From LG’s modular G5 smartphone, to Huawei’s 2-in-1 MateBook and Ford’s brilliant Sync 3. This year’s MWC was a good one.
Most shows have a couple of stand-out products. Mobile World Congress – or MWC, as everyone calls it – is different, and thanks to the importance of mobile technology the spread of innovative and amazing things isn’t matched by any other week of the year.
It is, then, tough to choose the best of the best, but choose them we have to for this year’s Alphr Best of MWC Awards. Here’s our selection of the things which delighted us, and which we think will go on to delight you too.
Best Smartphone – LG G5
Where every other manufacturer seems content to up the pixel count, push the processor speeds and tiptoe forwards with incremental improvements, LG has done something genuinely different with the LG G5: it’s reinvented the phone with a modular design that allows it to be upgraded and tweaked with camera add-ons, high-end DACs and replaceable batteries. It stood out – and that’s why it is our Best Smartphone of MWC.
Best Tablet – Lenovo Miix 310
Every manufacturer has a low-cost tablet, but Lenovo’s Miix 310 really does stand out from the crowd. It doesn’t look like it’s been built on a budget, for a start – you won’t have users of more expensive tablets sneering at you, and in fact you might get a few of them looking enviously instead. And the most important feature of any tablet – the screen – is bright, good looking and feels like something you’d get on a device costing twice as much. Other manufacturers, take heed: this is how you make a low cost device that people will actually want.
Most innovative company – LeEco
LeEco won’t be a name most people are familiar with in the west, but they’re incredibly impressive and a real hive of innovation. Yes, they are making some really nice phones – but the standard of phones coming out of China now is so high that’s almost a given. Where they are innovating is in creating hardware which is optimised for their ecosystem, effectively building a business the opposite way to most companies. Throw in that they’re working with Aston Martin on automotive technology and creating the first smart bicycles we’ve seen that you’d actually want to ride, and they are definitely one to watch.
Best car tech – Ford Sync 3
Ford has always been a name that’s synonymous with engineering, but the Ford of the 21st century also wants to be known for brilliant user experience design – and the company’s Sync 3 connected car system is at the centre of this. Yes, it does CarPlay, and Android Auto, and in the future probably any other system you want. But the key thing about it is the way that Ford has thought through the experience, where “user journeys” are literally journeys. Nothing you need to do quickly is more than a tap away, and it updates automatically by connecting to your home WiFi network. The smart car really is already here.
Best 2-in-1 – Huawei MateBook
What Huawei are doing with the MateBook may be something more than just creating a nice product: it may be the start of the reinvention and resurgence of the notebook PC. By using the design and engineering experience they have gained from creating some really good smartphones and applying it to a Windows 2-in-1, they’ve created something as light and good looking as an iPad Pro which is also as powerful as a Surface Pro 4. Oh, and it starts at just $US699. We think Huawei’s biggest challenge might be making enough of them to meet demand, which makes it a worthy award winner.
Best VR product – Samsung Gear 360
VR was everywhere at MWC, but more rare was any way of creating VR content. The Gear 360 is a small 360 degree camera which lets you create panoramic, interactive content. You can, of course, view this content on a normal screen – but where it gets really impressive is if you use it with a Gear VR headset, which gives you a truly immersive experience. If VR is to take off, it will be because of the content that’s available, and devices like the Gear 360 are going to lead the way by letting consumers create their own immersive content.
Sony Xperia Xa
To put it mildly, Sony has made the best-looking mid-range smartphone you can buy. It’s actually so good that no one will know you’ve spent under $500 hundred dollars on it (based on the US price conversion), and it looks at home sat next to any high-end expensive device. Of course, there have been compromises made, but they are sensible ones. What you get for your money is an incredibly well-balanced phone, at a great price, which you’ll be very happy with. You can’t ask for much more than that.
Best smartphone accessory – Sony Xperia Ear
The Xperia Ear looks like just another Bluetooth headset, but it goes a long, long way beyond that. It is, in fact, a personal assistant embedded into a piece of incredibly well-designed hardware. As soon as the Xperia Ear senses you’ve put it in, it goes into personal assistant mode, informing you of any calls or texts you might have missed since the last time you popped it in, or what the weather forecast is today. It can even give you traffic updates. It’s a product which makes you feel like you’re living in a science fiction future, and we loved it.
Best fitness products – Garmin Vivoactive HR
The problem with using an Android or Apple smartwatch is you still need a smartphone with you when you’re working out. Fitness watches don’t and the Garmin Vivoactive HR is one of the best we’ve seen so far. It looks great, has a 8 day battery life (13-hours with GPS turned on) and as the name suggests, the Vivoactive now a built-in heart rate monitor, so you can forget about buying a chest strap too. What’s equally impressive is its sporting prowess. This device is designed to work with you when you, swimming, cycling, running, walking and is even a GPS range finder for if/when you’re golfing.