Best of MWC 2018: Alphr’s pick of the mobile tech
That’s a wrap, folks. Mobile World Congress (MWC) is over for another year, and the Alphr team on the ground has now returned from rainy Barcelona to snowy England.
We saw a great deal of excellent mobile technology at the show, but with just six Best of MWC awards to hand out, we had to be ruthless. This is our pick of the best of the best.
Best of MWC 2018: Samsung Galaxy S9 Plus
Samsung had been teasing a big reveal at the company’s Unpacked event, and it would have been a brave person to bet against it being the Galaxy S9. Sure enough, that was revealed, but it was the Galaxy S9 Plus that appealed more to us.
That’s not so much down to the larger size (although that will doubtless appeal to some) as to the superior camera setup. Unlike the regular S9, the S9 Plus has a dual-aperture camera. This means that in low-light conditions, the camera switches to a super-wide f/1.5 aperture, capturing 28% more light than the S8 Plus managed. The results? Those tricky low-light shots should come out with less noise than ever before.
We’ll have our full review soon, but for now the Galaxy S9 Plus is definitely one of the best bits of tech demoed at MWC.
Best of MWC 2018: Huawei Matebook X Pro
MWC is – as the name suggests – mainly about mobile phones. But occasionally bigger devices slip in, and in the case of the Huawei Matebook X Pro, that’s definitely worth celebrating.
Essentially a super-powerful Ultrabook, the Matebook X Pro is notable because of its brilliant form factor. Not only does it eliminate nearly all of the bezel, but there’s so little room that the webcam has a new home: underneath a function key, ready to pop out when required.
This could be a MacBook Pro killer, but even if it doesn’t quite manage that achievement, it’s definitely a Best of MWC winner.
Best of MWC 2018: Asus ZenFone 5Z
If Huawei – a firm known predominantly for its smartphones – can get an award for a laptop, then could a firm better known for its laptops get an award for a smartphone? Yes, it turns out. The Asus ZenFone 5Z may just be the big surprise of the show: a powerful, good-looking smartphone at a price that massively undercuts its rivals.
Like the Samsung Galaxy S9 (US version) and Sony Xperia XZ2, it contains the brand-new Qualcomm Snapdragon 845 processor. But unlike those phones, you’ll get plenty of change if you hand over £700: Asus’ new flagship comes in at just £500. That’s OnePlus territory.
Some will find the iPhone X-style notch a little offputting, but for the price, you’re undoubtedly getting a lot of power here, and for that reason alone the ZenFone 5Z is a worthy winner.
Best of MWC 2018: Land Rover Explore
Almost as surprising as a laptop stealing the MWC limelight was a car manufacturer doing the same with a mobile phone, but the Land Rover Explore isn’t just something for the auto press.
A rugged smartphone unlike anything we’ve seen before, the Land Rover Explore isn’t designed for people who care about the latest chipsets. It’s for those who spend their time exploring in challenging conditions and want a reliable phone to go the distance with them: whether they need pin-point accurate GPS, a battery to last for days or a phone that will survive a dunk in salt water.
It may not be the most powerful handset, but Land Rover has spotted a gap in the market, and we recognise the company’s ingenuity with a Best of MWC award.
Best of MWC 2018: Sony Xperia XZ2 Compact
Small phones are going out of style – and if all the huge handsets in people’s hands weren’t a clue, then the fact that Sony’s new “compact” handset is 5in in size should be the proof you need.
Still, it’s smaller, and after the success of the recent Sony Xperia XA2 handsets, this is definitely worth keeping an eye on – especially as it packs the latest Qualcomm Snapdragon 845 processor into an attractive £549 package. We can’t wait to get our hands on it for testing.
Best of MWC 2018: Qualcomm Snapdragon 845
Given our praise for anything with a Snapdragon 845 processor in it, it only seems right we celebrate the company that made these brilliant mobile devices possible. Make no mistake: the Qualcomm Snapdragon 845 is an incredible piece of technology.
Faster, with an improved graphics processor, better camera performance and added stamina, the 845 improves on the 835 in every way. It’s no surprise that every flagship worthy of the name wants Qualcomm’s latest running the show. Naturally that means an award for Qualcomm.
Best of MWC 2018: Nokia 1
Still, MWC isn’t just about the most cutting-edge hardware, and Nokia gets a special mention for what it achieves on a shoestring budget.
The Nokia 1 likely isn’t aimed at you, Alphr reader, but for emerging markets. Running Android Go, the slimmed-down version of Android, the Nokia 1 is aimed at someone who has never owned a smartphone before.
Coming in at just $85 (~£61), to say the Nokia 1 is underpowered would be an understatement. But thanks to a clean install of Android Go, everything seems to work smoothly, and it comes complete with Google’s suite of essential apps, from Maps to YouTube. Hats off to Nokia for catering for all audiences – a well-earned Best of MWC award.