March 2, 2013 at 12:17 PM ET
Mobile World Congress remains the world’s biggest dedicated mobile technology event, and this year’s show saw more than 70,000 people converge in Barcelona to find out what’s next in smartphones, tablets and more. From upstart operating systems and the world’s thinnest slate to a whole new way to make your own apps, these are the eight best mobile products from Mobile World Congress 2013:
Best smartphone: LG Optimus G Pro
These days, high-end features like a quad-core processor and 1080p screen are just table stakes in the Android superphone game. That’s why with the Optimus G Pro, LG focused on delivering uniquely compelling software that makes work more efficient and play more fun.
With LG’s updated QSlide technology, users can run important apps in small windows on the 5.5-inch full HD screen, allowing them to multitask in a way never before available on a phone. Dual Recording, which allows you to capture video using both the front HD camera and back 13-MP shooter at the same time, takes family video to a whole new level. Then there's QTranslate, which provides real-time offline translation of words viewed through the camera lens. Add in a whopping 3,140mAh battery and you have an Android phone ready to take on the world.
Best budget smartphone: Nokia Lumia 520
With the Lumia 520, Nokia has proved its dedication to bringing high-end features to lower price points, making the Windows Phone 8 experience available to an entirely new set of users worldwide. The 520 sports a 5-MP camera that supports Nokia's fun lens apps and offers super-sensitive touch technology for controlling the display even when you're wearing gloves. The phone cuts a few corners compared to the powerful Lumia 920, with a screen resolution of 800 x 480 pixels and no LTE support, but these compromises bring the price down to just 139 EUR, or around $180 USD unsubsidized. Overall, the Lumia 520 looks like a fantastic deal.
Best large tablet: Sony Xperia Tablet Z
At just 0.3 inches thick, Sony’s Xperia Tablet Z may be the “world’s thinnest tablet,” but that isn’t the only reason it takes home the prize for Best Large Tablet of Mobile World Congress 2013. This 10-incher packs a gorgeous 1920 x 1080-pixel display with a 20 percent greater color gamut than Apple’s iPad, thanks to Sony’s Bravia Engine technology. And with a powerful quad-core Qualcomm Snapdragon S4 processor, the Xperia Z has enough muscle to take on the toughest tasks.
Oh, and did we mention the whole thing goes underwater? That’s right, the Xperia Z can take a dip in up to 6 inches of water for 30 minutes. Rounding out this tablet’s top-tier features are an integrated IR blaster and Sony’s SideView app, which allows you to see what’s on TV and change the channel.
Best small tablet: Samsung Galaxy Note 8
If Goldilocks were shopping for a tablet, she’d say the Samsung Galaxy Note 8 is just right. Samsung’s powerful new quad-core tablet was modeled after a notepad, making it ideal for taking notes in meetings using the built-in S Pen. The Galaxy Note 8 also packs a host of compelling software features, from Samsung’s Dual View multi-window feature to Idea Sketch, which provides clip art images based on words you scribble on screen. Other highlights include Smart Remote for controlling your TV and a Reading Mode that automatically adjusts the display for enjoying e-books.
Best car tech: AT&T and GM 4G LTE
AT&T and General Motors want your next car to provide a truly connected experience. The two companies announced a new partnership at Mobile World Congress 2013 that will see GM’s 2015 model year vehicles equipped with AT&T's 4G LTE modems. With all that bandwidth, you can stream video to your car’s rear seat displays and keep the kids from asking "are we there yet?" every five minutes.
GM is also considering installing cameras at all four exterior corners of select vehicles, which users will then be able to access via the Web in order to get a live look at their cars from a mobile app. The system can also determine when your car has been hit and send you an alert.
Best mobile software: AppMachine
These days everyone wants a mobile application, but software development can be a lengthy and complicated process. AppMachine is an online software platform that takes the pain and high learning curve out of creating applications for Android and iOS. Users can enter a website, social media page or RSS feed and populate an app in seconds. You can customize your app’s appearance using one of the included themes or more advanced settings. The company will even submit your application to the Apple App Store or Google Play, usually a long and tedious process, allowing you to create and sell your app in hours rather than weeks or months.
Best innovation: Firefox OS
We’ve had high hopes for Mozilla’s HTML 5-powered Firefox OS for quite awhile, and when it finally made its big debut here at Mobile World Congress 2013, it didn’t disappoint. Mozilla designed the attractive operating open system to break down the barriers between apps and Web pages and between developers and users. Unlike other platforms that rely exclusively on walled garden app stores to distribute software, Firefox OS will allow software publishers to sell their wares directly to consumers while also providing a vibrant market for app discovery.
To Mozilla, local apps and remote Web pages deserve equal treatment. So Firefox OS’ most unique feature is a dynamic search function that scours websites and HTML 5 apps at the same time. If you want information on your favorite musician, the search engine will show a screen with background wallpaper of that artist and icons representing both Web pages and apps with ticket info, biographies and songs. So far, we’ve only seen the Firefox OS running on entry-level smartphones, but it should be coming to mid-range and high-end handsets soon.
Best accessory: Samsung HomeSync
We’ve seen network-attached storage drives and we’ve seen set-top boxes, but we’ve never seen anything quite like the Samsung HomeSync, a home media center that runs a full version of Android 4.1 Jellybean while providing 1TB of storage for sharing media across all of your devices.
Using a Bluetooth input device or a Samsung smartphone as your keyboard/mouse, you can play demanding games, watch movies or run any app from Google Play on the device’s 1.7-GHz, dual-core processor. Fire up the AllShare app on your phone or tablet and use it to browse photos, videos or songs from the HomeSync’s massive hard drive.
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