Five trends seen at Mobile World Congress

This year's Mobile World Congress (MWC) may have been lacking in high-end smartphone launches, but lower-cost models are needed to open up the mobile-phone market globally.

Here are some trends seen at MWC that indicate where the mobile market is headed.
Five trends seen at Mobile World Congress

New operating systems

Mozilla’s smartphone operating system, Firefox OS, got the most attention, but the Tizen camp led by Samsung and Intel, Jolla and its Sailfish, as well as Canonical, which is hard at work on Ubuntu for smartphones and tablets, were all at MWC.

Alcatel One Touch, LG and ZTE are all developing smartphones based on Firefox OS, with prices expected to be below $100. Huawei also said it will launch Firefox OS products later this year. Sony has voiced its support, but hasn't made a final decision on whether it will develop commercial products.

Smartphones using the other three platforms are also likely to arrive this year. Even though they are doing more to improve the smartphone user experience, Canonical and Jolla are in for an uphill struggle. The advantage they have is that their size means they don't have to sell as many phones as a company such as BlackBerry to make a go of it.

HD Voice spreads to the low-end

According to the latest research from GSA, 160 products with support for HD Voice have been announced -120 percent more year on year. Showing it is a technology for phones in all price ranges. Nokia introduced the 301, a feature phone that costs around £56.

The improved quality HD Voice offers is possible thanks to the use of AMR-WB, a speech-compression algorithm that increases the range of voice frequencies transmitted.

Investment in mobile networks and devices with HD Voice will accelerate in 2013. All manufacturers are urged to ship their feature phones and smartphones with AMR-WB activated by default, according to Alan Hadden, president of the GSA.

For HD Voice, both caller and receiver need a compatible phone, and the network also needs to support the technology.

LTE smartphone price drop

As 4G technology continues to roll out worldwide, there is a growing need for LTE-capable phones in lower price ranges.

Smartphones that cost around $200 will emerge toward the year's end, starting with mid-tier phones from Huawei, LG, Samsung and Orange.

This development will continue as processor vendors such as nVidia develop new processors that are customised for use in cheaper LTE smartphones and tablets.

Experimentation with screen size

Whatever screen size your heart desires, there is probably a smartphone or tablet to suit. At MWC Samsung launched the Galaxy Note 8, which has an 8in screen, and ZTE introduced the Grand Memo, a 5.7in-screen phablet. The Memo's existence owes to the success of the Note and Note II but, without Samsung's brand and marketing might, ZTE may struggle to replicate its success.

The dual-screen form-factor made a comeback at MWC. The Medias W from NEC has two 4.3in (540x960) screens that are separated by a hinge that allows the device to be folded in the middle.

The battle for enterprise

Enterprises that want to equip their employees with smartphones and tablets have a growing number of options.

Just before MWC began Citrix Systems launched XenMobile MDM, an integrated mobile-device-management offering based on the company’s acquisition of Zenprise, and IBM presented MobileFirst. At the show, Samsung also launched Knox, which separates business and personal use of a mobile device.