Mobile World Congress
Things move fast in technology. Last month's Mobile World Congress is swiftly receding into the distant past, and the recent launch of the second generation iPad illustrates just how quickly companies need to move to stay ahead of the game. Most of us aren't mired in the gadget blogs, and our phone operating system is a means to an end rather than a major personal statement, so for technology to stand out it has to be something special.
Along with the big Asian and American technology shows, the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona is still a key place to announce big news. The industry is still simmering from Nokia's surprise alliance with Microsoft, following the latter's hefty investment into developing a robust operating system to rival iOS and Android. The partnership should glue good hardware to good software, but best intentions are rarely, if ever, fulfilled in this industry.
Tablets continue to march on relentlessly. Right now, Apple has a 75per cent share of the market, but rivals are catching up fast. With the iPad2 hitting stores this week, here's what else has caught our eye.
HTC is pretty committed to Android but as the company's Drew Bamford told us, 'hardware and software are becoming more immeshed'. Right now, that means more focus on the mass market, and the crop of six products unveiled at MWC carried on that focus on tailored technology. As well as sleek aluminium milled Desire S, Wildfire S and Incredible S, the company also rolled out the Cha-Cha and Salsa models, pitched at the Facebook generation. The social network's half-billion global continent of users can't be ignored, and these two zesty handsets include a 'straight to Facebook' button on the front fascia, as well as deep-level software integration that allows your location to be shared with Facebook even when the screen is off.
HTC also showed the world its first tablet, the Flyer, a 7" Android-powered device that's deliberately intended to be more pocketable than an iPad. With an entirely redesigned HTC Sense overlay on to of the standard Google mobile OS, Flyer's key appeal is the inclusion of HTC Scribe, which brings pen powered computing back to the tablet market. 32GB of built-in storage should allow you to make the most of new innovations like HTC Watch, a movie app that'll stream new releases to the device.
Motorola ATRIX and XOOM
We were especially taken by Motorola's new ATRIX, a modular system that lets you dock your (Android) smartphone with a dedicated laptop-like enclosure. This instantly expands the OS to the big display, giving you a full-size keyboard as well as all the connectivity built into the device. No more lugging multiple devices around and - the biggest boon of all - data that doesn't even need to be synched. Motorola also showed off their XOOM, a 10" tablet underpinned by the yet-to-be-released Android 3.0. The XOOM will break cover at the same time as the iPad2; strong competition indeed.
Not to be outdone by the desirable devices at MWC, Steve Jobs stepped up to show the world the latest thinner, faster, more feature rich iPad at the start of the month. With a raft of improvements across the board, including cameras front and rear, a zippy processor and a slick cover/stand that should keep the device safe in your shoulder bag.