Tech hacks love a heavy spec list replete with words like '1GHz processor' and 'gazillion-inch touch-screen' (capacitive, of course). But this year's Mobile World Congress - the world's most important phone and phone tech conference - is not so much about the specs, but rather about mobile software, and making handsets more of a hub than ever.
That's evidenced by the event's very first App Planet, where developers small, large and teeny will be exhibiting their latest. In fact, BlackBerry will be holding a Developer Day there, and has already said that its stand - its biggest yet - will be focused on the latest apps and solutions on BlackBerry. We've already seen the launch of developer support apps like BlackBerry Payment Service for in-app payments, and BlackBerry Themes, which lets you create your own 'skins' for a BlackBerry handset, complete with background and icons.
We'll still be seeing some high-end flagship devices of course - but as super-fast processors and new screen technology become more available across the board, it all equals out, and what makes the difference is the software. Android is our bet for OS of the event this year, with Samsung, Sony Ericsson and HTC all expected to launch at least one device based on this OS.
Samsung will be one of the biggest exhibitors, and as it has just released the M100S, an Android 2.1 smartphone intially for South Korea initially, this just might mean a similarly-specced device for Europe. We should finally also see a smartphone running on bada, its recently announced open source OS.
Sony Ericsson hasn't exactly been on top of its game, with its Satio and Aino handsets being returned in large volumes last year and its Xperia X2 smartphone pulled from UK launch, but let's hope its fortunes turn with the release of its flagship Android phone, the Xperia X10. Though its launch has been delayed, we're expecting to see it at MWC packing that 1GHz processor and some interesting software - Mediascape and Timescape, two apps that integrate all media apps as well as contact information from phonebook, email and social networks.
Personally though, I'm most excited about HTC's showing - largely because its entire roadmap was leaked a few months ago, and it looked hot. The highlight is its new flagship Android phone, the Bravo, a performance handset packing Android 2.1, a 1GHz processor and a media-friendly 3.7-inch WVGA touch-screen. According to the Guardian, this looks poised to be a Nexus One killer - it's packing exactly the same specs and the latest version of the Android OS (and Google's phone was also made by HTC!), but looks like its going to be about £60 cheaper, as well as available on contract with more than one UK operator.
HTC is also keeping with its plan to take on lower-end smartphones with the Buzz, a social networking device that seems to be a successor to the Tattoo. Plus, ol' WinMo is still on its books - we're particularly interested in one codenamed 'Trophy', the first Windows phone to pack a capacitive touch-screen along with a QWERTY and 600MHz CPU. Check out the original story for more.
Motorola has always been an important exhibitor of next-gen network technology, but it should also be showing off at least one Android handset, probably the Backflip, an Android 2.1 smartphone exhibited at January's Consumer Electronics show in Las Vegas. No word on other handsets, despite last month's leak of a high-def video phone, the Motoroi.
Microsoft is expected to talk more (finally) about its Windows 7 mobile OS, and is also rumoured to be showing off its Zune phone, a possible iPhone contender integrating Microsoft's Zune HD MP3 player.
Finally, the two missing names - LG and Nokia both pulled out from stands at MWC this year (to instead, rather cheekily, hold their own events round the corner). We're still expecting some announcements though, particularly as LG already has two Android phones. We've reviewed its entry-level GW620, and should be getting hands-on with another social networking phone, the GT540, which runs on Android 2.0. LG will also be exhibiting the GW990, a tablet smartphone with a five-inch touchscreen, though unfortunately this won't be available in Europe, and its slimmest touch-phone yet, the LG Mini, probably the successor to its budget-friendly Pop.
Though there have been rumours of a Nokia N87, a 12-meg camera phone with both an LED and Xenon flash, as well as another Maemo handset, the Finnish manufacturer has also announced it is halving its smartphone production this year. And, as Nokia's Ovi Maps recently went 100% free, including premium feature like voice navigation and Lonely Planet city guides, we're expecting announcements to center on apps and navigation.
I'll be flying out to Mobile World Congress, which starts next Monday 15 February, so keep an eye on the Mobile Choice site for the latest live updates.