After a weekend of digesting the remains of my debut Mobile World Congress experience – and of course Mobot's first MWC too – I'm left thinking that this year's show was actually rather good.
Sure, Android was unavoidable and a lot of the top kit had been revealed before the doors at the Fira de Barcelona even opened for the first time, but there were some cracking devices nonetheless, and some interesting new concepts and technologies on display.
But ultimately MWC is about phones. Well, tablets too to be fair, but mainly phones. So here's a look at how all the major phone and tablet manufacturers got on. Did their products live up to expectations? Were there any unexpected surprises? Did we notice them there at all? Read on for the Mobot verdict, and let us know your thoughts in the comments...
Acer (Iconia Smart; Iconia Tab)
Acer isn't the first name on anyone's lips when thinking about mobile gear, but it made a decent fist of things in Barcelona with its Iconia-branded Android devices. And crucially they're not me-too devices simply following a trend. The Iconia Smart's 4.8in screen and 21:9 aspect ratio makes it a video natural, though we'll have to see a price before singing its praises too loudly. The trio of Iconia tabs, meanwhile, are all decent-looking contenders and should give Acer a solid presence in the tablet market over the year ahead.
Rating (out of 10): 7
HP (Pre 3, Veer; TouchPad)
It was a brave move for HP to drop all mention of the Palm name in launching its next-gen webOS phones and tablet the week before MWC. But it was the right move, and sends a strong message about HP's commitment. As do the trio of devices themselves: the Pre 3 looks to have built on the solid foundations of its predecessors and then some, and offers a welcome and elegant alternative to the legions of Android phones out there. The MeeGo debacle shows just how precarious life is for platforms not named Android and iOS, but on this evidence webOS isn't going down without a fight.
HTC (Incredible S, Desire S, Wildfire S, Salsa, ChaCha; Flyer)
There was something that felt a little half-hearted about Android's bouquet of new arrivals in Barcelona. Maybe it's that we have such high expectations from HTC, or maybe it's simply that Android is now so over-subscribed, but we struggled to get overly excited about any of the five smartphones that were unveiled, nor the 7in Flyer tablet. Slightly underpowered versus the best out there and largely lacking in innovation, this wasn't a major step forward for HTC by any means. The pair of Facebook phones look interesting enough, though, so long as they come in at the right price.
INQ Mobile (Cloud Touch, Cloud Q)
INQ made the original INQ1 'Facebook phone' a couple of years ago now, and its latest twist on the genre, which has produced the Cloud Touch and Cloud Q, shows it hasn't lost its knack. HTC's greater overall clout will ensure the Salsa and ChaCha are more successful than the INQ pair, but we can't help but feeling this cheerful-looking pair are more natural partners to the heavy social networker. Time will tell.
LG (Optimus 3D, Optimus 2X, Optimus Black; Optimus Pad)
LG cranked up the noise at MWC this year, bringing us not only the world's first 3D smartphone (the Optimus 3D) and the world's first 3D tablet (the Optimus Pad), but also the world's most powerful smartphone (the Optimus 2X). Debatable PR bluster aside, and regardless of your personal feelings about 3D, it says something that the 3D-toting pair were able to overshadow the excellent 2X completely. In terms of publicity and the outing of hero features, LG had a very good show indeed.
Motorola (Atrix, Pro; Xoom)
Motorola really should pay a little more attention to us European types. Here we have a company that has just launched two fantastic new products – the Atrix superphone and the Xoom tablet. But because they did so at CES in the US a month ago, and only had the Pro to unveil at MWC, a phone that's been out in the States since mid-last year, we all kind of overlooked Moto. Which is a shame, because the Atrix and the Xoom still look right up there with the best in the business even after all the new arrivals in Barcelona.
Part of us wishes the deal to adopt Windows Phone 7 hadn't been inked so quickly, as it robbed us of seeing the Nokia N9 in Barcelona, and by all accounts it was quite a phone. As it was, Nokia had nothing new to show off at all, which was a huge let-down from the world's biggest phone maker.
If Android and iOS are the two major operating system forces going forward, and Windows Phone 7 is pushing hard to be the third, that essentially leaves BlackBerry OS and webOS fighting for the scraps. That may sound odd to say given RIM's global smartphone market share, but the graph is heading downwards and has been doing so for a while. So even though MWC has traditionally never been big on RIM's radar, it was disappointing to see so little from the Canadian tech giant. The PlayBook looks to be a decent tablet, but RIM left Barcelona in a weaker position than it arrived in.
Samsung (Galaxy S II, Galaxy Ace, Galaxy Mio, Galaxy Fit, Galaxy Mini; Galaxy Tab 10.1)
Samsung's growing horde of Android-fuelled Galaxy devices are often criticised for being a bit soulless, but if you are going to have a device that's simply a sum of its parts, you could do a lot worse than the Galaxy S II. Feature for feature, you won't find a better phone around bar none, while the Galaxy Tab 10.1 is a worthy successor to the 7in original. For sheer numbers of formidable devices on show, Samsung was the star of Mobile World Congress.
Sony Ericsson (Xperia Play; Xperia Arc; Xperia Neo; Xperia Pro)
Along with the LG Optimus 3D, the Xperia Play was the device everyone wanted to play with most at this year's show. And on first impressions it's hit the mark perfectly, just about managing to live up to the ridiculous hype leading up to MWC. And as a sidekick, you couldn't ask for much better than the stylish Xperia Arc, while the Neo and Pro look to be solid offerings themselves a little further down the price scale. This was Sony Ericsson's strongest showing at MWC for quite some time.