The Best of Mobile World Congress 2010

MWC is the premier global event for the mobile phone industry. Here's the latest in mobile innovations, from Barcelona this week.

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Imagine an Android-based device packed into a SIM card smaller than a postage stamp. That's what South Korea's SK Telecom unveiled on Day 2 of Mobile World Congress: the prototype SIM card packs an ARM-based processor, companion memory and 1GB of flash memory to store the entire Google Android OS. The telecom company sees the card slotting into a variety of dumb terminals that can offer a screen, keyboard or other input devices, but lack an OS and processor. All the user's data and applications in the card.

SK Telecom crams Android, processor inside a SIM card

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Finally: a real browser for the leading smartphone brand in the U.S., the RIM BlackBerry. RIM executives showed off a full-blown mobile Web browser, based on the open-source Webkit rendering engine that powers Apple's Safari browser on the iPhone. The video of the demo shows the browser scoring 100% on the ACID 3 test for Web rendering. RIM says it will support the emerging HTML5 and CCS3 standards. RIM's full YouTube video of the new browser demonstration.

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Germany-based Metaio this week released its Unifeye Mobile SDK, for building augmented reality applications for mobile platforms. AR exploits a phone's location and direction, and its camera-view of a real scene, and then layers additional data, images, and links onto that view in real time. The SDK supports image recognition, 3D rendering for animations. Shown: images of outdoor furniture, served up from a vendor's Web site, are juxtaposed over a shot of the user's backyard patio.

Metaio's video of Unifeye in action.

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HTC has released two new Google Android-based smartphones, including one, HTC Desire, that seems to be updated to the Google's recently announced Nexus One phone, also built by HTC. Both the Desire and Nexus One handsets have 3.7-inch AMOLED touchscreens and run Android 2.1 on a 1GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon chipset. The Desire uses a touch-free optical joystick as an alternative to the touchscreen (Nexus One has a trackball), and has FM radio built-in (missing from the Nexus One). The second new entrant, HTC Legend, has a slightly smaller screen. The vendor tweaked the Web browser for better performance.

HTC unveils update to Nexus One and HTC Legend

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Toshiba released a follow-on to its TG01 smartphone, running the Windows Phone OS. The new TG02 Another Android phone, this one Toshiba has also been updated. Unchanged is the 1GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon processor, the big 4.1-inch touchscreen, and its 800 x 480 pixel resolution. What is changed is the resistive touchscreen is now capacitive touch. The phone has a quad-band GSM, and dual-band 3G support, with Bluetooth 2.0 and 802.11b/g Wi-Fi. The OS release is updated to one of the latest version of the Microsoft mobile OS, Version 6.5.3. No launch date was disclosed.

Toshiba unveils its TG02 smartphone

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Motorola's eighth Android smartphone is the Cliq XT (outside the U.S.: "Clench"), running Android 1.5 and Motorola's Motoblur UI overlay. It features a 3.1-inch touchscreen, 320 x 480 pixels resolution, and support Adobe Flash Lite. Wi-Fi and HSDPA 3G at 7.2Mbps. GA: Q-1 2010, on T-Mobile.

Related story: Motorla's Quench marks company's eighth Android phone

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With Windows Phone 7, Microsoft has radically redefined the mobile user experience. A clean, minimalist design combines easy to read text and Web-linked icons, called "smart tiles." Tiles can be grouped in "hubs" with common navigation and functions: people, including social networks and contacts, photos, music and video, and so on; a productivity hub includes Microsoft Office and SharePoint. GA: "for the holidays" apparently in Q-4, from various handset makers, on all major U.S. mobile operators.

Related story: Windows Phone 7: Microsoft's mobile strategy finally takes off

Video: Microsoft Debuts Windows Phone 7 Series

Windows Phone 7 Series: First Impressions

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Sony Ericsson announced two new Android-based Experia touchscreen smartphones: the X10 mini and X10mini pro. Both have a 2.55-inch capacitive touchscreen display, resolution of 240 x 320 pixels. The pro model adds a backlit sliding QWERTY keyboard, making it slightly bigger and heavier than the mini model. It includes Sony Ericsson's Timescape app for keeping track of text messages, missed calls, and Facebook and Twitter updates. Several Google applications are pre-installed, including Maps with Street View, Talk and Voice Search. GA: Later in 2010 for the U.S.; Q-2 for other locations.

Related story: Sony Ericsson shrinks Android with two new smartphones

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Samsung's new GT-S8500 Wave smartphone has two distinctive features: a -AMOLED (Active-Matrix Organic Light-Emitting Diode) screen that's brighter than traditional AMOLED even in sunlight, in a 3.3-inch screen with 480 x 800 pixels; and the company's recently-opened Bada software platform, with the TouchWiz 3.0 UI. HSDPA at 3.6Mbps, Bluetooth 3.0, and 802.11n Wi-Fi.

Related story: Samsung hopes super screens will boost Bada platform

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Qualcomm demonstrated a concept smartphone that can connect to and play video content on TVs. The MSM7630 was shown linked via an HDMI cable to a flatscreen TV, displaying videos at up to 780p, with 1080p support due later. The device can show up to four HD streams at once. ST-Ericsson, in a similar demonstration, promised wireless HD connectivity via 802.11n and the Digital Living Network Alliance standard, which defines content sharing among consumer electronics products.

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Texas Instruments is getting into 3G HD, too. TI unveiled the OMAP 4 processor, which supports 1080p video recording and playback, up from the 720p OMAP 3 chip announced just a year ago. The new silicon can support 20 megapixel imaging and about one week of audio playtime, according to the chipmaker. Based on the dual-core ARM Cortex-A9 MPCore for SMP, the new OMAP chip is one of the first to support symmetric multi-processing on a mobile platform. TI promises more efficient power use and better performance with SMP, but didn't provide details. More info.

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Bitstream observed the one-year birthday of its Bolt server-enabled mobile Web browser by releasing Version 1.7. New features include Twitter integration, enhanced download manager, additional usability and streaming video features, and support for widgets. Bitstream claims it's the only mobile browser that can let all mobile phones run streaming video from sites such as YouTube and MySpace. More info.

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Bug Labs announced the Bug 2.0 hardware platform, a set of snap-together electronics modules (communications, camera, etc) that you let create the mobile device of your choice. The 2.0 product runs on the Texas Instruments OMAP 3 processor and supports the Android operating system, for the first time. With partner Accenture, the company is demonstrating at MWC a range of mobile Bug applications for healthcare monitoring, vehicle fleet tracking and home automation. More info.

Copyright © 2010 IDG Communications, Inc.