? It looks fantastic, thanks to its retro design and great colours including a citrus yellow and glossy red. It has extensive talk time, 22 hours, and outstanding standby battery life of a month — take that, smartphones.
Out spring, £40, hmdglobal.com
Nokia sold its smartphone division to Microsoft in 2014. Now, Finnish company HMD Global has secured the licence to make phones under the Nokia name. Three handsets were announced, all competitively priced. Most advanced is the Nokia 6 with a high-resolution 5.5-inch display and sophisticated audio capability for strong music and video playback.
Carved from a single piece of high-grade aluminium, the Nokia 6 has a solid, impressive feel to it. The colours are strong, including white, black and silver, but the copper colour is the most noticeable.
Nokia uses a pure version of Android, which means the phone isn’t stuffed with unwanted apps and receives monthly updates to keep it secure.
Out spring, €229 (£196), hmdglobal.com
USP: Text appeal
Like Nokia, BlackBerry is a company which has seen better days but this new model has a great feel to it. It has BlackBerry’s speciality — a physical keyboard. And nobody makes those better than BlackBerry thanks to shaped keys and metallic frets between the rows to make accurate typing fast and easy.
Clever features include a fingerprint sensor hidden under the space bar and predictive text where you can choose a word by swiping up on the keys. Although those keys take up space, the 4.5-inch display is big enough, and very high-resolution.
Out in April, £499, uk.blackberry.com
USP: Easy to handle
Most big-screen handsets are so wide they can feel like you need to stretch your mitts to use them. LG has chosen a screen shape that’s longer and narrower, so the 5.7-inch display is still entirely comfortable to hold. The display also fills almost the entire front of the screen, which helps make it more manageable still.
Like the Huawei, the LG has two cameras on the back. One is a widescreen, one better for portraits, each with 13-megapixel resolution. Zooming in or out switches from one camera to the other seamlessly. The power button is on the rear of the phone, which will divide opinion but it quickly becomes second nature.
Out next month, price to be announced, lg.com/uk
Sony Xperia XZ Premium
The Xperia XZ Premium has a 5.5-inch screen which is much higher resolution than any other phone can boast. It’s 4K, that is, four times the pixels found on a full-size HD TV, which makes watching video on it extremely immersive. Sony has arranged a partnership with Amazon so customers will have high-quality content to watch, and can shoot and play back their own 4K footage using the 19-megapixel camera.
The camera also has a cute extra: super-slow motion. Regular footage is shot at 30 frames per second but the Xperia XZ Premium can shoot at 960 for a short burst. It’s just a gimmick but it makes splashing water or bursting balloons look extraordinary.
The XZ Premium also looks distinctive and has a chrome finish so shiny it works as a perfect mirror (and catc hes a lot of fingerprints).
Out late spring, price to be announced, sonymobile.com
Prices given are for buying the phone outright — all will be available for free or lower prices when bought with a contract.
Follow David Phelan on Twitter: @davidphelan2009