MWC 2014 highlights: news, phones and tablets

After CES 2014, the next big event in the wider consumer technology calendar is the Mobile World Congress 2014 show in Barcelona, the annual showcase for the new phones and tablets to look forward to in 2014.

MWC 2014 is now over for another year, and there was plenty of news, new products, phones, tablets and smart watches.

MWC 2013 didn't showcase quite the number of flagship mobile devices that we had hoped for, with exhibitors such as LG and Samsung instead following the lead of Apple and opting to schedule separate launch events for the LG G2 and Galaxy S4 phones.

But this year, we were treated to the Samsung Galaxy S5, Samsung's new flagship Galaxy smartphone, while the Sony Xperia Z2 is the new Xperia top dog mobile.

HTC, LG and Nokia released midrange or budget phones, including the first Nokia Android phones, while there were plenty of new tablets, too, such as the Xperia Z2 Tablet.

Here's our round-up of the best smartphones, tablets and wearables from MWC 2014...

MWC 2014 highlights

Sony MWC: Xperia Z2, Z2 Tablet, M2 phone

Sony unveiled three new devices at MWC. The first of which was the heavily rumoured Xperia Z2 flagship smartphone.

The new device is 0.2-inches larger, bringing the screen up to 5.2 inches, but it also uses a completely new panel. Sony has borrowed from its TV range and used a full HD Triluminos display with Live Colour LED.

It will also shoot video in 4K resolution and has integrated digital noise cancellation, which in turn works with the bundled MDR-NC13EM Digital Noise Cancellation headphones.

Like the Z1, the Z2 is waterproof and dustproof and is fitted with a 20.7-megapixel camera. It will be released globally in March.

Sony also announced another new smartphone, the Xperia M2. The M2 is touted as "the slimmest, and best specified in its class."

It features a 4.8in qHD display along with a 1.2GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon 400 processor. It comes fitted with an 8-megapixel camera and dual-SIM capabilities; this allows users to choose between SIMs before making calls or sending texts.

Its 4G enabled and is powered by a 2300mAh battery with STAMINA Mode 3.0 for longevity. It will be released in April in black, white and purple finishes.

Finally, Sony announced a brand new tablet; the Xperia Z2 Tablet. Sony says this is "the world's most powerful, lightest and slimmest waterproof tablet." - some bold claims.

Like its Z2 smartphone counterpart, the Z2 Tablet has a Live Colour LED screen, built-in Digital Noise Cancellation and "the world's fastest processor in a tablet."

Its 10.1-inch full HD screen also utilises Sony's own Triluminos technology for mobile, along with X-Reality processing. It will be released in March.

HANDS ON: Sony Xperia Z2 review

HANDS ON: Sony Xperia Z2 Tablet review

Samsung MWC – Galaxy S5, Gear 2

Samsung unsurprisingly unveiled the new Galaxy S5 smartphone. Due for release in April, the phone features a 5.1-inch full HD Super AMOLED display, 2.5GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon 805 processor with 3GB of RAM and up to 32GB of internal storage - expandable up to 64GB via microSD.

The 16-megapixel camera claims to offer the world's fastest autofocus at 0.3 seconds, and, like the Xperia Z2, is dust- and waterproof.

Samsung was keen to improve its smartwatch arsenal. The tech giant unveiled two new models: the Gear 2 and Gear 2 Neo.

Both watches feature a 1.6-inch AMOLED screen with the Gear 2 being fitted with a 2-megapixel camera in the screen. The new wearables have built-in music players, 4GB of internal storage and work with Bluetooth headphones.

The watches allow users to view notifications from calls, texts and more. Interestingly, Samsung has also fitted the watches with Infrared LED sensors to allow you to control your TV, set-top box and other AV devices.

HANDS ON: Samsung Galaxy S5 review

MORE: Samsung reveals Gear 2 and Gear 2 Neo smart watches

Nokia MWC – X Series Android phones

Nokia confirmed previous rumours that an Android phone was in the pipeline. We in fact saw three new devices: the Nokia X; Nokia X+ and Nokia XL.

MORE: Nokia launches X Series Android phones

The phones run on Android, but also combine Nokia and Microsoft services on top. Users won't have access to the Google Play Store, but Nokia Store features many of the popular apps.

All three phones will also be able to run previously installed apps, when they're migrated over from another Android device.

