Phil Nickinson

It's good to be home.

Don't get me wrong. Mobile World Congress is a blast. That we get to work for a week in Barcelona, Spain, is but one perk of this job, and certainly not one that should be taken for granted. As always, it's great to see old friends and make a few new ones, too. And to top it all off, we had great weather this year. (The past two had been cold, wet and relatively miserable, especially for those of us from Florida.)

Oh, and we got to see the next generation of smartphones. So, yeah, there's that, too.

And with that, a few thoughts on the far side of MWC ...

The best thing I saw in Barcelona ...

That's the one question we all ask ourselves while we're there, and everyone else asks us once we get back. For me, it comes down to a couple things:

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I won't say that HTC stole the show with its new HTC One series of phones. If anything, it's a solid return to form from a manufacturer that had a less-than-stellar opening to 2011, but rebounded with the likes of the Sensation and Amaze.

But HTC One is threatening to be one hell of a phone. Well, series of phones. We've got the promise of a bad-ass camera system (thanks to the dedicated ImageSense processor), which I can't wait to test in person. If HTC's sample picture are even half as good as what we've seen, we could have a killer point-and-shoot on our hands. That's Thing 1.

Thing 2 would be that HTC is willing to return Sense to a more customizable user interface. Gone are the static launcher and dock, replaced by a more "stock" experience. HTC has still tweaked the hell out of Ice Cream Sandwich -- there's no doubt you're still using a Sense phone. For those of you worried about the legacy menu buttons -- don't be. It's pretty intuitive, popping up as an option at the bottom of the screen. (HTC has smartly designed its own Sense menu buttons by plopping the word "Menu" on them.) It's a different feel from stock Ice Cream Sandwich. Definitely more friendly. I'm looking forward to spending some quality time with it.

Thing 3, to a lesser extent, is the excellent-looking car dock. Need to take it out on the road, still. But in demo form, I was very impressed.

As for the three HTC One phones -- the HTC One X, HTC One S and HTC One V -- I'm still on the fence as to which is my favorite.

  • The One X has the solid polycarbonate body and a 720p display, but it's gonna be too big for some.
  • The One S is impossibly thin and has that cool microarc oxidation coating. But you drop down to qHD resolution, and that may be hard to go back to.
  • The One V has the venerable design of the HTC Legend, which was enjoyed by far too few people.

All three, however, have non-removable batteries. That's going to be a big thing for some of us.

Regardless, HTC's what had me excited in Barcelona, since you asked.

Post-Mobile World Congress rumors

The ink had barely dried on MWC stories when the rumors started. Here's the deal: You'll absolutely be seeing a good lot of what we saw announced last week on U.S. carriers in the coming weeks and moths. A few have already been announced. More are coming. Of that, we are certain. But it's still pretty early in the testing game for many.

Rumors are fun, I suppose. But when you're in the Mobile World Capital (seriously, they've got a website and everything), I'd rather focus on the dozens of devices that actually exist. I know. I'm crazy like that. (And why would you fly 5,000 miles to not report the news?)

Android 5.0 Jelly Bean

Folks seem all in a tizzy to confirm that the next version of Android will be Android 5.0, and be nicknamed Jelly Bean. Yeah, Google had a big bowl full of 'em at its booth. It's pretty much a forgone conclusion, right? We're currently on Android 4.X. So 5.X would make sense, I suppose, though it's certainly not a forgone conclusion. (Remember that Android 2.x saw three nicknames -- Eclair, Froyo and Gingerbread.)

Has anyone else come up with a better J nickname than Jelly Bean?

Alex Dobie reminded me of the important part: It's just a name. Tell me what's actually in the next version of the OS, and I'll get excited. Otherwise, we're all just running around in circles. "Ah ha! We know its name! ... Uh, now what?"

(Fun fact: I wrote this section before The Verge came out with news today that the K version of Android reportedly will be Key Lime Pie. That's very much unofficial, of course, but the fact that it's just a name and not a feature set still applies.)

LG Optimus Vu - Oversized, underpurposed

I love LG. I really do. I think it's been underestimated as a smartphone manufacturer for a couple years now, and the importance of the Optimus One line as a worldwide mid-level smartphone wasn't really appreciated. It's just wasn't sexy enough for most people.

Know what else ain't sexy? The LG Optimus Vu. That's the 5-inch, 4:3 aspect ration behemoth unveiled at MWC. Oh, it's thin, and it's got LTE. But it's huge. And awkward. Word on the street is that it was a direct knee-jerk reaction to the Samsung Galaxy Note (can you believe it's actually been around since last fall?) and that some inside LG don't know what the hell to do with it, either.

It's not that it's a horrible device, when you get over the size, odd aspect ration and the fact that the software isn't tailored to it anywhere near as well as the Galaxy Note.

Now the L-Series? That's got some sex to it.

Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1 - Same size, extra purpose

To Samsung, I say this: I don't get the Galaxy Tab 2. Probably it skirts Apple design patents, so that makes sense. But it's the Galaxy Note 10.1 that stirred my loins just a little bit. The stylus (erm, S Pen) used in the Galaxy note is excellent technology. Not perfect, perhaps, and it's not for everyone, but it works pretty darn well, and the software is nicely tailored to it.

Scale that up to 10 inches and throw in Photoshop Touch, and the Galaxy Note 10.1 has the makings of a damn fine tablet. 

Seriously, Samsung. Drop the 17 different form factors and concentrate on baking the S Pen into everything bigger than 5 inches. If you really want to differentiate, that's how you do it -- and not by releasing tablets every three months in half-inch increments.

Apple stole the show at Mobile World Congress

So Google chairman Eric Schmidt is in the middle of his keynote address last Tuesday when Apple sent out the press invites to the next iPad event. Here are a few things that didn't happen:

  • Schmidt stopped in mid-sentence, hung his head, muttered "not again" and slinked off the stage.
  • The halls of Mobile World Congress emptied into the streets.
  •  A fog rolled in and an eerie voice echoed down from the Parc de Montjuic, whispering "Here's to the crazy ones."

Maybe Apple sent invites for the iPad 3 event during Schmidt's keynote on purpose. But I guarantee you Schmidt was the last person to care about the timing.

If anything was exposed here, it was the ridiculously short attention span of bloggers. An imminent iPad announcement is a big deal, to be sure. But I don't think it takes more than one person to write up. And it probably doesn't need to be someone currently covering a live event 5,000 miles away.

Schmidt's address was a lot of worldview tech stuff. It's not overly sexy, but it's important. It's worth watching.

And one last thing ...

If you have written something that gets anywhere close to "ANDROID CAN SEE ALL YOUR PHOTOS!!! ZOMG!!!" ... Step away from the computer. In fact, shut it down, pack it up, and throw it out the window. And not necessarily in that order.

Privacy and security are a big deal. And they're not going to become less important as we continue to hurl our once-analog lives into the digital space. But acting that Android is doing anything untoward in its handling of pictures you've taken on your phone is just beyond ridiculous. It does it exactly how it's done it since Day 1, and it does it exactly how your home PC or Mac or Linux box has done from the moment your first booted it up. Read Jerry's explanation on the whole thing. Then smack anyone who writes different upside the head.