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Mobile World Congress in Barcelona is the world’s biggest event for mobile technology. Want to know what smartphones will be the “must have” devices this year? Look to the MWC 2015 reveals to find out. Monday was officially the first day of the conference (it runs until March 5), but there were some major media events on Sunday, too. Here’s what you need to know after the first full day of Mobile World Congress.

Samsung Galaxy S6 and Galaxy S6 Note

If you saw my coverage of Samsung’s Unpacked event on Sunday afternoon, you know that two of the hottest smartphones for 2015 were unveiled just ahead of the official MWC 2015 start.

The Samsung Galaxy S6 and Galaxy S6 Edge show that Samsung has been listening to customers who have been clamouring for a more upscale look on their flagship smartphone. Plastic is banished, replaced by metal and glass. Both devices are equipped with Quad HD Super AMOLED displays and new Samsung Exynos CPUS. 

The Galaxy S6 Edge gets the wraparound display treatment first introduced with the Galaxy Note Edge phablet, but in this case the display is extended over both sides. It’s a pretty slick looking smartphone…

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Samsung also announced a new mobile payment platform—Samsung Pay—that will use magnetic field technology built into the Galaxy S6 and Galaxy S6 Edge to allow touch-less payment using existing card swipers at retailers. That’s expected to the US in summer and the Canadian market will follow sometime after.

HTC One M9.jpgHTC One M9

HTC’s One flagship smartphone has been setting the pace for premium Android design for the past several years. Last year’s One M8 was one of my favourite mobile phones (read my review here).

HTC unveiled its follow-up, the One M9 in Barcelona. The company chose to stick with an almost identical look, which is fine—as I said, the One M8 was already a very smart looking device. It is slightly smaller overall (while retaining a 5-inch display) thanks to some bezel trimming and button movement. 

While the Megapixel sensor HTC has been pushing with the One series remains in place for the front of the camera (where its low light capability is put to good use for selfies), the primary camera is now a standard 20MP version.

On the good news front, the stereo, front-facing BoomSound speakers remain. 

Microsoft Lumia 640, 640 XL

Microsoft hasn’t exactly been churning out new Lumia Windows phones since buying Nokia, but two new midrange Lumia devices made their debut at MWC 2015.

The Lumia 640 is an affordable smartphone with a 5-inch HD display, 1.2 GHz Snapdragon and 8MP autofocus rear camera. The 640 XL, as the name suggests, is the extra-large version of the 640, with a 5.7-inch display and a 13MP camera.

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While both new Lumia smartphones will be running Windows 8.1 when they ship, they’ll be eligible for the Windows 10 upgrade when it’s available.

New Sony Tablet

Sony showed off the Xperia M4 Aqua smartphone in Barcelona. It’s a midrange, 5-inch Android device that’s waterproof and Playstation 4 Remote Play-capable.

The bigger news was the new Xperia Z4 tablet.

This is one beautiful looking slab of glass. The 10.1-inch Triluminos IPS display has a resolution of 2560 x 1600 pixels (or 300 ppi). It’s powered by an octa-core Snapdragon 810 CPU with 3GB of RAM. Adding to its multimedia cred, it incorporates high end audio tech like Sony 3D Surround Sound, Clear Audio+ and Hi-Res audio playback support. Naturally, it supports Playstation 4 Remote Play, too.

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It’s waterproof and dust-proof, weighs just 395 grams (that’s less than an iPad Air 2 despite having a significantly larger display) and packs a 6000mAh battery that Sony claims will deliver an astounding 17 hours of video playback.

The company is also releasing a trio of accessories designed specifically for the new tablet: a docking Bluetooth keyboard (for laptop-style use), a flip case cover and a Bluetooth speaker.

Look for the Xperia Z4 in the June timeframe.

BlackBerry LEap.jpgAnd a new BlackBerry

This one’s kind of cheating—technically, BlackBerry made the announcement very early Tuesday morning—but there’s a new budget friendly, touchscreen BlackBerry phone on its way.

The BlackBerry Leap has a 5-inch HD touchscreen display with a rubberized back and 25 hour battery life. 

In addition, the company teased a forthcoming, dual-screen sliding keyboard model and announced the BlackBerry Experience Suite—productivity, communication and collaboration services that will be available to BlackBerry, iOS, Android and Windows mobile users.

Smartphone Innovation

After a near decade-long run during which smartphones have evolved from physical keyboard devices with tiny displays to mobile powerhouses capable of playing console-quality games, shooting DSLR-quality photos and playing back videos at a higher resolution than a big screen HDTV, is there anywhere left to go?

That’s one of the cool things about Mobile World Congress. It doesn’t just serve as a stage to launch the latest and greatest new flagship smartphones, it also provides an opportunity to show off some of the outliers. The weird and wonderful mobile devices and related technology that may never show up in Canadian stores, but even if they don’t, provide a hint of what mainstream manufacturers just might have up their sleeves for future releases. A few examples…

Huawei has decided to push the phablet envelope with the 7-inch MediaPad X2, a tablet-sized smartphone. HTC was showing off the Vive, its take on virtual reality headsets like the Oculus Rift but with the added twist of being able to move around a room while using it (two external cameras map the wearer’s motion). Archos revealed a Magnus tablet with a whopping 256GB of built-in storage, while the BlackPhone 2 offers full data encryption, Silent Circle secure voice calls and runs PrivatOS.

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And three that we could actually see this year. The HTC Grip, an athletic tracker band developed with Under Amour, the Microsoft Universal Foldable Keyboard (that works with any mobile device) and the Lenovo Vibe Shot—a smartphone designed to look like a slim, point-and-shoot pocket camera.

Stay tuned for more on MWC 2015. If there are any big announcements over the next few days, I’ll be on top of them.

Brad Moon
Editor Computing solutions
I’m a long-time electronics and gadget geek who’s been fortunate enough to enjoy a career that lets me indulge this interest. After 13 years as a product manager with a leading Canadian tech company, I transitioned into a full-time career of writing about technology. I’ve contributed to a range of publications and websites including Forbes, Wired, Gizmodo, Lifehacker, About.com, MSN Money, the Winnipeg Free Press, InvestorPlace Media, Shaw Media and—combining technology and my three kids—I’ve been a Core Contributor to the award winning GeekDad blog since its launch in 2007.