At Mobile World Congress in Barcelona this week, big mobile brands like LG, Sony and Samsung asked the question: has the smartphone had its heyday?
The answer, of course, was no — they still want us to buy their phones — yet each was looking for ways to reinvent the smartphone and extend its reach beyond the device itself. Ancillary gadgets from virtual reality headsets to toys for your pets are now popping up everywhere. Here are three of our favourite innovations from the show.
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Mobile tech on display in Barcelona
Reviewing phones and gadgets Fairfax Technology Columnist Peter Wells shows us what was on display at the Mobile World Congress In Barcelona.
LG Rolling Bot
One of a range of "friends" unveiled with LG's new G5 modular smartphone, the Rolling Bot is the cutest of them all.
It has an inbuilt 8MP camera, speaker and laser and can be controlled remotely via your home's Wi-Fi through an app on the G5, no matter where in the world you are.
LG says the Rolling Bot is designed to keep your pets from getting lonely while you're out.
You can check up on your furry friend through the bot's camera and save snaps and videos.
Or you can roll the bot around the house shooting a little red laser for Fifi to go bananas over.
You can talk through the mic in your phone and your pet will hear you through the bot's speakers. "What's up, dog!"
Other non-pet related uses include remote control capability with compatible devices, and home security.
Price and availability are yet to be announced, but with Australian telcos already confirming they'll stock the G5, things are looking good for a local release.
CAT S60 smartphone
Caterpillar makes those fun yellow trucks and as such, its line of "Cat Phones" is designed for the rough and tumble of construction and trade work.
That doesn't mean its latest phone won't be a damn cool gadget for any regular Josephine.
With military grade strength, the CAT S60 will withstand a drop of 1.8 metres and the touchscreen will work even with wet hands or when wearing gloves.
It's waterproof up to five metres submerged for an hour, and can take video and stills underwater.
As if all that isn't cool enough, it has an inbuilt thermal imaging system, powered by FLIR Systems, a world leader in the field.
The phone sports two rear cameras — a thermal camera and regular camera — which work in tandem to overlay both the thermal and visual images for a clearer rendering.
You can see heat mapping live in front of you, and clicking on a particular spot will show you that object's temperature to within 1 degree accuracy between zero and 100 degrees, up to 50 feet away, according to CAT.
The CAT S60 lets you record images or video with all the data saved so it can be downloaded and analysed back at the office.
And for non-professionals, having a heat mapping tool in your hands could be fun for trying to find where your cat is hiding, checking on whether someone is burgling your car at night, or forging a bad pick-up line: "Hey, you're pretty hot."
Sony Xperia Ear
There's been much hype over the last year about how we'll all soon be talking to our phones constantly for directions and everyday tasks, with artificial intelligences like Apple's Siri, Microsoft's Cortana and Google Now rapidly improving.
Sony has taken things one step further by creating an ergonomic earpiece so you'll have a personal assistant everywhere you go, without having to look at your phone.
It connects to the internet on your phone via Bluetooth, fits comfortably in your ear and is very lightweight.
You can choose to use Sony's own language recognition system, Sony Voice, or you can switch to Google Now — handy because it understands our idiosyncratic Aussie strine.
The Ear comes in a cute little case which doubles as a charger for when you're not wearing it.
It will last for up to four hours talk time or 80 hours stand-by time, but the case has three charges in it, potentially extending the device's life span all day while out and about.
Sony says the Ear is designed to give smartphone owners back their eyes so they're not constantly looking down at their phones. Hands-free navigational directions are a cinch as you ask it where to go and it tells you the answers.
It will also read Facebook, SMS or WhatsApp messages out to you so you don't have to pick up your phone — and you can dictate a reply.
You can search the web, ask it to make phone calls, and customise a number of other commands and notifications to suit you, such as how it greets you when you first put it on each day.
Best yet, you're not locked into the Sony Xperia ecosystem: this little guy will work with any Android device running KitKat 4.4 and up.
The Sony Xperia Ear will be available worldwide with prices yet to be announced.
MORE FROM MWC:
- Sony reboots Xperia brand with trio of phones
- VR steals the show at MWC
- Hands on with LG's modular G5