The X Series sits between the Nokia Asha and Lumia ranges, and are aimed at, to quote Stephen Elop "the next billion internet users." As such, they bring low specs, the X+ for example features a 4in screen, 3MP camera and 3G. But prices range from 89 to 109 Euros.

LG MWC: G Pro 2 and G2 Mini

LG's MWC offerings weren't much of a secret at all. The company officially unveiled the G Pro 2 phablet before the event.

HANDS ON: LG G Pro 2 review

Specs include a 5.9-inch full HD display, 2.26GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon 800 processor, 3GB of RAM and up to 32GB of internal storage.

Like the Xperia Z2, it too can record video in 4K, as well as being able to shoot at 120 frames per second for slow-motion playback.

As with the G Pro 2, LG also confirmed the existence of the G2 Mini a week before MWC.

The G2 Mini features a 4.7-inch screen - once considered to be too big for a 'Mini' phone. Other specs include a 1.2GHz Qualcomm Quad-core processor and 4G LTE connectivity.

It will come running Android 4.4 and be available in black, white, red and gold.

MORE: LG officially announces G Pro 2 phablet

MORE: G2 Mini launched as LG's first "compact smartphone"

HTC MWC: Desire 816

As expected, HTC didn't unveil its new flagship device and HTC One successor - currently codenamed HTC M8.

It did however choose to announce a new mid-range handset, that strongly resembles the HTC One, in terms of design.

For a mid-range, "budget" handset, the phone offers some impressive specs: 5.5in HD 1280 x 720 screen and a 1.6GHz quad-core processor.

MORE: HTC M8 (One 2014): release date, news and rumours

MORE: HTC Desire 816 launches at MWC

Huawei MWC: MediaPad X1 7.0, MediaPad M1 8.0, Ascend G6

Chinese firm Huawei unveiled three new devices at MWC. Two tablets, and a new smartphone.

The MediaPad X1 7.0 features a 1200 x 1920 FHD LTPS touch display and 1.6GHz quad-core processor. Huawei claims this is the "world's slimmest 7-inch LTE Cat4-enabled all-in-one-phablet"

MORE: Huawei MediaPad X1 7.0 at MWC

The MediaPad M1 8.0 features an 8-inch 800 x 1200 HD IPS multi-touch capacitative screen and dual-front facing speakers, à la HTC One.

It also has 5MP and 1MP rear- and front-facing cameras. It will also, along with the X1 have 2.4/5G dual-mode wi-fi support with voice call and SMS capabilities.

MORE: Huawei MediaPad M1 8.0 at MWC

Finally, the Ascend G6 builds upon the Double C design of the Ascend P6. It features a 1.2GHz quad-core processor and 2000 mAh battery, encased in a 7.85mm thin shell.

MORE: Huawei Ascend G6 at MWC

Pre-show news, rumours and predictions

MWC will once again take place at the Fira Gran Via, with the key dates for announcements being from Mondat 24th to 27th of February. But, as is typical for the smartphone and tablet markets, the rumour mill is in full flow ahead of the event.

We'll be finding out which smartphones and tablets are worth getting excited about, and bringing you news and hands on reviews from this year's Mobile World Congress. Here's a rumour round-up of what to expect...

MORE: Best smartphones to buy in 2014

Samsung MWC 2014

Samsung was rumoured to be launching the Galaxy S4 at MWC 2013, but instead chose to launch it a month later in New York. Rumours so far are pointing to a similar event for the much-hyped Galaxy S5.

However one mobile analyst, Eldar Murtazin, has said the Galaxy S5 will in fact be unveiled at MWC 2014. He tweeted a time and date for the launch, as well as mentioning Samsung's new TouchWiz UI will be demoed too.

MORE: Samsung Galaxy S5: News, rumours and everything you need to know

The company did however launch the Galaxy Note 8.0 tablet, as well as the Galaxy Xcover 2, a rugged, low-end smartphone, and the Galaxy Express, a mid-range 4G mobile.

So for 2014, with the Galaxy S5 probably off the list, what else is there for Samsung to release?

Fingers are currently pointing to a release of a Galaxy Note 3 Lite – a slimmer, lighter version of the Galaxy Note 3. The device is said to come with a 720p 5.55-inch display, an 8-megapixel camera and 16GB of storage.

It would join the Galaxy NotePRO tablet, which we got our hands on at CES, a 12.2in-screen monster with a whopping 2560 x 1660 resolution.

