Credit: Florence Ion
If CES is the party deck of the mobile technology world, Mobile World Congress is the engine room. It's where the world's carriers meet infrastructure vendors and telecom ministers, and Very Serious Business takes place. Handset makers from the top tier to the bargain basement all clamor for attention and, with any luck, something interesting will turn up.
This year, three major vendors unveiled flagship phones, each addressing what the companies seem to think are very different customer needs. I was able to do quick tryouts of the LG G5, the Samsung Galaxy 7 and the HP Elite x3 -- revealing three sophisticated companies with amazingly different views of the world.
It's important to note: These aren't full product reviews (which we plan to have for you closer to when the products are released). This roundup is based on quick hands-on impressions with information based on pre-briefings and filled in by product demonstrators who may not have been fully informed. But even given that, you can tell a lot from a little time spent with a phone in your hand.
Maybe it's Apple fault, because it was the first company to seal in a smartphone's battery. Within a couple of years, everyone else did, too (Samsung being the last major holdout). This may have delighted the companies that make portable battery chargers, but not everyone was thrilled. If fact, there's been a steady drumbeat of customers who rail against non-replaceable batteries.
LG G5. Credit: LG
Those people will be thrilled with the LG G5. There are other good things about it, but the one thing that stands out is that the G5 has a replaceable battery. And it doesn't use a door on the back of the phone or force you to pry the whole back off. Instead, there's a clever little button on the lower right side of the phone; press it, and the bottom of the phone pops off and the battery pulls out.
But wait, there's more -- because that phone bottom can be replaced by modules with additional functions. There's a Hi-Fi module with sound (presumably DACs) from Bang & Olufsen, and another with a bigger grip and shutter trigger for the phone's camera, so it acts like a point-and-shoot camera. More, LG promises, will be forthcoming.
The downside? The G5 is in no way waterproof. Other manufacturers of phones (and many other consumer electronic devices) now make a big deal out of their IP rating, which indicates how impervious their gadget is to dust and water. I asked an LG rep for the G5's IP rating, and he said, "It doesn't have an IP rating." You want a replaceable battery? Fine: Now you have to keep it dry.
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