Even though we had really aspiring hopes that Windows Phone would finally get the Mobile World Congress press coverage it deserved, in reality we got a slightly more low-key event than expected. However we also got plenty of surprising new announcements we didn't expect to see at the show so there's plenty to revisit on this week of massive mobile news. Join us past the break as take a step back and look at what happened -- and what didn't happen -- at Mobile World Congress 2012 for Windows Phone
Windows Phone Tango detailed, update coming in April: This announcement came a bit later than we expected it to, but Tango was easily the biggest Windows Phone-related piece of news to come out of the show. We learned that the new OS update isn't officially called anything -- it's officially just an update to 7.5 -- but we also learned that it's an update that could be just as important as Mango was last year.
While invisible to the common user, Tango is actually split up into two: an update for existing devices and an optimized OS meant for low-end hardware. The update brings along nominal features for existing devices like new Messaging Hub functionality and the expected assortment of bugfixes, but the real story here is the support for low-end devices with Qualcomm's Snapdragon S1 processors and just 256 MB of RAM. These new lower-end phones like the newly announced Nokia Lumia 610 and the ZTE Orbit are specifically tailored to markets where smartphone growth is expected to boom at lower price points -- namely Asian regions like China whose network technologies are also now supported in Tango. Some existing apps on the Marketplace may not work with the new 256 MB hardware, but Microsoft claims over 95% of apps should work without any adjustments necessary.
Nokia announces the Lumia 610 and Lumia 900: This story was not a surprise at all with numerous signs ahead of MWC pointing towards both devices seeing global releases. That said, the devices still managed to include a few surprises once Stephen Elop started waving them around on stage. First was the announcement of the global Lumia 900 which is going to include support for DC-HSPA (Dual Carrier HSPA) for theoretical speeds twice as fast as HSPA+. In other words, a stopgap global equivalent to LTE while other countries catch up to America's lead. The 900 is also confirmed to be available in white as well as the other black and cyan versions. Finally Canada got a nice bit of news with official confirmation that the LTE Lumia 900 would be headed to Rogers.
Let's be honest though, we already knew enough about that device. The real star of the Windows Phone announcements at the show was the new Lumia 610, the first official Tango device. The slick and slim handset follows in the footsteps of the Lumia 710 with a 3.7-inch display, 5-megapixel camera, and numerous color options. However the 610 opts for a 800 MHz Qualcomm S1 processor instead, a much more battery-friendly chipset than the S2 found in most Mango handsets. When the device launches in Q2 it's going to retail off-contract for 189 Euros (about $250 USD), making it the most affordable Lumia handset yet.
ZTE Orbit announced: Wait a minute, there was another Windows Phone announcement besides Nokia?! Believe or not, yes there really was and surprisingly it came from ZTE. The manufacturer who specializes in mid-to-low end hardware only just joined the Windows Phone clan with the Tania a few short months ago and now they've detailed a followup in the form of the ZTE Orbit. Running Tango, the Orbit actually manages to outmuscle the Nokia's Lumia 610 thanks to a faster 1 GHz processor (but still a Snapdragon S1) and a larger screen (4-inches).
Skype for Windows Phone Beta released: Even though we expected the app to debut at Mobile World Congress, we didn't expect it to go live just minutes before Stephen Elop took the stage at Nokia's event. But that's exactly what happened and now we have Skype Beta 0.2 for Windows Phone to use, test, and give feedback. The app is currently buggy with only a handful of devices supporting all of the features, but most Windows Phones seem to be running the app just fine and on top of that it has a beautiful interface to boot. The final gold release is anticipated for an April release. Download the beta for yourself from the Web Marketplace here.
Windows 8 Consumer Preview released: The last major bit of news despite not being directly related to Windows Phone was about its soon-to-be-overlord. The Windows 8 Consumer Preview (read: public beta) was finally released for the world to try and it's a very important milestone in the operating system's process. We'll probably see a release candidate in a few months followed by the retail release, but this beta is a big first step towards drumming up interest and getting people hyped. To download the Windows 8 Consumer Preview head on over to the new preview website.
As you can see there's plenty that happened at MWC this week, but what didn't happen this week? If you read our software and hardware predictions for the show, which were really ambitious now that we look back on it, there was a lot that was expected at MWC for Windows Phone that were nowhere to be found when all was said and done. Let's go through the big ones:
LG Fantasy / Miracle missing in action: The one piece of news that was once a guarantee for the show was the LG Fantasy, the company's first real Windows Phone since the Optimus 7 in 2010. Rumored to have NFC support, a 4-inch IPS screen, a 1 GHz processor and more we could confidently guess that the device (which also went by the name 'Miracle') was going to be among the first Tango devices to launch at MWC. As it turns out the device never made an appearance and LG went on record to say there were zero Windows Phones planned for the event. That also shut down our prediction of a higher-end LG device announcement too. We weren't too worried about LG's status as a Windows Phone maker before, but after another MWC without a new device (which could have really helped their dismal Android lineup this year) we're more concerned than ever.
Samsung still doesn't care: Another disappointing prediction-turned-false was the lack of any significant Samsung news for Windows Phone. After rumors had been suggesting Samsung would finally launch a global device to match up to its American-exclusive Focus S, we were expecting to see the device at the show in lieu of any major Galaxy S-related announcements. Instead we got zilch, which got plenty of Samsung fans up in arms after waiting so long for local availability of Mango hardware. We did hear confirmation that they are planning Windows Phone 8 devices for later this year, so at least they're not being as disconnected as LG has been. Yet we still find ourselves very worried about the maker of the once most popular Windows Phone ever, as Nokia is sure to quickly gain ground over the coming months.
No small step for Apollo yet: One prediction of ours which we weren't too confident in but still expected something from was a guess about Apollo. Last year at MWC 2011, Microsoft teased Mango for the very first time with some 'bullet point' features and we fully expected them to do the same this year (even if nothing was demoed). Unfortunately that wasn't the case as Apollo never even received a candid mention and certainly no feature announcements at the show. We fully knew that there was less than a 50% chance Apollo would be teased, but with MIX out of the picture we thought they'd mention something at this time.
The Others: This once consists of a bunch of micro-rumors so let's get through these quickly:
- We guessed the Lumia 900 would launch with Tango and even though there's still a chance it could, nothing right now suggests that it will.
- AT&T also did not announce pricing or availability of the LTE Lumia 900 for its network.
- HTC did not announce a global version of the Titan II. However, they later confirmed it would be coming eventually.
- HTC also did not announce any Tango devices, including the long-rumored Ignite and Prime.
- ZTE's Mimosa handset running Windows Phone Tango never appeared at the show, but it might have been confused for the Orbit.
- Huawei was expected to announce new Windows Phones for China but sources say the devices have since been called off.
- We didn't expect much from Fujitsu or Acer, and they met those expectations with zero new announcements.