MobileCon 2012: top 10 moments
11th Oct 2012 | 20:50
TechRadar brings you all the latest news and hands-on reviews from MobileCon in San Diego
MobileCon 2012 came, saw and conquered the San Diego Convention Center this week, giving enterprise professionals the tools and information they need to succeed in a rapidly changing world and tech journalists a look at the latest devices and news causing stirs on the market.
Major carriers like Verizon and T-Mobile rocked the house, while smaller bodies like Cricket got the chance to show of the goods.
TechRadar played with Nokia's Lumia 810 and LG's Optimus 9, and chatted up Huawei, OtterBox and others.
Until next time, MobileCon.
1. Verizon asserts 4G LTE dominance
In a press conference complete with podium-flanking teleprompters, Verizon Chief Technology Officer Nicola Palmer revealed the carrier will roll out its 400th 4G LTE market Oct. 18.
Marquette, Mich. is the symbolic city, though a the CTO revealed 17 more markets will also join it, bringing Verizon's total LTE coverage to 417 markets.
Big Red is two months ahead of schedule to hit the mark, Palmer gushed, thanks to devices like the iPhone 5, high customer demand and a speedy build schedule.
While AT&T and Sprint are expanding 4G LTE coverage on their networks, both fall short of Verizon's offering.
The carrier plans to blanket more than 30 markets all the way up the end of the year, and Palmer said that by the time 2013 calls it a wrap, Verizon's 4G LTE pool will stack up to its 3G footprint.
Look for Voice over LTE and AWS spectrum-enabled devices next year, too, and further exploration into LTE Advanced.
2. Hands-on with the HTC One VX
The HTC One VX was one of our favorite phones from the MobileCon 2012 show floor. While we aren't always crazy for plastic phones, the VX's white backplate was an awesome combination of smooth and grippy. It was also removable, letting you swap out the 1810mAh battery and pop in a microSD card with ease.
Inside HTC One VX was packing some beefy stats, a dual-core 1.2Ghz processor and 1GB of RAM. Those specs are all the more surprising since HTC considers it to be a mid-range device. When your flagship device, the upcoming HTC One X+, has a quad-core, there's nothing left to do but call a dual-core mid-range.
The original HTC One is a great device, and we're excited to see what HTC can do at both a premium and mid-range price point. Since HTC recently pulled out of the US tablet market, the exclusive focus on phones could mean great deals for consumers, and possibly an end to the Taiwan-based company's financial troubles.
3. RIM pushes BlackBerry 10 to the enterprise set
Research in Motion's BB10 is nothing new - details about the unreleased OS and accompanying handsets have trickled out for some time now.
A leaked smartphone may have even surfaced this week, too.
Despite the incessant leaks and sneak peeks from RIM itself, it was still good to hear RIM Chief Information Officer Robin Bienfait make the case for BB10, especially in terms of how it can improve the lives of professionals.
During a demo, Senior Brand and Marketing Communications Manager Jeff Gadway showed off BlackBerry Balance, a feature that keeps business information (like work email accounts) separate from personal data when switched on.
Features like Peep and the BlackBerry Hub page are also geared to make phone actions flow a little bit better and life move a little smoother.
BlackBerry 10 and devices to show off the OS should be out in the first part of 2013, Bienfait said.
4. Hands-on with Lumia 810
Will Windows Phone 8 take the world by storm? T-Mobile and Nokia are sure hoping so. The two have paired up to offer the Lumia 810, a colorful new device packing the new Windows mobile OS. While our hands-on with the phone at MobileCon 2012 was limited to physically touching the handset (it wouldn't even turn on, so we couldn't play with the Windows Phone 8 OS inside), we were happy to see the handset in the wild.
White the Lumia 810's boxy design wasn't as exciting as Lumia 920 or Lumia 820, or and it wasn't displayed in the range of colors like the Windows Phone 8X, we appreciated the removable backplate and dedicated camera button. With a 8-megapixel camera and 1.2-megapixel "Skype-certified" chat cam, it should be a big hit with the photo-friendly smartphone crowd.
There's no firm release date or price from Nokia for the Lumia 810, but we're betting the phone makes it to market in time for the holidays. We can't wait to give it the TechRadar review treatment.
5. Mobile payment roundtable
What's it going to take to get digital wallets to take off in the U.S.? According to Ryan Hughes, chief marketing officer at mobile wallet company Isis, it's showing consumers the advantadge of mobile payments. "Consumers won't identify a problem until they see a solution to fix it," he explained at roundtable discussion that included five executives from leading digital payment companies.
