|The 2012 Mobile World Congress. (AFP PHOTO/LLUIS GENE)
Monday marks the start of this year's Mobile World Congress. Hosted in Barcelona it has quickly established itself as the key event in the smartphone calendar. Over the course of the four-day event, over 1500 exhibitors, from Nokia and Samsung to LG, HTC and Sony will take it in turns to upstage each other in terms of their new handsets, apps and connected technology.
CNET journalist, Kent German describes the Mobile World Congress as "The most important wireless trade show of the year." Since 1996 -- when it moved from Cannes to Barcelona, it has become the global stage for any company that wants to launch a new smartphone or demonstrate a connected gadget. However, because it has become so huge, it's very easy for flagship launches and crucial announcements to get lost among the general background noise.
This is why Google has announced there will be no official Android presence at this year's event. It's also why HTC chose to launch its new phone, the HTC One, in a separate event this past week, but that doesn't mean that the company won't be out in force at MWC. This same logic applies to Samsung. Though it will be attending and will be launching a handful of major products next week, one of those products will definitely not be the new Galaxy SIV. The South Korean tech juggernaut is expected to host a special event in March.
Yet that doesn't mean that the MWC won't be the platform for a host of new smartphones and wearable technology. Nokia is expected to pull out all the stops at this year's event. Its president and CEO Stephen Elop is one of the keynote speakers and the Finnish firm is expected to launch a new flagship Windows Phone 8 which will set a new benchmark in terms of photographic quality as well as potentially four other more affordable handsets.
Chinese manufacturers Huawei and ZTE will both also be out in force and are expected to launch flagship Android devices in the hopes of disrupting the market. ZTE is also rumored to be debuting a smartphone that runs on the Firefox operating system -- as if Android, iOS, Windows Phone 8 and BlackBerry OS don't already offer sufficient choice for smartphone owners.
Asus -- maker of the Nexus 7 tablet -- is so committed to the event that it chose to avoid last month's International Consumer Electronics Show altogether. No one is yet sure what the company has up its sleeve but, if this video, promising a 'metallic miracle' is anything to go by, expect it to be big --very big.
Away from smartphones, there is also expected to be a renewed focus on wearable technology and in particular, gadgets that monitor health, well-being and activity. Qualcomm, the chip maker at the heart of the majority of Android handsets, is expected to demonstrate a new platform that makes gathering and analyzing data from such devices simple, even if they use different forms of communication and measurement. It has partnered with the American Heart Association to launch the initiative and is encouraging visitors to the event, which starts on February 25, to wear activity tracking devices and to share the data on the platform.