Fight to be Android king

Fight to be Android king

The next battle in the smartphone wars looks to be between Taiwanese and South Korean smartphone giants. Both HTC and Samsung unveiled their latest flagship devices on Sunday, a day before the annual Mobile World Congress (MWC), with two different tactics in place.

The HTC One M9 features a new dual metal unibody finish and has some new hardware, such as a 20.7-megapixel camera. But its overall design language will resemble earlier well-regarded versions of its One series of Android smartphones.

The new phone is expected to go on sale this month in four colours, some with a secondary colour tone on its metal frame. The silver One M9, for example, will be edged in gold-coloured metal.

An updated Sense interface will let users set menu preferences more easily. New location-based software will offer more streamlined recommendations, including dining suggestions at nearby restaurants. The 4MP UltraPixel camera remains but it now becomes the front camera on the One M9.

In other respects, Samsung is tossing out its old playbook by launching two Galaxy S6 phones, with the new S6 Edge sporting two curved screens, instead of the single curved screen displayed in last year's Galaxy Note Edge.

It has also junked the plastic polycarbonate rear shell used in earlier S series devices. Both S6 devices that will debut here next month will have metal frames and Gorilla Glass 4 panels on the front and back.

Samsung will also dial back on its much-criticised TouchWiz user interface and keep bloatware off its new phones.

It has streamlined its interface to be more user friendly and dropped several less popular functions.

In previous years, Samsung would announce devices such as the Gear VR and Gear smartwatches alongside its smartphones.

However, during this year's Samsung Unpacked 2015 event on the eve of the annual congress in Barcelona, it unveiled only the two phones and a virtual headset for use with them.

Two new categories

HTC drew back the curtains on two new categories:

HTC Grip, its first fitness tracker, comes with built-in GPS so users can track activities such as running and cycling, without their smartphones. Made in partnership with United States sports apparel maker Under Armour, it will be compatible with an updated version of Under Armour's Record mobile fitness app.

HTC Vive virtual reality (VR) wearable headgear is its version of the more well known Oculus Rift VR. Here, its partner is Valve, the game developer and software distribution company.

The headgear will work with Valve's upcoming Steam VR gaming platform, and handle content from Steam's upcoming TV and movie distribution channels as well.

HTC said the Vive will be the first VR unit to offer full room-scale immersion, allowing a user to walk around a 3-D VR object. Existing VR devices require users to shift their heads to look around a 3-D object.

A Valve spokesman said the Vive is HTC's move into the PC/Mac gaming space rather than a move into the mobile market.

The current Vive developer's kit, which resembles the Oculus Rift VR unit, will be available later this year. The consumer version should be available by the year end.

Sony, LG and Microsoft were present at the Mobile World Congress but chose not to make big announcements at the trade show.

LG, which announced its curved G Flex2 Android smartphone at the Consumer Electronics Show in January, held off announcing an update for the LG G3 flagship smartphone. It chose instead to showcase two new smartwatches.

The LG Urbane is an Android Wear device, while the LG Urbane LTE can take calls and send out SMS messages. The Urbane LTE is powered by LG's webOS operating system, which the South Korean company uses for its smart TV line-up.

China handset maker Huawei showed off its premium Android Wear metallic smartwatch, while Microsoft announced new mid-range Lumia devices.

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