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The best handsets to watch out for at Mobile World Congress 2012

Who wants to wait another week?

The best handsets to watch out for at Mobile World Congress 2012
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It's less than a week until Mobile World Congress, but as has become the tradition in the last few years, manufacturers are all trying new ways to grab your attention.

If it's not holding a press conference the day before the event kicks off, it's letting a few smaller announcements come out before.

Or, if you're Apple or Samsung, waiting until the stands have come down and saving the best until last.

We've rounded up all of the rumours circulating to produce what we hope is a fairly comprehensive guide of the new hardware to expect at MWC, even if some of the model names may be different and the odd specification might change.

Acer Acer-cloud

Acer has been pretty quiet lately, although it has been busy working behind the scenes to begin the roll-out of Ice Cream Sandwich updates for most of it existing Iconia tablets, so we're certainly not unhappy about that.

One new phone to behold will be the CloudMobile, featuring Acer's new AcerCloud technology. Let's hope users have a decent data connection, as the service means accessing music, video and photos via the cloud, including accessing documents and even printing wirelessly.

The handset itself is slim (sub-1cm) and features a narrow bezel around the 4.3-inch screen and a Dolby speaker plate on the back. It has already won Acer an iF Product Design award and it's not even shipping yet.

The new phone will go on sale in Q3, so there's still a fair bit of time to wait yet.

Asus

Asus-Padfone

Shown before in prototype form, MWC is where we're likely to see the production-ready Padfone - a rather interesting concept that sees the smartphone slotting into a separate screen to transform the smartphone into a tablet.

There's still some uncertainty about what processor the Padfone will use, but that's more likely due to Asus wanting the most powerful one around.

HTC HTC-One-X

HTC has had a bit of a shaky time of late, after getting rather carried away in 2011 that saw far too many handsets that were rather too similar to each other.

The company hinted it would take things a bit easier in 2012, but the supposed line-up for MWC suggests they might have changed their mind.

According to Pocket-Lint, HTC could be about to go ahead and launch a large number of new smartphones, all under the new 'HTC One' range. Possibly a sign that they'll begin to operate like Apple by increasing the number by one every 12 months?

HTC is also rumoured to have done a deal with Nvidia for it's Tegra 3 quad-core chipset, moving away from an exclusive agreement to use Qualcomm's chipsets.

The first product to use the Tegra 3 chipset could be the HTC One X, a monster of a phone with a 4.7-inch HD display. Other models will include another Beats Audio equipped One V, plus two other models; the One S and One XL. Finally, HTC also has a new tablet to show off.

If you believed HTC was going to scale back its operations, you'd be totally off the mark.

Huawei Huawei-Ascend-D1-Q

Huawei wants to make a name for itself and follow in the footsteps of HTC, although we hope that doesn't include peaking too quickly and suffering from slowing sales like its Taiwanese rival.

At the Consumer Electronics Show in January, Huawei showed two flagship handsets called the Ascend P1 and P1 S. Now it also has another on the horizon, the Ascend D1 Q.

The Q stands for quad-core, suggesting the power will be boosted even further than the P1 and P1 S, although details remain sketchy.

Image credit: Techorz

LG lg-optimus-vu

There are strong signs that 2012 is the year LG Mobile tries to turn itself around and get back into the game. This will include handsets like the X3, a Tegra 3 quad-core smartphone with a 4.7-inch screen, 8-megapixel camera and 32GB of storage – not too dissimilar to the HTC One X.

It also seems like LG is a sucker for punishment, and will press ahead with another phone with a glasses-free 3D display. After poor sales of the Optimus 3D, it seems crazy to want to try again.

Then there's the Optimus Vu, LG's take on the Samsung Galaxy Note. Fitted with a digital stylus, the Vu goes for a 5-inch, 4:3 ratio, display to cut down the height.

It's slimmer too, and fitted with a 1.5GHz dual-core processor, 1GB RAM and 32GB of storage. Like the Note, it also has an 8-megapixel camera, but does it have a market?

Like the Galaxy Note, it also ships with Android 2.3 and not Ice Cream Sandwich, which seems rather inexcusable.

Motorola motorola-droid-razr-maxx

We're not sure exactly what Motorola is working on, given the purchase by Google has now been approved.

It could mean a brand new Google-branded tablet, but until then there's the chance of seeing a European release of the Razr Maxx (a thicker Razr with a bigger battery) and the Atrix 3, which retains the basic look and feel of the first two, but bumps up the screen to HD-resolution and a Tegra3 quad-core processor.

Previous attendances at MWC have also lacked any significant announcements, as the American firm favoured the Las Vegas CES for all the big news, but now that it's under new management, we're still thinking that there could be a surprise in store.

Nokia Nokia-lumia-900

With all the changes at Nokia over the last two years, Nokia sat out of attending MWC for a while. Now it is back, and there are likely to be six new handset announcements.

First up will be some new Symbian handsets, which may not find their way into the UK market (so we're going to gloss over them for now).

The ones we'll be looking out for are the new Windows Phone handsets, which will include the European variant of the Lumia 900, and two more. The Lumia 610 will sit below the 710, while there could be another, as yet unknown, model.