According to Dekkers Davidson, head of mobile commerce at Barclaycard, it's still a new frontier. "I liken it to Lewis and Clarke, where we're a 100 miles out of Missouri and looking back over the ridge and saying, 'Ok, where are we going?'" Davidson explained.
Ultimately, it comes down to retailers and manufacturers adopting the technology. Apple famously left NFC out of its iPhone 5, opting instead for GPS-based technology for Passbook. Whether this will hamper or help the digital wallet has yet to be seen.
6. Hands-on with the LG Optimus L9
LG and T-Mobile are both working hard to become larger players in the U.S. smartphone game. Therefore it makes perfect sense that the two would team up to produce a 4G capable handset, the LG Optimus L9.
The phone's 1GHz processor, 1GB of RAM and 960x540 qHD screen make it a mid-range device, but that big 2150mAh battery and the chance to hop on a 4G network could make it an affordable option for users who want to high data speeds at a reasonable price.
Using the phone at MobileCon 2012, we enjoyed the playful combination of Android 4.0: Ice Cream Sandwich and LG's own Optimus 3.0 UI, with its QuickMemo note taking app and animated screen swipe effects. We look forward to taking it to task with a full review.
7. Sprint's new 4G LTE offerings
Sprint got the MobileCon 2012 news mill running thanks to an announcement that it would add a pocketful of 4G LTE devices to its listings.
Among the pickups were the Samsung Galaxy Tab 2 10.1 and a Sprint Plug-in-Connect Tri-Mode USB, a dongle for instant connectivity while "on-the-go."
8. Huawei hopes for growth
Huawei has carved out a niche for itself on Tier 2 carriers like MetroPCS and Cricket, but the company clearly wants more.
Reps from its U.S. mobile device division said it's a challenge to educate consumers not just on why they should buy its handsets, but how to pronounce Huawei properly.
Though an education campaign and competitive phones like the Android 4.0-packing Mercury will help Huawei claim a stake on U.S. soil, it's breaking into the Tier 1 carriers that will really make an impact.
A handset deal with Verizon is "happening," an exhibit hall rep for the company told TechRadar, so keep an eye out for Huawei's Tier 1 carrier presence to grow as time goes on.
9. LG for all
LG laid its handsets on the line at MobileCon 2012, letting TechRadar fiddle with the Mach, L9 and Optimus G at various intervals.
What really struck us about the Korean company's conference presence, however, was the fact that it also brought along budget phones like the Venice, which launched on Boost Mobile Oct. 10.
Available for $219.99 on a $55/month contract, the Venice is a nice 4.3-inch phone running Ice Cream Sandwich.
Reps told us that LG strives to cover all bases, offering customers devices that they can afford yet still desire.
It's a refreshing stance and one that hopefully pans out for a company that's struggled to make its mark on the smartphone market.
10. Hands-on with LG Mach
A full-blown QWERTY phone at MobileCon 2012? You read that right, Sprint must be seeing the demand for physical keys somewhere, as it will be the exclusive carrier for the LG Mach, a phone that sports both a fold-out keyboard and a touch screen.
The LG Mach runs ICS and LG's Optimus 3.0 UI. Going hands-on with the device, we were most impressed with how well the keyboard and touch screen worked together, making predictive text a snap.
The Mach's modest stats out it as a mid-range to budget device, but the combination of 4G service with Sprint (where available) and the unique QWERTY-touch screen combo could make it a desirable device. We'll find out once we get the LG Mach in for a full review.
More on MobileCon 2012
MobileCon 2012 is the U.S. convention formerly known as CTIA MobileCon 2012. This isn't just a fall session of the CTIA convention in New Orleans.
It's a San Diego gathering of movers and shakers in the mobile computing scene, as well as tons of journalists and IT professionals looking to be moved and shook by the latest ideas and innovations in the field.
MobileCon 2012 will feature keynote speeches from industry leaders and demonstrations of the latest tech about to deploy in the enterprise workspace. Topics range from BYOD (bring your own device) security, cloud computing and peer-to-learning, to name a few.
MobileCon 2012 will be the convention for IT professionals and anyone whose lifestyle makes them a frequent telecommuter.
Huawei's growing pains
No, it's not "Hawai'i." Huawei's U.S. mobile device division has been in the country for more than five years, yet the company is still struggling to gain name and brand recognition.
Though phones like the Mercury help, deals that are "happening" with major carriers like Verizon should help elevate Huawei where it needs to be.
Will mobile payments take over in the US?
A panel of five executives took the MobileCon 2012 keynote stage to engage in a discussion as to what mobile commerce looks like and where it's going.
Success, to one exec, is one out of four Americans using a mobile wallet in 5-8 years. The issue of adoption, some said, lies in educating consumers on the need to actually chuck traditional payment modes.
