The LG G6 was easily the star of this year's MWC. Learning its lessons the hard way, LG has come up with a winning formula this year. No more gimmicky modular Friends, an infinitely better looking design, plenty of display and still two cameras on the back - what's not to like?
The G6 aside, there were a couple of camera advancements that I can file in the 'impressive' folder. One is Sony's 960fps video recording on the Xperia XZ Premium. Even if for just 0.18s at a time and in 720p resolution, it's a pretty fun and useful tool for capturing fast action.
The other one is Oppo's 5x zoom camera concept. It's neither 5x (in fact, the long one is 3x the focal length of the wide one), nor actually 'zoom' (in-between focal lengths are recreated in software). That said, multiple cameras with different focal lengths is the direction in which I want to see phone cameras evolve - that's what I wished for in our 2016 recap article, and it's pretty amazing to see my wishes come true that soon. Okay, not really - Oppo's concept is missing an ultra-wide-angle shooter like the G6's. Three cameras on a phone's back isn't an overkill, right? Right?
MWC 2017 was actually one of the most interesting installments of the convention in recent memory. I sort of feel obliged to start with Nokia and not simply because like many, I hold the brand and the memories it brings back dear. The new HMD trio actually managed to impress me with its take on a value smartphone formula. Sure, there is the specs argument and it is a fact you can get a lot more for your money in this department from the likes of Xiaomi or Meizu. However, the entire new Nokia lineup looks well-made, tough and reliable - just like a Nokia should. And the pure-Android approach carries over the same straight-forward mentality to smartphones on the software side of things. Nokia might very well be a perfect fit for the very specific good-value, name-brand niche the Moto G has been occupying for a while now and sadly seems to be moving away from.
Then there is the LG G6. We've already said a lot about it and even more is on the way soon in our in-depth review. That is just how big of an impression the handset left on us. While running the risk of repeating an already popular opinion - the G6 is a great device. LG's new formula definitely works for me - a welcome change over the misguided mess that was its predecessor. This time around, there are no modules, no gimmicks - a straight-forward offer, with tangible and real usable improvements, like the 2:1 display. At least in my book.
To round the positive impressions off, I can't fail to mention the BlackBerry Keyone. Now, I'm not going to stand here and argue its a great phone or a good-value one. Frankly, the EUR 600 handset will likely appeal to a very small demographic and land in the hands of an even smaller crowd. What I will state, however, is that its specific retro charm and software approach are not wasted on me. If nothing else, we can all probably agree that it's different - a breath of fresh air in a growing sea of indistinguishable "slab" handsets.
Plenty of stuff actually - it was one of the best MWC editions in recent years. I'll have to start with the LG G6, which is arguably the best smartphone to come out there. The Koreans learned some valuable lessons with the G5 and they've delivered a much more polished product this time around. Design is vastly improved, and while dropping the removable battery and the whole modular concept can't have been easy decisions to make I believe they are for the better. Upping the screen size at the expense of bezels is another great move that greatly contributes to usability.
The Sony Xperia XZ Premium is also an exquisite product with its HDR screen, mirror finish and Motion Eye camera. It still feels like it's going to remain a showcase product rather than becoming an actual bestseller, but it shows that Sony is still the source of plenty of innovation in the industry. Hopefully they can actually turn all that engineering prowess in some actually successful products in the market. Otherwise the company's mobile division will risk going the way of the Vaio and that would be a huge loss for the smartphone world.
It was also great seeing the new Nokia trio - the 6, 5 and 3 are all we hoped they will be - impressively built and with stock Android and a promise for timely updates. Now a nicer chipset would have put them even higher up my list but even so they bring a few solid mid-range options now and plenty of promise for the future.
An honorable mention goes to Huawei and the Dazzling Blue finish of its new P10. While the phone was so extensively leaked that the actual announcement brought little new information (not to mention that it's basically a sized down Mate 9), the combination of a bright color and unusual grippy texture really won me over.
My first phone was a Siemens A36 before switching to Mitsubishi Trium Mars. I was never part of the Nokia hype train but approved the 3310 memes that are all over the internet. So the most impressive part of MWC 2017 for me is the whole Nokia hype around a feature phone.
It is 2017 and we already have augmented reality, virtual reality and the Black Mirror series that tell us how these technologies could play a big, albeit dark, role in our daily life. A museum hall filled with journalists, ecstatic over the Nokia 3310 (2017) - kudos, HMD! You may have launched three midrangers and a feature phone but the PR game was on point.
What impressed me the most was the LG G6. LG finally made a phone that appeals to me - not a plastic phone made to look like metal or a metal phone that looks and feels plastic.
The G6 is a beautiful gem of a smartphone thanks to a conventional premium design - metal frame and glass on both sides. The tall 18:9 screen and slim bezels make it exciting while the water-proofing makes it sensible.
But what impressed me most about the LG G6 are the cameras - I love wide-angle photography so I loved the fact that LG put a bigger sensor behind the wide-angle lens.
