Our favorites from Mobile World Congress 2016.
The time has come once again to leave beautiful Barcelona and all of the amazing things we've seen behind. Mobile World Congress is always an incredible place to look at what we can expect from the entire mobile landscape over the next couple of months, but as is often the case there's a few things that truly stood out as exceptional. With that in mind, we've assembled a list of our top picks for this year's Mobile World Congress.
If you want to see all of our MWC coverage — lets face it, you probably missed a couple of things — be sure to check out our MWC 2016 page and then continue on to see our top picks for this year.
1. Samsung Galaxy S7 and Galaxy S7 edge
Do words even need to go here? Samsung's next pair of phones are equal parts style and power, with no clear competition in sight. The company is as focused as ever on delivering their own ecosystem on top of Android, and as a result we're getting hardware in 2016 from the biggest smartphone manufacturer on the planet with waterproofing, removable storage, and what looks like an impossibly good camera. Sure, Samsung stuck with the microUSB port so they could push forward at full speed with the Gear VR and that removable storage isn't part of the adoptable storage system Google introduced, but for a ton of people out there neither of those things matter.
It's going to be a lot of fun exploring everything these phones are capable of, and it couldn't be more clear by the reaction so far that Samsung did right by their audience with this release.
2. LG G5
The company with a long history of breaking the mold ditched leather backplates and a unique volume and power combo on the back for a metal unibody design with a fingerprint sensor on the back. If it weren't for the whole bottom of this phone coming off to expose the removable battery and make room for some modular accessories to make photography and audio consumption more fun on a phone, you might have been able to call the G5 boring. Fortunately for LG fans, it looks like this phone is going to go well above and beyond what we expect a phone to be capable of.
Pour one out for the Rear Key, but get excited for everything LG is bringing to the table with the G5.
3. Sony Xperia X and X Performance
Folks in the U.S. might still be surprised to hear that Sony makes Android phones that are, on occasion, a genuine pleasure to use. With any luck that will change with the Xperia X and Xperia X Performance, a pair of mid-range phones that target a market we've seen grow tremendously over the last year. If Sony can actually get phones to the US in a reasonable timeframe doing something interesting like these two phones seem to be doing, we're going to see even more curiosity in the that mid range this year.
4. Xiaomi Mi 5
Xiaomi is the only massively successful smartphone in the world without a US or European presence, and there's a reasonable chance that could change this year. The new Mi 5 is packing a Snapdragon 820 processor and 4GB of RAM under a 5.15-inch display powered by a 3,000 mAh battery. It's also packing a 16MP Sony sensor with a unique 4-axis OIS that we can't wait to spend some time with. That alone is enough to capture the attention of Android specs geeks around the world, but when that hardware is coupled with a $306 price tag for the 32GB model, it's a phone that simply can't be ignored.
You can expect us to be spending a lot more time with this phone as soon as possible, as it's likely to cause even more excitement in an already explosive mid-range market.
5. Alcatel Idol 4 and Idol 4S
It would be enough to say that Alcatel won an award from us for being clever and turning a Google Cardboard kit into their retail packaging, but that takes away from just how nice the Idol 4 and 4S look and feel. Alcatel started showing signs of a mid-range experience with a premium feel last year, and it looks like this year the transformation has been completed. The sleek glass and metal in multiple colors is matched only by the unique, clever software that Alcatel has been rocking for a little while now.
6. LG Rolling Bot
Of the accessories LG announced for their shiny new smartphone, a rolling robot with a camera and IR sensor is by far the most impressive. LG is selling this as a security camera, cat toy, remote control for your TV, and smart home hub all in one rolling white orb. As we've seen with BB-8 by Sphero, it's enough to have something that rolls around and crashes into things. Not we have something that rolls around and crashes into things and actually does stuff. As long as the price is right, you can bet we'll be chasing cats and interrupting the evening news with this little bugger as soon as it is available for purchase.
7. Samsung Gear 360 camera
We've known for a year now that Samsung was aware of the need to give users the ability to power their own VR experiences with a 360 camera. The next challenge is making something easy enough to use at a price point that makes it so Gear VR users actually take the plunge and have some fun with it. That's where the Gear 360 comes in, and with any luck it will be the first step for a lot of people in capturing 360 videos that can be experienced just about anywhere.
If for no other reason than to compare it to the impressive lineup of 360 cameras we've seen announced this year, the Gear 360 cam is high on our list of things to play with some more.
8. LG 360 VR
Someone at LG agrees that having a phone in a box half an inch from your face is a recipe for awkwardness, and decided to make a Google Cardboard kit that is way more complicated than just a cardboard box. The LG 360 VR is a VR headset with its own display and sensors, which means it can be lighter, thinner, and sleeker. All you have to do is plug the headset into your LG G5, and you should be good to explore all of the Cardboard apps you like.
We've still got a lot of questions that need answering about this one, but it's hard to not be impressed with the effort here.
9. HTC One X9
It may surprise you to know that HTC's precense at MWC this year was for more than just showing off the consumer version of the HTC Vive that will be available for pre-order soon. The HTC One X9 is not a return to form for the One X series, but instead is bigger version of the HTC One A9 with no fingerprint sensor that had previously only been available in Asia. With a 3,000 mAh battery and the MediaTek Helio X10 processor it's unlikely we'll see this dual-SIM phone in the US, but it does offer up an idea of what a larger A9 would look like. You know, just in case there happens to be an M9 with a similar form right around the corner.
10. ZTE Blade V7
If you're looking for an all-metal phone running Marshmallow that doesn't leave the $250 price bracket, ZTE might have something to show you. The Blade V7 is running a highly stylized version of Android, but with a 1080p display and 2GB of RAM the phone is certainly one of the better options in this price bracket. Toss in an 8MP selfie camera with front-facing flash and you've got everything you've got a great recipe for low-to-mid range competition.
We've got a hands-on with the Blade V7 and it's $189 cousin the V7 Lite for anyone interested in more details.
11. Lenovo Tab3 7 tablet
Lenovo has a decent presence in the U.S. when it comes to tablets, and it gains traction by targeting the lower end of the market with better hardware and specs than you expect. The Tab3 series comes in three different sizes, but the smallest of the three is the most interesting.
The Tab3 7 is thin and light enough to use in one hand, and considering that it's positioned towards families with children that makes even more sense. The software matches up with that idea, leveraging Android 6.0 with multi-user capabilities to put restrictions on children's profiles so they can't get themselves into too much trouble. There are parental controls over apps, data usage, websites and even just time logged into the device, which is a huge bonus for those who need it.
Considering it has a MediaTek processor and 1GB of RAM you won't be flying around every app on the Tab3 7, but that's not what it's about. At $129 you can deal with a few slowdowns (and really, this'll handle most basic tasks you'll throw at it), particularly if you're planning to handle this to a kid who may not know the value of such electronics just yet.