MWC round-up: 3D screens return, foldable phone competition heats up
Image credit: Jack Loughran
After being cancelled two years in a row due to Covid, and a muted showing last year dogged by mask restrictions, Mobile World Congress (MWC) is back this year with new devices from the likes of Honor, ZTE and Motorola.
This year’s major keynote from Honor saw the Chinese firm unveil a raft of new smartphones as it distances itself from former parent company Huawei after the two split in 2020 following a US trade embargo.
With smartphone development cycles typically lasting at least 18 months, this year’s devices represent a shift away from Huawei’s design philosophies.
The Honor Magic Vs is Honor’s stab at competing with the likes of Samsung’s Galaxy Fold, which has largely dominated the nascent foldable phone market in the West until now.
The device features a screen on the outside – akin to a typical smartphone experience – and a larger, tablet-like screen on the inside once opened.
While clearly taking inspiration from the Fold, the inner screen of the Vs features a tight crease that allows the displays to meet in the middle, unlike last year’s Fold 4 which had a gap.
While it’s a relatively slender 12.9mm thick when folded, the sizeable camera bump adds a few extra millimetres to this. That bump houses a rear triple camera system comprising a 54MP IMX800 Main Camera, a 50MP Ultra-Wide & Macro Main Camera and an 8MP 3X Optical Zoom Camera.
Elsewhere, the device features a 5000mAh battery and Qualcomm’s latest Snapdragon 8+ Gen 1 chipset.
Honor also demonstrated a more traditional device, the Honor Magic5 Pro, which had an inevitable focus on camera technology. The firm said it currently sits at the top of DXOMARK’s lauded camera ranking with a top score of 151.
Similar to the Vs, it features a triple camera combination comprising a 50MP Wide Camera, a 50MP Ultra-Wide Camera, and a 50MP Telephoto Camera.
It also claims to have the first screen-dimming tech that matches the user’s melatonin levels to reduce eye fatigue late at night, and a gesture control feature similar to the likes of Google’s ill-fated Pixel 4, which used an in-house sensor.
Neither the Magic5 Pro or the Vs has been announced for the UK yet, but they are expected to receive a domestic launch eventually. They will cost €1199 (£1056) and €1,599 (£1408) respectively in Europe
While not unveiling any new smartphones this year, ZTE showed off the Nubia Pad 3D – a tablet with an eyewear-free 3D screen. While the full specs will not be announced until tomorrow, the 3D effect was demonstrated in film clips and a mobile game.
The effect is similar to the stereoscopic 3D featured on Nintendo’s 3DS console which was released in 2011. While that device was routinely criticised for causing motion sickness and an indistinct image for some people, it remains to be seen if the larger screen and an additional 10 years of advancement in stereoscopic technology can help alleviate some of these flaws.
The tablet also features a pair of cameras on both the front and back that allow users to create their own 3D content by using both lenses in tandem.
ZTE also unveiled a pair of glasses, similar to Google Glass, that can be connected to a broad range of devices including games consoles.
Wearing the Nubia Neovision Glass will give users an experience similar to looking at a 120-inch screen. The Micro-OLED screen supposedly has a high enough pixel density to minimise the screen-door effect which is often experienced on head-mounted displays.
Motorola, now owned by Lenovo, demonstrated an unusual pair of concept devices that feature expandable screens.
The rollable display technology was demonstrated in both a phone form factor and in a laptop. At its smallest, the phone could shrink down to a size resembling a truncated smartphone or expanded into a traditionally-sized display.
In the laptop device, part of the screen could be expanded and retracted from underneath the keyboard to create an ultra-tall display.
While interesting, the devices were kept mostly under lock and key and were explicitly proof-of-concept rather than anything Motorola is planning to commercialise in the near future.
Nevertheless, the firm had made alterations to Android and Windows OS so that UI elements could shift dynamically according to the size of the display at the time.
Motorola also unveiled a rugged phone with satellite connectivity that allows users to send and receive simple text messages even when they are not connected to mobile networks.
The service requires a subscription, starting from $4.99 (£4.14) a month, that allows users to send and receive around 30 messages using an in-house app developed by British firm Bullitt.
It’s primarily aimed at people living or travelling in remote areas that may temporarily lose access to traditional mobile networks. A PR representative noted that people travelling through remote areas of the US and Australia with patchy signal could make use of the feature.
A puck-like device will be released with the service that allows any smartphone to use the satellite functionality by connecting to it with Bluetooth.
Apple included a similar feature in the Apple Watch Ultra last year, although it is limited to emergency SOS messages rather than the send-and-receive messaging functionality offered here.
Sign up to the E&T News e-mail to get great stories like this delivered to your inbox every day.