OtterBox branching into water proof next year
It's hard not to like OtterBox, the plucky protective case company that's taken off thanks to its durable covers. The company had its paws at MobileCon 2012, showing off its new iPhone 5 cases as well as sleek tablet covers.
Look for a water proof case next year plus a host of other innovative devices, an Otter rep said.
Hands-on with the LG Mach
Do you miss the days of full QWERTY keyboard phones? Well, the folks at Sprint must. They'll be the exclusive carrier for the LG Mach, which combines a touch screen and slide-out keyboard for real texting power.
LG talks budget phones alongside flagships
The Venice, priced at $219.99, hit Boost Mobile Wednesday, bringing an Ice Cream Sandwich Android to consumers looking for a deal.
Hands-on with the Nokia Lumia 810
When will we finally get to play with Windows 8 on a smartphone? Nokia's Lumia 810 was on the show floor, but we weren't allowed to turn it on and experience the OS goodness inside.
The Lumia 810 will be exclusive to T-Mobile's network in the U.S. The carrier hasn't yet started talking about release date or price, but has released the full hardware specs for the phone.
RIM demoes BB10, says to expect it Q1 2013
RIM CIO Robin Bienfait and Jeff Gadway, senior brand and marketing communications manager at RIM, talked up the company's upcoming OS, pointing to how it will revolutionize not just devices and OS's, but how users interact with their mobile machines.
It's inching closer to completion and final functionality, so look for it early next year.
Hands-on with the LG Optimus L9
On the show floor, LG unveiled the latest addition to its L-series of smartphones, the LG Optimus L9. This 4G capable phone will launch exclusively with T-Mobile.
The LG Optimus L9 packs a 1GHz dual-core processor and 1GB of RAM. Those specs put it heads and tails above its predecessor, the LG Optimus L7.
Hands-on with the HTC One VX
After the release of the awesome HTC One X, HTC is already refreshing its smartphone lineup. We got our hands on the HTC One VX, the budget minded but peppy handset with a 4.5 inch screen.
Verizon coming up on big 4G LTE milestone
Oct. 18 is a day of celebration for Verizon as it rolls out its 400th (and then some) 4G LTE market, the carrier announced at MobileCon 2012 Tuesday.
Expect to see AWS devices and Voice over LTE in the coming year, too, while 4G LTE looks to take up as much spectrum space as 3G, the company's CTO said.
Sprint announces quartet of 4G LTE devices
Sprint came out swinging during the first official day of MobileCON 2012, revealing it will add four new devices to its lineup.
Before the kickoff of MobileCon 2012, TechRadar created a list of products and news that we hoped to see at the CTIA-powered conference. Take a look at the 10 things we wanted to see at MobileCon.
1. Keeping up with the iPhone 5
The elephant on the exhibit floor and in the conference rooms will be how to compete with the iPhone 5. Apple, which won't be at MobileCon 2012, released the phone of the year (at least from a consumer perspective) and companies at this conference, like RIM, LG, Motorola, and HTC, need to lay the groundwork for a fruitful future moving forward.
Will introducing devices with features like NFC (which the iPhone 5 lacks), better maps (for which iOS 6 have been universally panned), and better coverage (we'll get to 4G LTE later on) be the ways these manufacturers at least stay in the same waters as Apple's latest offering?
We'll keep our eyes peeled for how carriers who don't have the iPhone 5 (here's looking at you, T-Mobile and Boost Mobile) and makers who don't produce iPhones can keep up with the hottest device to land in a very long time.
2. The future of NFC
The iPhone 5 is here, sans NFC. A bit of a surprise, considering those early reports that swore up and down that the chip had been spotted in Apple's new baby. It's even more surprising since iOS 6 introduced Passbook, an app that seemed perfect for near field communication. Perhaps Apple's distribution of the new OS to so many old iDevices made reliance on NFC impossible?
Does Apple's choice not to embrace NFC spell trouble for the technology, or does it create an opportunity for its competitors? With Google Wallet, Android may have the chance to lay down an infrastructure before its Cupertino competitors. With the show's focus on enterprise-level mobile solutions, MobileCon 2012 could be the place to unveil the beginnings of such an ecosystem.
3. 4G LTE, moving forward
Now that the aforementioned iPhone 5 has 4G LTE connectivity (Apple's first iPhone with the 4G force) and U.S. carriers are turning more and more of the country into an LTE zone, we want to know where carriers and manufacturers are taking the coverage moving forward.
During Pepcom's MobileFocus press event, we want to get our hands on what's next in the mobile and wireless space. With phones like the LG Optimus G, Motorola Droid Razr HD, and even the ZTE Anthem 4G by MetroPCS sporting quad-G capabilities, it's time to see where the industry is ready and willing to take it.
