Mobile World Congress 2013 in Barcelona kicks off with a fresh tablet from Samsung and a new Android handset from Huawei.
About 1,500 exhibitors are taking part at the MWC in Barcelona.
Samsung’s tablet features an 8 in (20.3 cm) screen with a resolution of 189 pixels per inch (ppi) making it slightly bigger and more detailed than Apple’s bestselling iPad Mini.
Huawei’s Ascend P2 has a 4.7 in screen with 315ppi, and a 13 megapixel camera.
The Chinese firm said it also featured a facility called Magic Touch, which allowed it to be used while wearing gloves – similar to Nokia’s Lumia 920.
Samsung’s Galaxy Note 8.0 is being promoted as a device on which users can multi-task – running two apps in split-screen mode – and can act as alternative to “traditional pen and paper” thanks to its included stylus, the S Pen.
The South Korean firm adds that it is light enough to be held by one hand, and can also be used to make phone calls.
According to the research firm IDC, Samsung was the world’s most successful smart device manufacturer in the October-to-December period, accounting for 21.2% of all shipments.
However, that position was secured in large part due to its smartphones, and IDC noted that in the tablet sector Samsung came in second with a 15.1% market share compared to Apple’s 43.6%.
“The Note 8 marks Samsung’s relentless charge to grab a slice of the tablet market from Apple, but also to defend itself from the Kindle Fire and Nexus 7,” said Ben Wood, head of research at CCS Insight.
“I think there’s a diminishing window of opportunity because Amazon and Google are playing by different rules – they are effectively willing to sell their hardware virtually at cost and then make money through content sales, whereas Samsung is a hardware manufacturer selling something for a margin.
“It’s very difficult for consumers to tell the difference between these products – but what does make Samsung stand out is the fact they are prepared to carpet bomb marketing with an eye-watering budget, which effectively marginalizes some of the other companies trying to get into the tablet space.”
The Galaxy Note 8.0 is being made available in Europe, South Korea, China and a limited number of other countries in the April-to-June period.
Huawei describes its Android-powered Ascend P2 as the world’s “fastest” smartphone thanks to it being the first to include an LTE Cat 4 chip which – in theory – allows 4G download speeds of up to 150 megabits per second,
The device also includes an NFC (near field communication) chip, allowing it to support wireless payments, and is relatively slim measuring 8.4 mm (0.33 in) thick.
However, its screen is lower resolution than recent models from LG, HTC and Nokia, and can display 720p HD video rather than 1080p output. But this may help it last longer between recharges, and the device also features a larger than average 2420 mAh battery.
According to IDC, Huawei accounted for 10.8 million smartphone shipments in the fourth quarter, making it the world’s third-biggest vendor.
However, it could still only claim a 4.9% market share since Apple and Samsung dominated the sector – something the Chinese firm itself acknowledged describing itself as a “brand in the making” at its Barcelona launch.
“Because this is a very aggressively-priced LTE phone, Huawei have a good chance of getting it into operator portfolios for 2013,” said Ben Wood.
“Brand awareness and credibility remain a challenge for Huawei. But this is a company that will never give up.
“Huawei is determined to make inroads into the mobile phone market, though the competitive intensity of this segment means they will need to spend a lot of money to succeed.”
Huawei said the phone was already confirmed to go on sale in France in June, and should launch elsewhere around the globe around the same time.
Other early MWC announcements include:
- A 16 gigabyte version of Acer’s budget Iconia B1 tablet.
- The Samsung HomeSync – a 1 terabyte hard disk designed to allow families to share content between their Samsung devices and display it on their television.
- A marketing campaign from Asus – the maker of the Google Nexus 7 – suggesting it will be the latest to launch a tablet that can also make calls at its event on Monday.
In past year’s Sony Ericsson also held a major press conference on the Sunday ahead of Monday’s official start to MWC.
But the business – which is now controlled in whole by Sony – has opted for a smaller event on Monday this year.
The move reflects it decision to launch its flagship Xperia Z phone earlier in the year at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES).
Other firms have also preferred to hold one-off events, such as Blackberry with its Z10 and Q10 unveiling in New York last month.
It is also notable that Samsung has chosen to hold off updating its key Galaxy S handset until later in the year. It unveiled the Galaxy S2 at MWC in 2011.
Press conferences at MWC
Mozilla: 18.00 local time
Nokia: 08.20 local time
Sony: 08.45 local time
Ford: 10.00 local time
Asus: 13.00 local time
ZTE: 16.00 local time
Visa: 16.30 local time