This year’s Mobile World Congress had a lack of flagship smartphone launches, with vendors instead choosing to use the event to debut smartwatches and fitness trackers

Wearables win at MWC

For the mobile tech industry, Mobile World Congress is one of the biggest events in the diary.

Taking place each year in Barcelona, the four-day event plays host to the latest products, innovations, apps and services in the mobile tech space.

This year, 85,000 attendees from over 200 countries had the chance to fondle the touchscreens of the latest smartphones and tablets and try out the mass of wearable prototypes that all promised to turn them into the next James Bond.

It was the wearables that appear to have stolen the show this year.

Major smartphone reveals were sparse, and with Huawei’s ‘world’s slimmest’ MediaPad X1 and Lenovo’s Yoga Tablet 10 HD+ the only two big announcements, tablet launches were also a little thin on the ground.

Some companies that did have a new smartphone to show off decided to unveil wearable tech alongside it.

Beside the Xperia Z2, which features a 5.2-inch screen, 2.26GHz Snapdragon 801 system on chip, 3GB of RAM and front-facing speakers, Sony introduced the SmartBand SWR10.

The SWR10 is a waterproof fitness tracker that can monitor sleep, receive notification alerts and control media playback.

While Samsung’s Galaxy S5 smartphone, with its 5.1- inch display, IP67 rating (meaning it can be submerged in three feet of water for up to half an hour), rubberised back panel and heart rate monitor, may have been one of the most anticipated announcements of MWC, and even though its coolest new feature was a fingerprint sensor (you know, the one Apple unveiled on the iPhone 5S last year), it was actually Samsung’s Gear Fit smartband that ended up winning the award for Best Mobile Device at this event’s annual awards show.

The Gear Fit wasn’t the only bit of wearable tech Samsung showcased at MWC – in total, the firm unveiled three bands.

The next generation of the Galaxy gear smartwatch, the Gear 2 and Gear Neo, were among the most talked about smartwatches at the show. They both run the Tizen operating system, which makes them the first wearable devices to feature the open source platform.

Other notable wearable tech products included Huawei’s TalkBand B1, a headset and smartband combo with NFC pairing, Bionym’s Nymi, a ‘security wristband’ that recognises the user based on their unique cardiac rhythm, and Fujitsu’s Smart Glove, a glove designed for the industrial sector that allows the wearer to point at anything in their surroundings and receive instructions on what to do.

While almost all the companies, vendors and inventors were desperate to jump on the wearable tech bandwagon, one firm surprised us all by claiming that it had no plans for developing such devices.

Blackberry not only revealed its lack of interest in smartwatches, but its CEO, John Chen, announced another odd move for the mobile maker.

It plans to release a new smartphone called the Q20, which will feature not only a full qwerty keyboard, but also what Chen described as ‘classic’ physical buttons – Menu, Back, Send and End – as well as an integrated trackpad.

Has Blackberry lost the plot or does it believe that consumers will have tired of wearables by the time next year’s MWC comes around?

Either way, it’s safe to say that smartwatches and fitbands aren’t going anywhere anytime soon.

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