MWC17: The handset launches this week that prize innovation over marketing glam

Credit: catwalker /

At MWC17 this week, all eyes will naturally be on the latest handset launches by every major handset brand that isn’t named Apple. Away from the big guns, however, many smaller players will also be making major handset-related announcements at MWC17, and what they lack in market share they make up for with innovation.

Ubuntu has arguably the largest line-up of the left-of-field players at MWC17. Three new products are promised, the Fairphone 2 Ubuntu Phone, smart advertising screens and an industrial-grade smart IoT solution.

Canonical will also showcase its app store for robots, an AR smart helmet and a whole list of other smart stuff and its traditional cloud and datacenter solutions geared at the cellco. On the network side Canonical will launch the world’s first open source mobile base station running Ubuntu Core and show Ubuntu running on top-of-rack switches and APs.

In the Do-We-Really-Need-Yet-Another-Fast-Charging-Standard Department, Meizu is set to launch its mCharge 4.0 fast charging specifications this week. Rumors put it at 9V 4A or a whopping 36W. Details on Feb 28.

Gemalto and the Microsoft ecosystem are going full-steam ahead with embedded eSIM technology on Windows 10 with a whole series of Windows 10 tablets and laptops expected to be unveiled by various vendors. Gemalto will also be plugging its Internet of Trusted Things vision at MWC.

Xiaomi is not missing Hugo Barra much, evidently. The Chinese rising star is upping its game with its first in-house CPU, the Pinecone SoC, which is to be launched on Feb 28. The rumored specs (to be taken with a grain of salt at this stage) are impressive. The high end Pinecone 970 is supposedly fabbed on a 10nm process and features 4x A73 and 4x A53 cores with a 12-core Mali G71 GPU. The mainstream Pinecone 670 is to be made on the more mature 28nm process and is reported to have 8x A53 cores and a Mali T860MP2 GPU – essentially the same specs as the middle-of-the-road Mediatek 6750.

On Sunday, Xiaomi also announced a partnership with Nokia to use Nokia 1830 photonic switches to link seven of Xiaomi’s data centers for the Mi cloud.

Speaking of Nokia – who is back in the handset game at least in name, thanks to HMD Global – arguably the most anticipated phone at MWC this year isn’t a smartphone but a dumbphone: the re-release of one of the most successful phones of all time, the Nokia 3310. Rumor has it the relaunch (reboot?) will see the 3310 upgraded to a color screen and running Nokia’s System 30 OS.

While we’re on Nokia, also of note: Nokia Bell Labs has scheduled a presentation on “graphene photonic devices for telecom and datacom applications” on March 2 in Hall 8.0 NEXTech Theatre F. Is there no end to the applications of this wonder material?

Last but not least (and also Nokia-related, kind of), Jolla – the Finnish startup that rose from the ashes of Nokia’s ill-fated MeeGo OS – has had success promoting its SailfishOS among developing BRICS countries in the past year, and is pushing hard in Middle-East, Latin America and African countries going forward. New partnerships and a major development are promised for a Jolla press conference on Day 1.

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