15:45 06 March 2013
Loads of new multi-function smartphones and tablets went on show this week at Mobile World Congress (MWC 2013) in Barcelona, giving us a glimpse of the future of phones.
What was once simply a device for making calls and sending text messages is now a computer in your pocket, connecting you to the world in ever-increasing ways.
With mobiles predicted to become yet further embedded in our day-to-day lives, MWC 2013 gave us the chance to see what the big manufacturers such as Samsung and Nokia have planned.
Here's a look at the best of what MWC 2013 had to offer, and just how mobile phones and tablets are going to become more deeply ingrained in our everyday existence.
What were the show highlights?
The most-talked about phones and tablets from MWC 2013 came from a mixture of heavyweights such as Samsung, relative unknowns such as Huawei and obscure brands like ZTE, each of which brought something different to the party.
Samsung showed off its Galaxy Note 8.0, which is an 8inch tablet to rival the iPad mini. Oddly, it has a SIM card tray and supports calls - even if you'd look a bit silly holding it to your ear as a telephone.
Early impressions are that it's a light and powerful tablet, with a 1.6GHz quad-core processor and 2GB of RAM. Its touch-screen works either with your finger or the included 'S Pen' stylus, which is used for precision control and handwriting.
Huawei hasn't really entered the mainstream yet, despite being a massive Chinese networking company. It will be hoping to change all that with its new Ascend P2, pictured right, which it claims is the "world's fastest 4G smartphone'.
It has a huge 4.7inch screen, a 1.5GHz quad-core processor and 1GB of RAM. It'll be selling for €399 on the continent (£349), making it one of the cheaper smartphones, given its spec.
ZTE may be something of an obscure brand in the world of smartphones, but its new Open handset is interesting because it runs the brand new Firefox operating system. You may be familiar with the Firefox web browser from your desktop PC, and this is its attempt to take on Android, Windows Mobile and, if it's feeling brave, Apple's iOS.
Hi to hybrids
'Phablets' were a pretty big feature at this year's MWC, too (that's a portmanteau of phone and tablet, though I prefer 'moblet') with several manufacturers unveiling their own phone/tablet hybrids.
LG's Optimus G, pictured right, is a pocket-stretcher at 5.5inches, but its size means there's plenty of room for technical wizardry inside the handset - including a new 1.7GHz quad-core processor from Snapdragon, and LG's first true HD screen on a phone.
Asus also earned a lot of attention for its Fonepadphablet, because it's now the cheapest 3G-enabled tablet on the market at £169, with features and spec well beyond its affordable price tag.
What does the future look like?
Sharper screens and more powerful processors are great, but don't do much beyond making the phone run faster and look prettier. What will be interesting in the future is how manufacturers and developers use technology to create new features.
While it's not widely adopted yet, Near Field Communication (NFC) technology already exists and offers some interesting ideas on how we might use our phones in the future.
NFC is starting to be used to turn phones into digital wallets, allowing you to pay by tapping your handset against a payment terminal. The phone is linked to your bank account and the money is deducted accordingly.
But the uses of NFC are, theoretically, much broader. For instance, if the lighting in your home were connected to NFC terminals, you could have lights switch on and off automatically as you enter and exit a room with the phone on your person.
Similarly, you could have your heating turn on when you walk through your front door and pass an NFC terminal with your phone in your pocket.
It's not just our home lives that could be forever changed by future mobile advances, as the motor industry has already begun to prove.
In future, your smartphone could be used to communicate with your car in wildly exciting ways. With Audi's self-driving car for example, you'll be able to instruct your car to pick you up on its own, with it using the GPS tech in your phone to find you.
Rather than having to traipse back to the multi-storey with a bunch of bags in tow, the car will leave the car park on its own using cameras, radar, GPS and computers to pull up in front of you on the street.
If Google has its way, we'll all be wearing its augmented reality 'Google Glass' glasses, paired with a 4G smartphone, to get real-time information about our environment, messages and diaries directly in front of our eyes.
They look like futuristic, lensless spectacles but they have a tiny, transparent display just above the right eye onto which information is projected. There's also a built-in camera for stills and video, along with wifi and mobile connectivity.
And that particular glimpse of the future isn't too far off, as Google plans to have a version of Glass available to the public before the year's out.
Whether or not the public is ready for wearable computers is another matter...
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