Nokia also likes to produce a range of cool accessories to accompany its handsets, from speakers to Bluetooth headsets, and you can also expect some new Nokia apps for Windows Phone too.

RIM Blackberry-Playbook

With new devices not due until the end of 2012, the Canadian firm is likely to be rather low-key at MWC, concentrating instead on attracting developers to take an interest in BlackBerry OS 10.

Then again, the company might wish to promote the PlayBook OS 2.0 update for the PlayBook that came out this week, and show off the ability to run selected Android applications.

Samsung samsung-galaxy-s3

Next up is Samsung. As a company that has been accused of copying so much of what Apple does, it seems the South Korean firm has chosen to copy Apple once more and announce its flagship smartphone after MWC.

The Samsung Galaxy S III, a handset that will be its top-end model for 2012, is likely to be based on the Galaxy Nexus that Samsung also builds, but almost certainly with an 8-megapixel snapper and, of course, the TouchWiz front-end user interface.

After announcing the Galaxy Tab 2, its first tablet with Ice Cream Sandwich, there's likely to be a higher-end tablet and one rumour is of a Galaxy Tab 11.6, with a reduced bezel and edge-to-edge screen to keep the dimensions similar to that of the 10.1.

It will also get Android 4, but if Apple is due to upgrade its iPad 3 screen then it seems Samsung plans to do so too, with a display that could show a whopping 2,560x1,600 pixels.

Given that's higher than that of an 27-inch iMac display, we have to wonder if things are being taken a little too far.

Other smartphones on show will include the Galaxy Mini 2 and Galaxy Ace 2, as well as a possible update of the Galaxy S II.

Sony Mobile

sony-xperia-s

Having now bought out Ericsson from the joint venture, Sony is now ready to go it alone. The company logo remains, as will the Xperia name that features on all of the 2012 models to be shown off in Barcelona.

The company already showed off its flagship Xperia S last month, and now it's time to fill in the other market segments. First up will be the Xperia P, a slightly smaller version of the S that gets a smaller 4-inch display (540x960 pixels) and an 8-megapixel camera, but still with the same 1.5GHz dual-core processor.

Below that comes the Xperia U, with a 3.5-inch display that displays 480x854 pixels, 5-megapixel snapper and a 1GHz dual-core processor. Both the P and U models will also feature the transparent antenna band too.

Expect to see more demonstrations of how these smartphones will work with other Sony products, from tablets to televisions, as well as the forthcoming Google TV box.

Rather than churning out huge numbers of handsets, it's likely we'll see more updates for existing models, as and when new Sony services are launched.

ZTE zte-mimosa-x

Besides two LTE enabled mobiles that won't appear in the UK, there's also the Mimosa X that was announced just ahead of the event.

The handset is a fairly ordinary smartphone with a Nvidia Tegra2 dual-core processor, but if you're really into your chipsets then one significant feature is the use of Nvidia's new Icera 450 HSPA+ modem. It means support for faster data downloading and uploading on suitably equipped mobile networks.

Running Android Ice Cream Sandwich and featuring a 540x960 pixel display, complete with a 5-megapixel autofocus camera, this handset will sit at a much higher level than most ZTE handsets we've seen.

Clearly ZTE is planning to make a name for itself as a quality handset manufacturer, just like its arch rival, Huawei.

Image credit: Unknown

Panasonic Panasonic-eulga

Panasonic is getting back into the mobile phone business, and was obviously so keen to let everyone know that it decided to show off the brand-new Eluga a week before.

The Eluga is a stylish phone that is also one of the slimmest on the market, with the additional bonus of being both water and dust proof.

Image Credit: Techradar

And finally... what is it we'll all be most interested in?

tegra3_chip

Mobile World Congress may be the place to see all the new hardware, but anyone reading through the above list is probably fully aware of the fact that besides different manufacturer names written on the front, back or side, there's not a great deal new to tell one model apart from another.

Or is there?

Although the basic specs are now broadly similar, from screen to camera resolutions, there could well be a new way to influence what phone or tablet to buy, and it won't be the colour of the casing or how many millimetres thinner it is. The battle will be fought out in the chipset arena, the one part of the device that you can't even see.

Qualcomm currently rules the roost, but Nvidia has come along with its Tegra 3 chipset that offers a mighty package with plenty of power-saving technology. Intel is also muscling in, but Qualcomm isn't sitting back and allowing itself to lose out. Its latest S4 processor, codenamed 'Krait' has been outed by Engadget as offering 'insane' benchmarking results.

Can the mobile industry end up with its customers choosing a new phone based on its chipset, like Intel vs AMD in the PC industry? Well, it might happen whether consumers like it or not as there are already games being released that are optimised for, or availably only on, certain chipsets. Games like Borderlands 2 from Gearbox Software that join many other games already available only for Tegra chipset devices.

And there was us thinking that with everything going to Android it was going to be nice and simple!

If you're still left wondering exactly what is going to happen, don't worry. Mobile World Congress hasn't even started yet, so keep checking back here as we fill in the blanks over the next week.