Foldable Phones and More: Top Tech at Mobile World Congress

    27 February, 2019

    The Mobile World Congress, or MWC, is the world's largest yearly event for showing new smartphones and related products. This week's four-day gathering in Barcelona, Spain introduced some interesting new phones and looked to the future of 5G wireless technology.

    MWC Barcelona

    One of the most talked about happenings at MWC Barcelona was the launch of a new foldable smartphone. China's Huawei launched the device days after South Korea's Samsung officially launched its own foldable phone model. Representatives of both companies showed off their devices. But MWC Barcelona attendees were not permitted to touch or test the new products.

    The launches marked a first for the mobile industry. They are the first devices designed to combine a smartphone and a tablet.

    Technology experts see such development as an attempt by manufacturers to present a completely new mobile invention after years of only minor phone innovations. The hope is that people will be excited by the new devices and that, in turn, demand and sales will rise. However, most experts expect the market for a foldable phone to be very limited, especially in the beginning.

    One major issue for buyers will be cost. Both Samsung and Huawei have priced their foldable models far above any other smartphones.

    Mate X and Galaxy Fold

    Huawei's new foldable phone is called the Mate X. It will sell for about $2,600 when it goes on sale later this year. Samsung's Galaxy Fold is priced at nearly $2,000 and is expected to be available in late April.

    Justin Denison, SVP of Mobile Product Development, talks about the new Samsung Galaxy Fold smartphone during an event Wednesday, Feb. 20, 2019, in San Francisco. (AP Photo/Eric Risberg)
    Justin Denison, SVP of Mobile Product Development, talks about the new Samsung Galaxy Fold smartphone during an event Wednesday, Feb. 20, 2019, in San Francisco. (AP Photo/Eric Risberg)

    Both devices are designed to work as a smartphone when closed, but as a tablet when opened. The Galaxy Fold has the tablet on the inside of the fold, while the Mate X's tablet covers the outside of the device.

    Both models have a traditional smartphone face that operates independently of the tablet. The Mate X display covers the whole outside, so both the front and back faces can be used for phone operations at the same time.

    Huawei's Mate X has a larger display than the Galaxy Fold for both phone and tablet operations. The Mate X also folds flatter than the Galaxy Fold. Both models will come in 5G versions.

    Several companies also introduced devices designed to work with 5G, the next generation of wireless technology. Some used MWC Barcelona to describe their plans for launching 5G devices and service. In the United States, some companies plan to launch 5G in major cities by this year.

    HoloLens 2

    Another product introduced in Barcelona was Microsoft's new HoloLens 2 augmented reality headset. Augmented reality devices project images as holograms onto a user's real-life field of sight. While such devices have traditionally been popular with video gamers, the latest headset seems more designed to help people with their work.

    Microsoft's first HoloLens was launched in 2016. Since then, the company has been working to create improvements that users wanted to see. The result is a product that Microsoft claims provides a more immersive experience and fits better on the head.

    During a demonstration at MWC Barcelona, Microsoft showed off the HoloLens 2's ability to closely follow eye movements. The presentation also showed how users can feel as though they can actually touch and interact with the holograms. Examples showed a user's ability to play a hologram musical instrument or change the settings of a piece of industrial equipment.

    The technology can be used to guide workers through complex industrial or medical processes. It can also be used in office settings to help employees all over the world digitally cooperate on projects as if they were in the same room.

    In a statement, Microsoft said it looks forward to many more workers using HoloLens 2 to help perform their jobs better and more safely. "From construction sites to factory floors, from operating rooms to classrooms, HoloLens is changing how we work, learn, communicate and get things done," the company's statement said.

    I'm Bryan Lynn.

    Bryan Lynn wrote this story for VOA Learning English, based on reports from the Associated Press, Reuters and online sources. was the editor.

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    Words in This Story

    foldable adj. able to be folded (bended in two so that one part lies flat on top of the other)

    tablet n. small computing device that is controlled by touching the screen or by using a special pen

    innovation n. a new idea or method that is being tried for the first time, or the use of such ideas or methods

    display n. the area where information and operations are shown on an electronic device

    project v. show an image or film on a screen or a wall

    hologram n. a computer-generated image, made of light, in which objects appear to move instead of being flat

    immersive adj. seeming to surround a person, audience, etc. so that they feel completely involved in something

    interact v. to talk and do things with other people

    digitally adv. using or relating to electronic signals and computer technology

    site n. place where something happens