Mobile World Congress 2018: what happened? It might be better to start with what did not happen: Huawei did not have a new flagship phone, LG remanufactured its old flagship phone, and Motorola and HTC did not have phones to show at all. The traditional deluge of new super-specific phones simply was not here as it usually is.
But that did not leave us with a boring show, far from it. Nokia went back to the archives to revive another classic, Google's hardware partners introduced their first Android Go devices, and the generalized buzzwords of 5G and AI were everywhere. There were even some great laptops to watch. Here are the highlights, first, followed by the unfortunate lows.
The disappearance of the frames of the screen
Nokia 8 SiroccoPhoto by Tom Warren / The Verge
Whether companies call them full screen, full screen, FullVision or Infinity Displays, there is no doubt that a modern phone in 2018 is more easily recognized by the scarcity of its bevels around the screen. This is an amazing thing, since it allows companies like Asus to offer 6.2-inch flagship phones within a smaller physical footprint than their previous 5.5-inch devices. Such has been the transformation between Zenfone 4 last year and Zenfone 5 this year. As for the mobile industry in general, we have gone from being Samsung and LG the exception with its barely fine bevels in 2017 until now the norm.
Samsung Galaxy S9 Plus and S9Photo by James Bareham / The Verge
You may have been disappointed by the incremental nature of Samsung's updates this year, but it's hard to argue that there's a better phone on MWC than Samsung's new flagship duo. With a new double-aperture camera, a fingerprint reader now in a healthy position in the middle of the back, and the best and latest processors, the Galaxy S9 is a formidable giant that will rise above the Android phone industry at least the rest of this year. Its similarities to the existing Galaxy S8 are a strength rather than an obstacle: that phone was one of the best-designed phones last year and remains a leading device in its class today.
Nokia 8110Photo by Tom Warren / The Verge
Yes, we are all addicted to gadgets that arouse feelings of nostalgia for our lost (or waning) youth. HMD Global, the company that operates the Nokia brand, has shown an expertise in refining and updating classic models of the Nokia file for the modern world. At the price of 8110 to less than $ 100, the company offers a surprising number of advanced features that adapt to the familiar design of the slider. This phone has LTE applications, Google Assistant and Google Maps, Twitter and Facebook, Snake (because, of course, it has to) and a promised waiting time of 25 days.
Lenovo 500e ChromebookPhoto by Vlad Savov / The Verge
It's not the traditional rate for a phone feature, but Lenovo's Chromebooks for schools left a positive impression here at the MWC. Each of them has been reinforced to withstand drops and spills, and the capabilities to take notes of the two high-end models are excellent. One allows you to take notes with a regular pencil directly on the screen, while the other has a pencil input without delay which is nice to use. The most expensive among them is a super affordable $ 349, which is roughly what the netbooks cost, and there is more than a passing similarity between these ultra-basic Lenovo Chromebooks and the classic Eee PCs of years ago.
Phone with Live concept ApexFoto by Sam Byford / The Verge
Vivo drew a lot of attention at CES 2018 as it was the first company with a fingerprint reader integrated directly into the screen, and followed up with a phone concept at MWC that was even more aggressively futuristic. The Apex concept device removes the back bevels even more than we are getting used to, and achieves this by vibrating the screen to produce sound without a headset. Live also changes the selfie camera to a pop-up module that extends from the top of the phone as a periscope. The Vivo Apex provided a fun display of current thinking and deliberation among phone designers looking for the next breakthrough.
iPhone X and Zenfone 5Photo by Vjeran Pavic / The Verge
The flip side of the new thin display frames is that they allow companies to do odd things with the design and particular design of their screens. And many, too many at the MWC 2018 have chosen to simply copy the notch look on Apple's iPhone X. It is a cynical movement, of which Asus is especially guilty and does not apologize. No one is trying to emulate Apple's Face ID, which is the main reason for the iPhone's undercut: companies are simply imitating Apple's aesthetic with their own cosmetic alterations. The Asus Zenfone 5 represents both sides of the new tendencies of the telephone screen: the good of the slimming frames and the bad of a deliberately derived design.
The headphone jack is becoming a rarity
Sony Xperia XZ2Photo by Chris Welch / The Verge
Do you know those great old ports on the back of the desktops that companies continue to maintain for many years after no one even remembers what they were for? This is how the mobile industry perceives the headphone jack at present. It is treated as inherited hardware. As such, the 3.5mm audio jack is still available in the cheap phone models (along with the horrible Micro USB connector) and some companies that do not want to follow the dominant trend, such as Samsung and LG. This year, Nokia and Sony introduced new flagship products without a headphone jack, in the hope that the best Bluetooth audio codecs will cover the loss of the convenient 3.5 mm universal cable, simply and once at a time.
Samsung AR emojiPhoto by Sam Byford / The Verge
They are terrible, right? In an effort to keep pace with Apple's iPhone and iOS, Samsung presented its response to Animoji this week in the form of its own AR Emoji. Technically speaking, these are quite impressive facial scans, since the Galaxy S9 only uses the front camera and there is no additional specialized equipment to produce them. But in practice, you get some strange and deformed creations, whose facial animations are worse than anything we've seen since Mass Effect: Andromeda came out.
LG V30S with LG V30Photo by Vlad Savov / The Verge
There are many industries in which a company will take an existing product, make a couple of cosmetic adjustments and then re-publish it with a new brand. With phones, however, the speed of technological change and progress have always been so fast as to make that unnecessary. In 2018, LG has shown that the mobile phone industry is beginning to coincide with others by reissuing the LG V30 with a new LG V30S ThinQ product title. The new V30 is identical to the previous one, except for the addition of RAM and additional storage. Everything novel about the V30S, of which there is not much, will be transferred to the V30 in a software update. So, LG simply used the MWC 2018 as a launch pad, a software patch. Overwhelming to the extreme.