Weird or wonderful? The best new gadgets at Mobile World Congress
From phones with half-screen fingerprint scanners, to smart glasses and robot personal assistants, the FT's Daniel Garrahan reviews the coolest and craziest gadgets at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona.
Filmed by Petros Gioumpasis. Produced by Daniel Garrahan
The coolest and the craziest gadgets are all on show at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona. And the suits are loving it.
2018 hasn't exactly been a stellar year so far for smartphone innovation. Samsung and Sony both released new devices at this week's show. But both were incremental updates. While Huawei didn't even release a new phone at all.
So is there any new technology out there that can surprise or excite? Let's go and have a look.
Vivo caught the eye with its apex concept phone, which features a half screen fingerprint scanner and a retractable selfie camera.
ZTE attracted attention with its Axon M, for those occasions when one screen just isn't enough. This thing is unique, but it's heavy. And the view is compromised by a big fold in the middle of the two screens.
Others are targeting niche markets. Nokia played on consumer nostalgia by bringing back its 8110 banana phone from 1996, made famous in The Matrix film, and retailing at less than $100.
The rough and rugged Land Rover phone is pitched at climbers and skiers. And the Cat phone the builders and plumbers features a thermal camera and an indoor air quality sensor.
The latest smartphones from Caterpillar have gorilla glass five. They're dust proof and waterproof. They look a bit brittle like. But I'm told that if you drop them onto a concrete breeze block, they'll survive virtually unscathed. Let's put it to the test.
Yep. Not a scratch.
Personal assistants driven by artificial intelligence have gone mainstream. Now companies are trying to give AI a friendly face, whether that's through hologram avatars or robotics.
So if you talk to a box, it's just a box. But if you call, Timmy, come over, come to me, it's a whole different experience.
Does it develop more of a personality, do you think? What is it that sets it apart from something like Alexa?
To have a personality for Timmy would be a big no, no. Timmy is a machine that connects you. The cost of Timmy for the end user is less than $1,500 US.
That's still a sizable amount to spend on what essentially is an Amazon Alexa on wheels.
We are big believers in video. Timmy will be the ultimate way to consume this video.
So AI is just part of the picture. I mean, this is much to do with communication and entertainment.
Health is another area exciting the tech world. We've seen smart skipping ropes and the ubiquitous fitness trackers. Then there's this thing from Modius. The company claims its device can help people lose weight by stimulating a nerve on the back of the neck through this patch, which looks a bit like something you might see in an episode of Black Mirror.
There's an area in your brain. It's called your hypothalamus. It's a really deep, central area. And ultimately, it controls how much fat you store. So we designed Modius to actually stimulate or activity that part of the brain.
Sceptical people might say, I remember those devices that you strapped on your abdominals and stimulated nerves, and allegedly allowed you to lose weight or achieve sculpted abs without doing any exercise. They might say the same about a device like this. And what would you say to those people?
So if people do feel that it hasn't helped them in their weight loss journey, we're more than happy to give them a full refund.
There've been all kinds of gadgets on show in Barcelona this week, some wonderful, some, well, a bit weird. But while the smartphones haven't exactly been the most innovative, the technology industry has shown that it can still put a smile on your face.
Daniel Garrahan, Financial Times, Barcelona.