Mobile World Congress 2015: The Best Phones, Smartwatches and Gadgets

This is it: the most promising gear we saw under the Barcelona big-top. Send us review units, now.

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The best of the bunch

The very name of Mobile World Congress tips you off to its size and importance. Every March, the biggest hardware makers in the world converge in Barcelona, Spain, dragging their latest and greatest gadgets with them. The avalanche of new smartwatches, phones, and tablets stretches far and wide; just trying to see each device is difficult, much less touch them all.

But a small handful of gadgets inevitably stand out from the crowd. This year was no different. These are the best smartphones, watches, and gadgets we saw at Mobile World Congress 2015.

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Samsung Galaxy S6

With the Galaxy S6, it’s like Samsung is giving us almost everything we ever asked for—even if they’re taking away the removable battery and SD card slot in the process. It’s got a gorgeous metal and glass body, a touch fingerprint sensor you don’t have to swipe, an impressive new camera on the front and back, a super high-res AMOLED display, wireless charging that supports the two most popular standards, and a new payment technology that works with any credit card reader that does magnetic stripe swiping.

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HTC One M9

The new One M9, on the other hand, is all about subtle refinements.

HTC took its winning design from the One M8 and made it better by tweaking button placement and grip. Then they improved the already-stellar audio, moved the 4-megapixel UltraPixel camera to the front, and put a high-res 20MP camera on back. Themes and dynamic app icons are highlights of the new Sense 7 interface.

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Huawei Watch

Huawei’s Android Wear watch does what other Android Wear watches do. So what makes it so special? Just look at it! This is the classiest watch in the Android Wear family. The simple sleek body is dominated by a round, bright, sharp OLED display. Available in stainless steel and gold, with a few bands to choose from, we can’t wait for it to land this summer.

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Lenovo Vibe Shot

The camera is so important to Lenovo’s new Vibe Shot that they made the back of the phone look like a camera. It’s an affordable phone with mid-tier specs, but sports a 16-megapixel camera with optical image stabilization, fast infrared autofocus, and a tri-color flash. There’s a physical shutter button, and a pro/smart switch that enables features like white balance and ISO control for enthusiasts.

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Alcatel OneTouch Idol 3

There are actually two Idol 3 phones—a 4.7-inch model and a 5.5-inch version—but they share similar design. The nifty trick of these phones? They have a mic and speaker on both ends of the phone, so you can use it flipped upside down or rightside up. Even to make phone calls! As a bonus, those two speakers enable stereo sound. These aren’t high-end phones: the smaller one should cost about $200, while the larger one will go for $250 when they go on sale in June.

The specs aren’t super high-end, but it’s a lot of phone for that price, and the stereo JBL speakers and hold-it-whatever-way design might help it gain notice.

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Samsung Galaxy E5

We really love Samsung’s mid-range devices. They’re stylish, cute, and compact, and they come with most of the same features as their flagship counterparts. It also just goes to show you that you don’t need to spend a whopping $600 to get a solid smartphone. The Galaxy E5 LTE version offers a bevy of selfie features, for instance, and it runs on a quad-core 1.2GHz processor. 

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LG Fx0

LG’s Firefox OS phone is seriously cool looking. First off, it’s see-through, like one of those first-generation Gameboy Color handhelds. It also has a very bright 4.7-inch IPS display and a 2,370 mAh battery pack, and the Home button is actually a gold-etched Firefox logo. You’ll likely never see this one in the US, though: it’s currently only available in Japan.

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Alcatel Hero 2+

The Hero 2+ is Alcatel’s first Cyanogen-powered phone, and we got a peak at the hardware. It’s a 6-inch phablet with a 1080p display, 2GHz Mediatek processor, 2GB of RAM, and a 13-megapixel camera, as well as LTE support for AT&T and T-Mobile when it arrives in the US. It’ll also come equipped with a detachable stylus, which Cyanogen’s Steve Kondik says you’ll be able to use a la the Galaxy Note family. The phone we played with is still just a work in progress, however, and the finished product won’t be revealed until later this spring.​ 

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HTC Vive

To quote the esteemed Mr. Keanu Reeves: Whoa.

The surprise of the show, HTC's SteamVR-powered virtual reality headset made this virtual reality noob into a virtual reality believer. Unlike sedentary alternatives like Samsung's GearVR or the Oculus Rift, the HTC Vive was designed to let you wander around spaces up to 15 foot by 15 foot, with the help of a pair of base stations and wand-like controllers for each hand. 

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The rest of the bunch

For a more thorough list of all the gear and gadgets at Mobile World Congress, check out PCWorld's comprehensive guide to the major announcements. From HTC's first wearable to Windows 10 phones and smartphone chips with cognitive silicon brains, there was a slew of cool stuff on hand.