MWC 2013 has kicked off and TechRadar is at the show checking out the hottest handsets and tablets. Although the show has been a little light on new phones, we still found some that impressed us.
For a complete rundown of all the latest news check out our dedicated MWC 2013 channel. If you'd rather just peruse the highlights, then keep on reading: all the key announcements and hands-ons are below.
Acer at MWC 2013
Acer hasn't exactly blown us away at this year's MWC, but we rather like its Liquid Z2 handset.
As reviews editor James Rivington writes in our Hands on: Acer Liquid Z2 review this phone is primarily designed as a first baby step into the world of the smartphone. As such, it comes with some helpful features to make the transition as painless as possible. "We give it a tentative thumbs up," he says (tentatively).
Asus at MWC 2013
One of these devices is the Asus Padfone Infinity and the other is the Asus Fonepad. Padfone. Fonepad. Fadphone. Where were we?
We hear that Asus is now working on a 27-inch gaming monitor that you can hold to your ear to make calls, which will be marketed as the Asus Phonitor.
We dispatched TechRadar deputy editor Dan Grabham to the Asus stand to take a look at the Padfone Infinity. Featuring a stunning Full HD display, Dan found the Padfone to be a superb phone and a very capable tablet.
Read our full Hands on: Asus Padfone Infinity review for more.
Having checked out one phone/tablet thing, Dan then got his hands on another one: the Asus Fonepad, a 7-inch Android 4.1 tablet that can also make calls.
"The Fonepad is certainly an interesting device and price point is crucial," he writes in our Hands on: Asus Fonepad review, adding: "It's relatively cheap and will sit above the Nexus 7 yet underneath the iPad mini in Asus' ongoing war with Apple, Samsung and Amazon for the 7-inch tablet space."
Ford at MWC 2013
Ford rolled up at MWC to announce that Spotify is coming to the car dashboard. It'll work with Ford Sync, enabling you to play music wirelessly through your car's stereo system and control it via voice commands.
Spotify for Ford Sync has been designed to integrate the two services as seamlessly as possible. So there is no separate app, and nothing you need to install on your phone other than the regular Spotify Mobile app.
For more, check out First look: Spotify in Ford Sync.
Fujitsu at MWC 2013
Fujitsu has joined the Android world with its first Android handset, and we're really rather impressed with it. It's been designed for elderly users and as such it's really easy to use.
James Rivington had some time with the phone to write our Hands on: Fujitsu Stylistic S01 review and felt that it could be "the life-changing device you give your elderly relative for Christmas this year."
HP at MWC 2013
HP seems to be over the whole TouchPad, webOS pain now and it's instead joined the Android gang, bringing the Slate 7, its Android Jelly Bean-powered budget tablet, to the party.
Set for an April release, the 7-inch tab features a 1.6GHz dual-core Cortex-A9 processor, a slightly low-resolution 1024 x 600 screen, 1GB RAM and 8GB of built-in storage.
So what's HP's Android effort like to use? Dan Grabham got some hands-on time with the device and felt that while it's certainly cheap at $169, and not bad looking, "it isn't a hugely impressive tablet", and it doesn't beat the Nexus 7.
Read Dan's early verdict in our Hands on: HP Slate 7 review.
Huawei at MWC 2013
Huawei isn't messing around - it's rocked up with what's apparently the world's fastest smartphone, the Ascend P2. It's the first smartphone to feature LTE CAT 4, which Hauwei claims will enable the Ascend P2 to deliver some blistering web browsing speeds, faster than the CAT 3-toting Samsung Galaxy S3 LTE and iPhone 5.
Breaking into the smartphone market hasn't been easy, admitted Huawei, saying "We're an ambitious young brand which plans to be one of the top 100 companies in the world in the coming years."
So what did we make of the Ascend P2 when we got our hands on it? TechRadar phones and tablets writer John McCann found it to be "a solid mid to high-end smartphone with some decent features and a pleasing array of specs", though he felt that it doesn't have the build quality of the iPhone 5 or HTC One, nor the same snappiness as the Galaxy S3.
Read our Hands on: Huawei Ascend P2 review for the full lowdown.
Huawei also showed up with the Ascend G350, making a little less noise about this mid- to low-end handset.
As we wrote in our Hands on: Huawei Ascend G350 review, this rugged, waterproof phone is "a decent durable device with a strong feature list for a handset that will likely sport an affordable price tag."
Launched with even less fanfare than the Ascend G350 was the Ascend Y300, which quietly appeared in the Chinese manufacturer's booth. It's similar spec-wise to the Ascend G330, but it sports a slightly different design, battery boost, a newer version of Android and a fresh overlay.
See what we thought of it in our Hands on: Huawei Ascend Y300 review.
Stepping up from the Y300, we've got the Ascend G510, sharing the same design ethos, but upping the processor to a 1.2GHz dual-core one.
