Samsung and Huawei may have grabbed most of the media attention in the past few days following the announcement of foldable smartphone products, but that doesn’t mean that other mobile makers have been sitting idle at the industry’s biggest annual trade fair in Barcelona.
At the Mobile World Congress (MWC), brands such as HTC, Sony and Nokia have reminded analysts and consumers that they are still very much in the game as they unveiled their own new products and signaled ambitions to win back market share.
Let’s talk about HTC first. The Taiwan-based firm has been shifting its focus to virtual reality ecosystem in the past few years and the business is developing its own online-to-offline model to generate revenue.
In Barcelona, HTC didn’t unveil a new flagship smartphone, but it launched a 5G Hub device, making the Taiwan company one of the first to launch a 5G product after Samsung, Huawei, Xiaomi and LG. The 5G Hub forms part of HTC’s virtual reality ecosystem in addition to providing gigabits mobile broadband connectivity.
The tablet-like device, a first-of-its-kind dedicated 5G mobile smart hub, is expected to be launched on the market starting from the second quarter this year. Designed with the next-generation business environment in mind, the 5G Hub is equipped with Qualcomm Snapdragon 855 mobile platform and X50 modem for high-speed connectivity.
The device is similar to a pocket Wi-Fi design, and will let up to 20 users connect to its 5G connectivity. And it has a battery inside to make it work as a mobile battery pack.
In addition, the 5G Hub is also a Android set top box running on Android 9.0 pie. Users will be able to stream TV shows and movies from apps like Netflix, or to connect the device to TV for shows. One of the key points for the modem is compatibility with the sub-6 GHz spectrum of 5G connectivity.
That’s important for networks like Sprint which will exclusively offer this to US consumers in the second quarter this year, tech news website The Verge noted. HTC is launching the 5G hub with Sprint in the US, Telstra in Australia, and European carriers Three UK, Deutsche Telekom (Germany), Sunrise (Switzerland), and Elisa (Finland).
Combining a 5G hotspot, an Android hub and a battery pack into a single device, the HTC 5G Hub represents a home media center that allows smooth 4K video streaming, low-latency gaming, and 5G mobile hotspot features for up to 20 users.
“5G will be the game-changer for VR and AR, and the new HTC 5G Hub will seamlessly deliver the great bandwidth of 5G to our devices, driving our vision of Vive Reality — a boundless, immersive environment where human experiences will come to the forefront,” HTC chairperson Cher Wang said in a statement.
Apart from HTC, Japanese electronics giant Sony Corp has signaled a comeback this year as it unveiled a full range of premium, mid-range and entry level smartphones during the MWC.
Sony, as it the case with HTC, has an insignificant market share in the global smartphone industry but still has a group of loyal fans around the world.
Last year, the Sony Xperia series failed to lure fans and users as the design was not in line with the Sony style. This year, the Japanese firm decided to give a facelift to the entire smartphone line, and showcased the brand new Xperia 1 device.
Xperia 1 is a unique flagship in a crowded market with a tall big screen in the aspect ratio of 21:9 with 6.5-inch size, while other smartphones like Apple iPhone has an aspect ratio of 19.5:9. That makes Xperia 1 a taller device compared with other smartphones with the same screen size. The 4K resolution screen will enable phone users to watch high definition TV shows with the best picture quality.
In addition to a tall screen, Sony also listened to its fans to offer its first three-camera system with optical image stabilizer on Xperia 1. Sony has been a phone maker for decades but has lagged behind leading players Samsung, Huawei and Apple in terms of picture quality.
The Xperia 1 now features a camera system that includes three 12 megapixel lenses — a 26mm wide lens (with OIS), a 52mm telephoto lens (also with OIS), and a 16mm super wide lens. The company has also put in some Sony Alpha technology into Xperia 1 including better noise reduction and up to 10 frame-per-second autofocus. It also supports eye-tracking focus, which is great for both stills and video.
The latest flagship device should help Sony to narrow the gap with other phone makers. A new Cinema Pro feature allows users to shoot video while adjusting many things in a manner that one would be able to do on a pro-grade camera.
Among other old brands, Nokia has also seen the lid taken off on some new products at the ongoing industry event in Barcelona.
HMD, the maker of Nokia-branded phones, has unveiled five new devices, including the Nokia 9 PureView that has five cameras at the back. In the top of the line device, each camera has a 12 megapixel sensor and an f/1.8 lens. Two of those five cameras shoot in color while the other three are monochrome.
Boasting the “most advanced photography system ever on a smartphone”, HMD has used Light’s Lux Capacitor camera-control chip to manage the five cameras. The phone, which has long been expected by Nokia fans since the brand returned to the market in 2016, could help the label catch up with other frontrunners in the market and attract some old Nokia users.
Samsung, Huawei and Apple may be ruling the roost now in the smartphone arena, but the announcements from other players offer us a reminder that it’s not game over yet for the smaller rivals.