There's a good chance Samsung will bring the Galaxy NotePRO to MWC to show off, as it is now available to pre-order in the UK, with a relase date penned for February 4th.

The tablet will set you back £649 and comes with a free Gamepad worth £59.

Samsung's quest to have a phone or tablet for just about every screen size shows no signs of letting up, so we wouldn't be remotely surprised to see more from the Korean giant come MWC.

Sony MWC 2014

Sony only had one main device to showcase at MWC 2013: the Xperia Tablet Z, having released the Xperia Z smartphone at CES 2013 and its successor, the Xperia Z1, at IFA 2013 in Berlin.

This year Sony launched the Xperia Z1 compact at CES 2014. The 4.3in phone arrived with a similar specification list to its bigger brother, but in a smaller shell.

Despite Sony's two flagship launches last year, some analysts are predicting it will launch the Xperia Z2 at this year's MWC.

The new device is rumoured to be touting a 5.2in screen with a 2560 x 1440 "2K" resolution. A 20.7MP camera is claimed to be on board, as well as a 3700mAh battery.

LG MWC 2014

LG was another manufacturer not to unveil a flagship device at MWC 2013, instead showing-off a line-up of mid to low-end smartphones.

That is, apart from the mighty Optimus G Pro. The 5.5in phone packed a 1.7GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon 600 processor, 2GB of RAM, a 1080p display and 13-megapixel camera, and was seen as LG's answer to the Galaxy Note. Big in Korea, in every sense, the Optimus G Pro never made it to European countries.

Instead, we made do with the high-res-audio-toting G2, which was launched at an event in New York in August as a successor to the Optimus G Pro.

The South Korean firm is once again expected to unveil a new line-up of mid to low-end smartphones at MWC 2014. And one is already confirmed, the midrange LG G2 Mini.

This is a compact version of the flagship LG G2, with many of the same features but a smaller, 4.7in screen.

There have also been rumours, naturally, around an LG G3. Expected features include a fingerprint scanner, a Quad HD, 2560 x 1440 resolution screen, and a 2.2GHz octa-core processor.

But with smartphone launches now tending to fall well on the side of over-the-top extravagance, we'd be surprised to see the G3 at MWC.

LG has recently confirmed the existence of the LG G Pro 2, saying it will be unviled in February 2014.

However, the firm failed to say whether the smartphone would be launched at MWC itself. But with the largest mobile event taking place in the same month, it would seem plausible for LG to bring the latest release to Barcelona with them.

HTC MWC 2014

The HTC One smartphone was announced just days before MWC 2013 last year. Combining the latest technology with a gorgeous aluminium body, it brought serious competition to the iPhone 5s.

This year is hotly tipped to see the launch of its successor, currently codenamed 'M8', though again, it's unlikely HTC will see MWC as a fitting setting for such a launch.

Should a new One arrive, it's expected to come with a full HD 5in display, Qualcomm's Snapdragon 800 processor clocked at 2.26GHz and 2GB of RAM. The same 4MP UltraPixel camera seen on the HTC One is rumoured to be used once again.

Nokia MWC 2014

Nokia used MWC 2013 as a platform to launch two new Lumia devices – the 520 and 720. Both devices came running Windows Phone 8, and offered users a well-made phone, with good software, but with a specification sheet sitting a rung below the top roster of smartphones.

MWC 2014 could see the launch of two new flagship Nokia Windows Phone devices, and a budget Android smartphone.

Microsoft may have bought Nokia last year, but a device with the current name of "Normandy" is said to be rumoured to come running Android. Prolific leaker @evleaks has posted several pictures of the device.

It is expected to come with a 4in, 854 x 480 display, a 1GHz dual-core Snapdragon 200 processor and a 5MP camera.

As for Windows devices, Nokia is expected to unveil the Lumia 1820 smartphone (above) and Lumia 2020 tablet, are seen as successors to the current 1020 and 2520 respectively.

The only real information released so far on the Lumia 1820 is that it will use a Lytro-style camera, that will allow users to alter the focus of the image after it has been taken, and sport a metal uni-body design.

The Lumia 2520 meanwhile is expected to feature an 8in display and use Qualcomm's Snapdragon 800 processor.

Huawei MWC 2014

Huawei was another manufacturer to unveil its flagship device away from MWC 2013: the Ascend P6 – claimed to be the "world's slimmest smartphone" at launch – measured just 6.2mm thin.