"If it sticks with its attractively low price point, the Huawei Ascend G510 could be a winner at the budget end of the market," John McCann writes in our Hands on: Huawei Ascend G510 review.
Lenovo at MWC 2013
Lenovo continues with its product naming convention of stringing together some random numbers and letters, with three new tablets on show at MWC.
There's the top-end IdeaTab S6000, the mid-range A3000 and, at the bottom of the spec pile, the A1000. As Kate Solomon points out, they're fairly uninspiring but probably fine.
LG at MWC 2013
Bizarrely, LG didn't bring any phones to MWC but instead used the venue to launch a range of washing machines.
Actually, that's a lie. What it did bring was the LG Optimus L3 2, the successor to the original Optimus L3 which launched at MWC last year.
It's a dinky little phone, which TechRadar's John McCann got his dinky little hands onto. "The LG Optimus L3 2 seems to be a well equipped smartphone for its bargain basement price, and could well prove to be a popular choice for parents looking for a first handset for their little ones," he wrote in our Hands on: LG Optimus L3 2 review.
We also got our hands on LG's mid-range Android handset, the LG Optimus L5 2. Sitting just above the Optimus L3 2, the L5 2 has an improved screen and battery when compared with its predecessor, the L5.
There's no doubt that this is a budget phone, but it's stylish, well equipped and affordable.
Get more of our thoughts on this phone in our Hands on: LG Optimus L5 2 review.
The top of the mid-range L-Series 2 collection (yeah, we're getting rather confused by these names, too) is the LG Optimus L7 2. Still with us? Good.
This is a smart handset that could be mistaken for a premium phone - until you pick it up and feel the cheap plastic, as John McCann noted in our Hands on: LG Optimus L7 2 review.
That said, it's a "surprisingly capable budget smartphone", found John. "Out of the three new L-Series 2 handsets the LG Optimus L7 2 is our favourite and we reckon it will offer consumers pretty decent value for money when it lands later this year."
Stepping up a little, we have the LG Optimus F7, a mid-range 4G handset with a 4.7-inch 720p display, dual-core 1.5GHz CPU and an 8MP camera.
In our Hands on: LG Optimus F7 review, James Rivington found that while the phone looks and feels like a lower-tier handset, "the F7 throws Jelly Bean around easily enough and there wasn't much sign of that 'just OK' CPU holding it back."
The king of LG's phone lineup is the Optimus G Pro, which takes over from the LG Optimus G, and was officially announced back in January. This is the first chance we've had to get hands-on with the new flagship device.
So what did TechRadar's John McCann make of it? "The Optimus G Pro is an impressive handset offering up super slick Android Jelly Bean and a top notch range of features," reckons John.
Read our Hands on: LG Optimus G Pro review for an up close look at LG's rising star.
It's tricky to remember how the LG range pans out from mid- to high-end given that the company has chosen not to arrange them alphabetically. So next time you're in Phones4U struggling to remember which range is which, as you're being bombarded with offers of cashback and free extra minutes, simply remember the phrase "L Freakin' G" to put the three handset ranges in order.
But LG hadn't finished there. It also brought the LG Optimus Vu 2 to MWC, a strangely wide handset with a 4:3 screen.
It's a premium device, but as John McCann writes in our hands on, "we can't help but think the handset is just a bit too impractical."
Find out why in our Hands on: LG Optimus Vu 2 review.
Motorola at MWC 2013
The Motorola Razr HD came out in the US at the end of last year (where it was known as the Droid Razr HD) and now it's apparently headed to the UK. It's rather late to the party and as such the specs aren't anything to write home about but it's a capable handset which promises a decent battery life.
Tempted? Then hit our Hands on: Motorola Razr HD review for our early verdict.
Mozilla at MWC 2013
Mozilla has given a preview of the first devices to run its HTML5-based Firefox OS. The phones shown include the ZTE Open and the Alcatel One Touch Fire, both powered by Qualcomm's Snapdragon chips. LG and Huawei handsets will follow.
Designed for developing markets, the first Firefox OS devices will be available to consumers in Brazil, Colombia, Hungary, Mexico, Montenegro, Poland, Serbia, Spain and Venezuela.
We got some alone time with the rather uninspiringly named ZTE Open, which Dan Grabham described as "a colourful, cheap option" that's "hardly iOS or Android-beating in terms of feature set". It's not an OS that we're likely to see on a high-end handset any time soon, then.
More thoughts and photos are in our Hands on: ZTE Open review.
Nokia at MWC 2013
Nokia brought a couple of cheap and cheerful phones to Barcelona, namely the 105 and 301, which feature, well, not much really. The 105 can be picked up for about the same price as a takeaway pizza and will apparently last a month on one charge, while the Nokia 301 builds on the 105's lowly specs by upping the screen size to 2.4-inches and chucking in a 3.2MP camera.
While we initially thought these handsets would be for emerging markets only, it turns out that Nokia also hopes you'll want one as a back-up phone. Good luck with that, Nokia!