With a lot of catch-up left to do with Apple, how companies plan to compete connectivity-wise with the unofficial leader in mobile communications will be a huge part of this conference.
4. Samsung Galaxy S3
iPhone 5 or no iPhone 5, one of the 20 best phones on the market is still the Samsung Galaxy S3. While there are rumors of the Samsung Galaxy S4 on the horizon (though quickly denied by Samsung), and there seems to be no end to the legal troubles between Apple and Samsung, the S3 is still the flagship device. We'd like to see Samsung demonstrate how the S3 can be a true competitor to the iPhone 5.
The iPhone 5 has a letter of feathers in its cap: it's new, it's tall, it's thin and it's made by Apple. The S3, however, has NFC capabilities, a quad-core processor and a maps app that isn't struggling in its infancy. This is the showdown we want to see, and we're hoping Samsung will launch its a plan of attack at Mobile Con 2012 (one that will take place outside of a courtroom, preferably).
5 . PC relevancy
In a world where the portability and speed of tablets and smartphones have users turning to those devices before booting up a desktop or even opening a laptop, what is the future of dedicated computing devices? Will they morph into combination tablet/laptop machines like the Asus Vivo Tab or the HP ENVY x2? And what about desktops? Will they be for hardcore users only until they go the way of the dodo?
Are these the kind of questions IBM will address with its keynote at MobileCon 2012? Or will it confirm a headlong dive into the mobile space? In August we saw the IT giant sniffing around BlackBerry-maker Research in Motion with a possible acquisition in the air. IBM has been steadily expanding its cloud-based services like IBM SmartCloud for years now.
As a true force in the enterprise space, we're excited to see IBM's thoughts on the future of mobile and business, and how it plans to move forward and "build a smarter world," as the company likes to say.
6. The future of Blackberry
Blackberry was one of the companies that ushered in the smartphone revolution, introducing Internet-capable phones with full keyboards and color displays. Best of all, they could still make a decent call connection, something other phones struggled with for a long time.
However, just as quickly as they helped make sweeping changes to mobile devices, the company's market share began to shrink due to massive competition, and a network outage that damaged its reputation for reliability.
While it seems to be courting consumers with its new tiled interface, business-level users have always been BlackBerry's bread and butter.
Robin Bienfait from Research in Motion (BlackBerry's parent company) will give a keynote speech at MobileCon 2012. This could be the perfect opportunity to win back some IT users.
7. Borderless Networks
Borderless Networks, according to Cisco they'll be what connect companies across continents, allowing them to share information and resources no matter where they are. However, with cloud services and Google hangouts already connecting teams world-wide, how can Cisco, or another company, further unify the experience?
And how can they remain safe and reliable? Splitting resources across the globe can be an IT nightmare, and we're interested to see if any other companies will have something to add to Cisco's Borderless Network solution, or perhaps launch something of their own.
8. Keeping our data secure
As more and more financial information makes its way onto our smartphones and into the digital space, security becomes a growing concern. After the recent Apple ID leak and the threat of Android malware, security across mobile devices has never been a higher priority, on both the customer and provider side.
MobileCon 2012 will be hosting a series of talks on cybersecurity. Speakers range from representatives of sectors both public and private, including the US Department of Homeland Security, the National Institute of Standards & Technology, the US National Security Agency, the Defense Information & Systems Agency, as well as security software giant Symantec. We're curious to see what this panel will have to say about data security in a world of borderless mobile networks.
9. iPhone 5 accessories and apps
With the iPhone 5 in the process of boosting the US GDP (hopefully), accessories and apps for Apple's new phone are set to become an industry unto themselves. Cases are already here, and third-party Lightning adapters are on the way.
The shortcomings of Apple's new iOS 6 are also creating plenty of opportunities for app makers and competitors alike. For example, Apple's new Maps app doesn't do public transit, which has many bus and train riders looking to third parties to calculate their commute. We're curious to see what will be unveiled at MobileCon 2012 to capitalize on the strengths and weaknesses of Apple's latest toy.
10. More companies with Passbook support
Apple touted its Passbook feature as just as good if not better than NFC, but so far few companies have joined the movement. We'd like this to change.
As MobileCon 2012 is an enterprise meeting space, we want some of these businesses to jump aboard the Passbook boat. One analyst projected Passbook could help bring Apple App Store revenue to $4.9 billion by the end of the year, but for now the application is very much a fledgling service.
While we're sure it will grow in time, we want MobileCon to provide a glimpse at the real potential Apple says its native service offers.