We can expect to see the successor at MWC 2014: the P6S. An improved 1.6GHz processor is predicted to be on-board, as well as increased storage of 16GB.

The screen size and dimensions are likely to remain the same, and it is expected to come running Android 4.2.2.

Google MWC 2014

The big G is once again expected to be on the show floor, showing off the latest in all things Android.

One rumour currently circling points towards the possible unveiling of the Nexus 10 2 tablet. Last year, we saw some leaked images of a possible Nexus 10 tablet hit the web, but a release never materialised.

Now it seems Google could be waiting to unveil the 2014 version of the big-boy Nexus 10 tablet in Barcelona. Watch this space.

MORE: Best budget tablets 2014

Blackphone MWC 2014

One interesting phone already teased for a full reveal at MWC is the 'Blackphone', which promises to be "the world's first smartphone that prioritises the user's privacy and control, without any hooks to carriers or vendors".

Unlocked and promising to come packing "the tools you need to move throughout the world... while shielding you from prying eyes", it uses a new PrivatOS (see what you did there) based on the Android platform.

The Blackphone claims to deliver industry-rivalling specs and performance inside a phone, which from the preview image, looks like a sleek, Nexus-style handset. Built by geeksphone, a handset manufacturer, and Silent Circle, a private communications company, it's certainly an intruiguing premise.

Oppo MWC 2014

Oppo has confirmed it will be attending MWC 2014 via Twitter. It is highly likely the Chinese firm will be showing off the new Oppo Find 7: the successor the the Find 5.

Oppo has already confirmed some of the features of the phone, one of which is a 5.5-inch 2K display, with a resolution of 538ppi. It will also come running a Qualcomm Snapdragon 800 processor clocked at 2.3GHz.

Other likely features include 3GB of RAM, 13- and 5-megapixel rear and front facing cameras and 16GB of built-in storage.

Tech website Phone Arena received some leaked images of the supposed device, showing a slim, metal frame.

Facebook MWC 2014

Mark Zuckerberg himself has been confirmed as the headline MWC keynote speaker on the first day of the show.

Facebook of course relies heavily on mobile traffic: as of October 2013, 48% of daily traffic was on a mobile device.

Zuckerberg, and other technology companies including Ericsson, Nokia and Samsung have signed up to launch the initiative. The idea is to connect the entire world to the internet via cheaper devices.

It therefore makes sense for Mr Facebook to attend MWC to speak of how Facebook plans to move forward in the mobile sector. Naturally there's speculation that there could be some Facebook news.

There could perhaps be updates to the Facebook Home launcher, which was released, mocked and is now largely ignored. Or, it could be a chance for Facebook to launch more standalone mobile apps.

The success of the company's Messenger app, which stands apart from the main Facebook app, and of course Instagram, which Facebook now owns, is likely to see the company further fracture its mobile presence. A Facebook News app? Or Facebook Games? We shall see.

CES 2014 once again provided a glimpse of the key tech trends that will define the coming year. CES, as usual dominated by TVs, showed off curved screens and for the first time bendy, flexible and even 21:9 screens.

So, does this techonology give us any pointers as to what we might see from phones and tablets?

LG and Samsung both released curved-screen phones last year in the form of the LG G Flex and Samsung Galaxy Round. Rumours suggest we could now see the first curved tablet, the Samsung Galaxy Tab Round. And it might be that curved tablets make more sense than curved TVs or phones.

Will they make use of flexible OLED technology? Could we see 21:9 aspect ratio tablets? Will there be a new hook along the lines of waterproof phones and tablets? More fingerprint sensors? The new "touchless" voice control of the Moto X? Keys on the back of the phone like the G2? More support for high-res audio?

Let's hope MWC 2014 reveals some interesting developments in the smartphone and tablet space. We'll be covering the event live and keeping tabs on any news in the run-up to the event right here.

MORE: Best tablets to buy in 2014

by Max Langridge

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Max is a staff writer for What Hi-Fi?'s sister site, TechRadar, in Australia. But being the wonderful English guy he is, he helps out with content across a number of Future sites, including What Hi-Fi?. It wouldn't be his first exposure to the world of all things hi-fi and home cinema, as his first role in technology journalism was with What Hi-Fi? in the UK. Clearly he pined to return after making the move to Australia and the team have welcomed him back with arms wide open.