You won't be surprised by the 105's specs, then. As John McCann writes in our hands on: "There's no camera, app store or social network integration, but what you do get is a phone which will make calls, handle text messages and even boasts a headphone jack if you fancy listening to some tunes."
Read more in our Hands on: Nokia 105 review.
Got a bit more to spend? Then why not splash out on the Nokia 301? There's no touchscreen but you do get a low resolution 2.4-inch display which sits above a 12-button keypad.
"As with the 105, the Nokia 301 will likely do very well in emerging markets," writes our John McCann, adding: "With the advent of low-cost and feature packed Android handsets in Europe it will probably struggle to break through."
Read more in our Hands on: Nokia 301 review.
We sent deputy editor Dan Grabham off to check it out, and here's what he said: "The Lumia 720 doesn't have the high end features we've come to expect from the more expensive Lumias but it does have a decent spec sheet for something that's bound to be available on next-to-nothing contracts."
For further thoughts, and a whole load of pics, check out our Hands on: Nokia Lumia 720 review.
While at the Nokia stand, we also had some time with the 4-inch Lumia 520. This Windows Phone 8 handset could do rather well, as a low budget handset for those who don't want an over-complicated or over-equipped smartphone, Dan reckons, writing in our Hands on: Nokia Lumia 520 review.
"It's not a handset for those who really want a Windows Phone," says Dan, "but rather it's one for those who want a budget smartphone. For that type of purchaser, the cheap and cheerful nature of the 520 will surely appeal."
Samsung at MWC 2013
Samsung announced the long-rumoured Galaxy Note 8 tablet on Sunday ahead of the show's opening after it was photographed on the Samsung stand.
While we got some specs (8-inch 1280 x 800 Super Clear LCD display, Android 4.1.2 Jelly Bean, 1.6GHz ARM-quad-core processor and 2GB RAM) Samsung has so far neglected to name a price. We do know that the release date has been set for Q2 2013, though.
TechRadar's phones and tablets editor Gareth Beavis got a good chunk of time with the supersized Note, where he noted (ahem): "The Samsung Galaxy Note 8 is a great device that finally gives the Korean firm a chance to compete at the 8-inch size range with a tablet that doesn't skimp on specs". However, while Samsung remains tight-lipped on the price he points out that it's hard for us to give a firmer opinion at this stage.
Read our full thoughts, and the price that we'd like to see the Note 8 debut at, in our Hands on: Samsung Galaxy Note 8.0 review.
We weren't expecting to see Samsung's eagerly anticipated Galaxy S4 in Barcelona - we'll be at the S4's unveiling on March 14 - so we contented ourselves by spending some quality time with the Samsung Galaxy Fame, the Samsung Galaxy Grand, the Samsung Galaxy Xcover 2 and the Samsung Galaxy Young.
The Fame (Faaaaaaaaaame!) won't light up the sky like a flame, but as a budget phone it could sell bucketloads, while the Samsung Galaxy Grand is like a Galaxy Note 2 only cheaper and with somewhat underwhelming specs.
The Xcover 2 is the successor to Samsung's rugged Xcover, and it's a tough, attractive next-gen smartphone that you can drop, dunk in water and generally mistreat.
And finally, the Galaxy Young is probably aimed at young people or it would have been called the Samsung Galaxy Grown-Up, or the Galaxy Granny. It's similar to the Fame but it chips away at some of the specs in order to drive the price down further.
Hit the links below for our hands-on reviews from the Samsung stand.
- Hands on: Samsung Galaxy Fame review
- Hands on: Samsung Galaxy Grand review
- Hands on: Samsung Galaxy Xcover 2 review
- Hands on: Samsung Galaxy Young review
Sony at MWC 2013
We were impressed with the Sony Xperia Z phone when we recently reviewed it and so we were delighted to see Sony break out the Sony Xperia Tablet Z, a 10.1-inch device which is very capable of taking on the likes of the iPad and Galaxy Tabs on both specs and price.
As Gareth Beavis writes in our hands on review: "Sony is going all out with the bigger brother to the Xperia Z, offering a host of top end specs to convince iPad and Nexus lovers to look again.
"It's got pretty much everything you could want on an Android tablet these days, starting with a pretty up-to-date version of the OS (Android 4.1.2) and a Qualcomm Snapdragon S4 Pro quad core chip, clocked at 1.5GHz."
So should you buy one? Head over to our Hands on: Sony Xperia Tablet Z review to get our early verdict.
ZTE at MWC
Phones are still getting bigger, it seems, and ZTE dragged its behemoth ZTE Grand Memo to Barcelona for us to get some hands on time with.
It comes in at the top of the ZTE range, and features 5.7-inch, 1280 x 720 HD resolution display with a big chunk of bezel above and below the screen to make the handset even larger.
Get our first impressions of this supersized handset in our Hands on: ZTE Grand Memo review.