This year at MWC, there's little in the way of room for the notion that Samsung failed to deliver on the hype. The Galaxy S6 is the most dramatic redesign the Galaxy S has ever seen, and is more Samsung than ever before. Down to the NAND storage and Exynos chipset, the S6 takes Samsung's larger corporate vision of vertical integration seriously, and that should have Samsung's competitors on edge (no pun intended).
To start, the physical hardware simply seems superb. Even the relatively early units we played with had outstanding fit and finish, and I don't mean that in the forgiving sense we typically are forced to provide Android handsets because of the median build quality in the industry.
Google just announced all of the great new APIs developers would be able to play with from the Google Play services, and now we've got some apks to check out. As usual, there aren't a lot of user-facing features in the GMS package, so don't expect to see any huge changes immediately after installation. However, there are at least a couple of interesting bits and pieces that stand out in a side-by-side comparison.
The only immediately obvious difference (that actually does something) is a relocation of the security code generator. This is a simple little tool Google occasionally uses for creating verification codes for emergency authorizations.
It's getting to be that time. The first-generation Android Wear watches are officially old, and everyone is anticipating shiny new watches with updated hardware. That means the old ones are going to start showing up on sale more often. You can get the G Watch R from Groupon for $269.99 right now, $30 off the regular price.
Several manufacturers are moving away from 7-inch tablets, but LG still has the small tablet form factor in mind. The G Pad 7.0 came out last year, and eventually found its way to AT&T. Now you can grab that device for just $109.99, and it's fully unlocked.
Google Maps lets you take a look at cities and landmarks from all over the world, but its Street View feature primarily allows you to take a virtual walk along roads and sidewalks. Yet that hasn't stopped Google from using it to show off the world's natural beauties and majestic man-made monuments alike. Without leaving your seat, you can view the Pyramids of Giza, and the beautifully cold parts of Greenland. Now Google will let you experience what it's like to ride a zip line through the Amazon rainforest.
Google+ Vice President of Product Bradley Horowitz has received a promotion and will now step up to take the place of David Besbris. This change comes less than a year after Vic Gundotra left the company and the social network that he had led since its inception. This makes Horowitz the third person to head up Google+.
Sony's recent Xperia phones and tablets have included themable skins for the proprietary Sony UI that runs on top of Android. Now Sony wants you (yes, you!) to make themes for its devices using a custom Java desktop program. The company has released a beta version of the application for aspiring theme makers, available from the Sony Developer site.
The program allows you to apply different colors and graphical elements to the various bits and pieces of Sony's themes. It's basically a streamlined setup process - anyone who's made themes for the CyanogenMod engine or a custom Android launcher will feel pretty comfortable.
Right now a mobile payment system is kind of like a pair of Crocs in the mid-2000s: everyone has to have one and it isn't clear why. Of course Google Wallet has been around for years, but now that Apple Pay (and Samsung Pay, and apparently everyone is paying everything) is around Google needs something a little more competitive, perhaps using those newly-acquired Softcard assets. We've known about Android Pay, a new mobile payment API, for a few weeks. Google's SVP of Android, Chrome, and Google Apps spoke briefly on Android Pay at Mobile World Congress, officially confirming the service.
The Grand S3 isn't a beefed up version of the Galaxy S III, an easy mistake to make just from skimming the name alone. No, it's the latest version of ZTE's flagship handset. This time around, the company is using more than competitive pricing to draw attention to its kind-of-premium device. Anyone who buys this phone in the future will apparently be able to unlock it using their eyes.
ZTE has partnered with EyeVerify to incorporate its Eyeprint ID solution with an upcoming version of the Grand S3, a phone that's already on sale in China. It is one of the first smartphones to implement this technology, which allows users to scan their retinas using a phone's front-facing camera.
The photo-focused smartphone is becoming a definite niche, and at Mobile World Congress, Lenovo is hoping to break in with a new model. The Vibe Shot (which sounds a lot like something you'd order at a questionable cocktail bar) is a Lollipop-equipped phone with a 16-megapixel rear camera and an 8MP front-facing shooter. Other photo-focused features include optical image stabilization, infrared autofocus, and a tri-color LED flash. Lenovo hopes to launch the Vibe Shot in June starting at $349.
We actually got a look at the Vibe Shot back in February when Lenovo's MWC lineup was leaked. What we didn't learn at the time about the phone is its price, which is particularly attractive considering its high-midrange specs.