Ah, Barcelona. A city synonymous with history, art and architecture. But for 4 days in late-February and early-March, thousands of tech enthusiasts descend upon Spain’s second-largest city for the Mobile World Congress, where each year the industry’s top brands reveal new smartphones and smartphone technologies. While Samsung, Apple and Huawei prefer to launch their flagship products during their own yearly conferences, MWC gives other brands a chance to showcase some surprisingly great devices. Here are 5 of our favourites to come out of this year’s event.
Huawei Mate X | Available Q2 2019 | Starting at R36,000
Foldable smartphones are here and there’s nothing we can do about it. While Samsung launched their Galaxy Fold at their unpacked event on 20 February, Huawei decided to wait for a bigger stage at MWC, debuting their anticipated Mate X. Many argued that the device looks more appealing than Samsung’s but questioned the practicality. Starting at $2600 (an eye-watering R36,000), it runs the Kirin 980 AI processor, 8GB of RAM, 512GB on-board memory and comes with an 8-inch OLED display which, when folded, creates two displays on the front and back at 6.6- and 6.38-inches respectively. The Mate X also comes with Huawei’s brilliant Leica camera system, with a 40mp wide-angle shooter, 16mp ultra-wide lens and 8mp telephoto for deep, high-quality images.
See the launch trailer here.
Energizer P18K Pop | Available July 2019, no launch confirmed for South Africa | Starting at R9,600
When you think of Energizer, you’re usually thinking of a good ol’ pack of AA batteries for your TV remote. But what most people don’t know, is that in addition to batteries, the company dabbles in the smartphone industry from time to time. They had a pretty prominent display at MWC this year, where the brand launched 26 new smartphones, including its most ambitious – the P18K Pop. This 18mm thick phone comes with all the bells and whistles of a high-end device – MediaTek processor, 6GB of RAM, 128GB storage, Android 9 – but the biggest selling point is its battery, coming in at a massive 18,000mAh, which guarantees 48 hours of video playback and 50 days of standby time. If that doesn't gets you excited, especially in an age where we're constantly needing to be online, then we don't know what will.
Watch a hands-on review here.
Sony Xperia 1 | Available June 2019 | Starting at R14,000, local pricing to be confirmed
Over the last few years, Sony – which once had a mammoth following, even in South Africa – has kind of been left behind and has battled in trying to keep up with the likes of Huawei, Samsung and Apple. But 2019 may see the brand return to its former glory days (although it needs to be marketed better) as the Japanese brand launched the brand new Xperia 1 (which should not be confused with the original Xperia device, obviously). Sony says it is the first 4K OLED display in any smartphone and comes with a cinematic 21:9 aspect ratio. Inside, is the latest Snapdragon 855 chipset, Android 9, a choice of 64 or 128GB (come on, Sony) and 6GB of RAM. The device is set to launch in June 2019 with a price tag of around R16,000 though this is yet to be confirmed by Sony. At R16,000, it's playing into flagship Huawei and Samsung territory, which should be of some concern.
Watch the launch trailer here.
LG G8 ThinQ | Available Q2 2019 | Starting at R11,000, local pricing to be confirmed
LG is still at it. Much like Sony, the brand has battled to keep up with the other major players and this year’s LG G8 might be a step in the right direction. Under the hood you’ll find the usual – Snapdragon 855, 3500mAh battery, 6GB of RAM and 128GB of storage. Pretty tame specs if you ask us. New to the G8, are advanced hand gestures called ‘Air Motion’, which utilises LG’s new Hand ID tech, which maps and identifies the blood flow in your hand. Yes, smartphones are getting a little too clever. With Air Motion, you can use gestures to switch between apps and even alternate the volume by turning your wrist as if using a physical dial. We’re impressed, LG.
Watch the product video here.
Nokia 9 PureView | Available Q2 2019 | Starting at R10,000, local pricing to be confirmed
What does R10,000 buy you these days? It’s not even close for a top-end Huawei Mate 20 or Samsung Galaxy S10. But it will get you the Nokia 9 PureView. Nokia has quickly risen through the ranks and since returning has launched several high-quality devices at flagship-killing prices. The 9 PureView comes with a Snapdragon 845 chipset, 6GB of RAM and 128GB of storage. Its best feature, however, has to be the 5 camera lenses on the rear of the device – 2 of them capturing in RGB colour and the other 3 in black and white, which creates some incredibly rich images and – unseen in this price range – RAW images saved directly to the phone. All five cameras work simultaneously and combine five images to produce an image with incredible dynamic range. Furthermore, the 9 PureView ships with Android One, which means it will get Google security and software updates faster than any other brand.
Watch the launch video here.
MWC isn't the end for smartphones in 2019 with Huawei set to launch its P30 range at the end of March, Samsung reveals the next Note in August, and Apple set to announce its next iPhone in September. MWC has shown as that there are a ton of options out there, from premium well-known names like Huawei all the way to your ultra-competitive Energizer, Vivo and Oppo brands. While South Africa doesn't have a deep smartphone market like other countries, we're still spoiled for choice with a wide array of smart devices to suit each and everyone's needs, tastes and pockets.
Disclaimer: All pricing is a conversion from the announced US$ pricing. Local prices may be adjusted for import tax, duties and other charges.