The LG G6's bezels, the Huawei P10's Dazzling finishes, the Sony Xperia XZ Premium's 960fps video shooting mode (shared with the XZs), the Nokia 3310.
Let's take them one by one. Like the upcoming Galaxy S8 and S8+ duo, the LG G6 is all about getting rid of as much of its side, top, and bottom bezels as possible. And compared to every other smartphone out there (at least until the Samsungs arrive), this looks very, very good. Fitting as much screen into as low a footprint as possible has long been the dream of many smartphone users, and the G6 is getting us there in a big way.
While Huawei's P10 and P10 Plus come in a myriad of color versions, you should really only pay attention to two of those: they're called Dazzling Blue and Dazzling Gold, respectively. Why only these? Well, they come with a unique finish on the back, and that makes all the difference. All the other options give you a slippery back that frankly looks a lot like, ahem, other phones out there, and it catches fingerprints quite well - not as well as Sony's Xperia XZ Premium, but still. The Dazzling finishes are on another level altogether - they shine in a very interesting way that changes depending on the angle at which you're holding the P10, they offer much better grip, oh, and they show almost no fingerprint traces whatsoever.
This will either be one of the quickest-forgotten gimmicks of 2017, or the start of a cool new trend. I'm talking of course about the much-discussed 960fps video capture mode (at 720p resolution) that the upcoming Sony Xperia XZ Premium (and XZs) can boast. If you get the timing right (and that's a big 'if', see the next section for more on that), it produces simply stunning slow-motion footage. It's so good that most of the time you don't even notice the low resolution.
Finally, the Nokia 3310. It impressed me because the mobile space hasn't necessarily been the place for remakes up until now, unlike, say, the movie industry which loves doing that. So I think of the new one as a remake of the old one, not anywhere close to 100% true to the original - see, just like the movie remakes. I also think it's a brilliant marketing move by HMD Global, one that brought the Nokia name in front of a lot of people these past few weeks, since basically the entire media reported on it, not just mobile-focused outlets.
I'd have to say the LG G6 was the most exciting and talked-about announcement out of MWC. LG's rough year with the LG G5 didn't slow down or discourage the Korean company and the G6 is proof of that. LG is following the right trends and its decision to use an 18:9 (2:1) aspect ratio on its display is a risk (though a minor one)
Unfortunately, it meant LG had to get rid of a design feature that many power users chose LG for: a removable battery. The convenience of being able to instantly go from 0 to 100% has now been permanently replaced with Quick Charge 3.0.
If you’ve had the patience to read so far into this page, it would already be clear to you that the LG G6 was the star of the MWC 2017. The phone well deserves the appreciation it gets – pretty much everything has been changed or improved over the G5 and it brings along a few industry firsts as well.
The new screen ratio works two-fold – it gives LG’s marketing a larger screen diagonal to boast about and it makes the phone narrower so everybody would appreciate the easier single-handed use. Something you may not have realized is that with the new 2:1 aspect ratio you lose screen real estate compared to any other device with a 5.7-inch 16:9 screen ratio. But since it makes the phone that much easier to handle with one hand, I would probably be willing to accept the trade-off. Let’s wait for the full review tests to go thorough and we’ll have a more through picture. But I digress.
Continuing with our MWC 2017 topic, I was pleasantly surprised to see that some of the phone manufacturers such as Oppo and Meizu who didn’t have finished products for the MWC, had technology showcases instead. And nice ones at that. Oppo revealed its 5x lossless zoom dual camera setup, while Meizu showed us the fastest battery charging tech yet. Too bad it would take some more time before we see both technologies utilized in actual products we can buy.
At least, we get sneak peeks of what’s cooking back in their ‘kitchens’. After all, that’s a part of what makes expos unique – the product-centric unveiling such as the upcoming Samsung S8 Unpacked event don’t give you info on the next generation of technology that may be just around the corner. I certainly appreciate this trend and I would love to see more of these demoes set up by other manufacturers as well.
Another MWC 2017 highlight for me was the new improved camera on the Xperia XZs and XZ Premium. No, it’s not the 960fps slow motion video recording that striked my fancy. I am amazed by the fact that they’ve finally got to do the long overdue redesign of their camera system. The result is a radically different 19MP camera system, which should have improved performance in every single aspect. Sony has now got me excited about their cameraphones for the first time in a while. I can’t wait to get their final products in for testing.
Finally, I may not be personally attracted by the just announced Huawei P10 but I can certainly appreciate it for what it represents. It was nice to see Huawei keeping their guard up and coming up with great premium devices year after year. They are really doing a great job of establishing themselves in the West as the premium phone brand from China. And it’s not only the high end – they’ve been doing great in the midrange as well. I really enjoy witnessing their rise. I am sure we’ll see even more exciting products from them in the future.
With all that said, you are welcome on the next page where we've compiled the MWC product launches that disappointed us this year.