I've long had no issue admitting my inability to get excited about Sony's smartphone products. Often, they're too late to market here in the US, have specifications that while competitive are rarely groundbreaking, and really do very little on the software feature front. When I saw the Xperia Z1 at IFA last year, I just wasn't all that impressed - Sony's flagship still suffered from ridiculous screen viewing angle issues, and the UI felt almost no different from what Sony shipped with Ice Cream Sandwich.
You've probably read by now that Nokia's making Android phones. Sort of. And I'm sure there are all sorts of analysts, experts, and other people trying to scream at you collectively that this means something. Nokia's changing directions. Nokia's making Android a backup if the Microsoft merger doesn't go through. Nokia's Android is going to finally end Google's dominance in the world of cheap smartphones!
Let's leave all that aside, because those are frankly annoying and pointless conversations to have.
One year ago we took a look at the original Grand Memo, ZTE's mid-range entry in the bustling "phablet" market. Fast forward and ZTE is back at Mobile World Congress, showing off a new and improved version called the Grand Memo II LTE, that's better in every way... but still not really good enough to elicit a "wow" of surprise. Check out our hands-on video below.
The Grand Memo II bumps up the screen size to 6.0 inches, putting it squarely in between the largest of the conventional smartphones and low-cost tablets.
Sony announced its new Xperia Z2 Tablet here at Mobile World Congress, so we swung by their booth on the show floor to get a hands-on with the next tablet flagship. This is the successor to the Tablet Z, now more fully aligned with the leading Sony phone in both name and hardware.
The first thing you notice when you pick up the Z2 Tablet is that it is thin. Crazy thin - 6.4mm, in fact, thinner than the previous tablet, thinner than any phone you're likely to get your hands on in the United States, thinner than the iPad Air by more than a millimeter, and lighter as well at only 425 grams.
Nokia unveiled its long-awaited Android-powered phone today, but in something of a twist, it turned out to be not just one device, but three! As expected, the Nokia X, X+, and XL all run software based on the Android Open Source Project, but that software looks very little like Android in most respects. Like Amazon's Fire OS, Nokia's "X" Android fork eschews all of Google's various products and services in favor of a heavily modified user experience and custom app ecosystem.
LG's latest and largest handset was announced ahead of MWC last week in Korea, but for most of the world Barcelona will have marked its public debut. LG's rather unabashed Note competitor is back again this year, although the spec sheet won't exactly blow most people away - a 5.9" HD IPS panel, quad-core Snapdragon 800, 3GB of RAM, 13MP rear camera with OIS, and 3200mAh removable battery get high marks for high-end components, but do little to separate the G Pro 2 from a growing pack of mega-sized phones.
Sprint has been marketing push-to-talk functionality (a walkie-talkie style function that's popular with business users) since long before Android came into being. Though the feature isn't nearly as common as it once was, Sprint seems ready to keep it going with an update to the official Android app. The Direct Connect service is now compatible with a handful of new phones, most notably headliners like the Galaxy S4, Galaxy Note 3, and LG G2.
A 6.8" phone? Madness, you say? Not according to Hisense - the company has unveiled one of the largest smartphones to date at CES in Las Vegas this week, dubbed the X1. It's 6.8" full HD LCD panel is certainly something to behold, and may manage to put the phone outside of the "pocketable" category phones like the Xperia Z Ultra just barely manage to eek into. Of course, it's no FonePad, so it may also be the perfect size for a few niche buyers out there, though I can't really see much mainstream appeal here, at least in western markets.
One of the cooler things that went a bit unnoticed at this years CES was, without a doubt, Sony's all-new XSP-N1BT automotive stereo head unit. No, it's not exactly the most exciting name in the world, but Android enthusiasts may be snatching up this double DIN unit with great enthusiasm when it arrives in May for $250 for one reason: in consort with Sony's control app, it turns your Android smartphone into a touchscreen control unit for your car stereo.
We just got back from a meeting at ASUS's CES suite, and we had a chance to go hands-on with the full portfolio of the company's new Android products (apart from Padfone X, which sadly sat walled off in a glass case). Of great interest to some of you, no doubt, are the company's new ZenFone handsets. Johnny Shih, ASUS's enthusiastic chairman, announced the ZenFone 4, 5, and 6, would be priced at $99, $149, and $199, respectively.