Geeky gadgets aplenty at Mobile World Congress

The Consumer Electronic Show may still be king of the gadget fairs, but the boom in smartphones and tablets has meant the Mobile World Congress event in Barcelona now runs it a close second. One day in to the 2012 event and there have been some amazing technologies already on display.

The most eyecatching is undoubtedly Nokia’s new phone, the 808 PureView, which includes a camera with a staggering 41-megapixel sensor. That certainly sounds excessive for taking ordinary photos: you’re looking at as much as 13MB for a single JPEG format file, and given you can print images up to a meter wide without having to drop below a print-standard 300dpi, it seems a bit excessive for consumer use.

The real purpose of the sensor, however, is to greatly increase the potential for digital zoom. PCPro notes that you can use a 3x zoom and still have the equivalent picture quality of a 5-megapixel camera.

Moving on from still to video images, Samsung has unveiled the appropriately named Galaxy Beam. It’s got a tiny built-in projector that’s able to produce a decent quality 50 inch display for up to three hours on a single battery charge. The big downside is that it only really works in a darkened room, which may limit its use as a portable tool.

And with sight taken care of, Bang & Olfusen has teamed up with Lumigon to produce an Android handset aimed at audiophiles. Early reviews are that it’s certainly impressive, particularly the bass, but this quality is still very much by the standards of a phone rather than a dedicated music device.

On the operating system front, Mozilla has announced that several European mobile networks and chip-supplier Qualcomm are both on board with its idea to create Firefox-based smartphones. “Boot to Gecko” is a similar concept to the way Chrome has been developed from a browser to an operating system, with HTML 5 at the core and a Mozilla Marketplace for distributing apps.

Outside of smartphones, one of the most notable devices on display is the Cotton Candy from FXI, which aims to build a computer into a USB stick (pictured). It’s the same concept as the Raspberry Pi, but without the attempt to keep the price as low as possible. The stick contains a dual-core processor and a separate graphics chip, plus Wi-Fi and Bluetooth connections. The two ends have USB and HDMI sockets, while the side of the stick houses a microSD slot and a micro-USB cable.

It goes on sale in March and will cost $199 (compared with the $25/$35 of the Raspberry Pi models.) At that price the main advantage seems to be ultra-portability, and it’s hard to see how much use buyers will get from it. FXI seems to be envisioning a day when every office or cafe you visit has a screen and keyboard/mouse set up for visitor to simply slot in their stick, but that’s a chicken-and-egg situation to say the least.

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