Why Samsung is the Cheryl Cole of MWC 2013

One company commanded the spotlight at Mobile World Congress

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MWC 2013 really reminded us of Girls Aloud, the pop phenomenon that's reunited for one last tour: while the girls are officially equals, Cheryl Cole is a much bigger star than all the others combined. MWC's Cheryl was Samsung.

Samsung might not have turned up in a frighteningly tight corset and towering heels, but it managed to be part of the event while eclipsing it altogether: it showed off the Galaxy Note 8.0 and some mid-range phones such as the Galaxy Young, and then it dropped an S4-shaped bomb. "Hey everyone!" Samsung said. "We'll unveil the Galaxy S4 in a fortnight!"

In the spotlight

Samsung, like many other tech giants, has decided that it'll shine more brightly if it goes solo. Big shows such as MWC (and CES, and GDC and E3) are rather like crowded market squares, everyone competing for attention. Standalone launch events do a much better job of attracting headlines, which is why Samsung's doing the S4 launch separately, Microsoft's stopped doing CES and Sony chose to unveil the PS4 at its own event. Trade shows are increasingly being left to the mid-market players, with the big stars doing their own separate shows.

If Samsung is Cheryl Cole, that makes Sony the MWC Nadine Coyle, smiling through gritted teeth as everybody tells Samsung how talented and gorgeous it is. "The Xperia Z should be the star!" Sony probably muttered in a Northern Irish accent. "And the Xperia Tablet Z too!"

Elsewhere on the floor we had some new Nokias. The Nokia Lumia 720 "doesn't have the high end features we've come to expect from the more expensive Lumias but it does have a decent spec sheet for something that's bound to be available on next-to-nothing contracts," says Dan Grabham, while the budget Lumia 520 is "low end but not low rent". "It's not a handset for those who really want a Windows Phone, but rather it's one for those who want a budget smartphone. For that type of purchaser, the cheap and cheerful nature of the 520 will surely appeal." There's also an incredibly cheap feature phone, the fun and funky Nokia 105.

Big star

Have you ever held your phone and thought, "This is all well and good, but it's far too comfortable and portable"? If you have then there's good news from ZTE, whose Grand Memo is quite ridiculously large. The screen is a massive 5.7 inches, which makes it bigger than Sarah Harding. That means Motorola's Razr HD must be MWC's Kimberley Walsh: good-looking, perfectly lovely and completely eclipsed by more ambitious rivals. James Rivington says it's "nice".

While LG and Fujitsu had plenty of phones to show off, Huawei was the manufacturer with something kinda ooh: its Ascend P2 claims to be the world's fastest smartphone thanks to some sparkly new LTE technology and high-speed Wi-Fi.

That leaves Asus, the Nicola Roberts of this year's MWC: while everyone else was perfectly professional and, let's be honest, a little bit dull, Asus went a bit brilliantly mad. First up there was the Padfone Infinity, a tablet with a detachable phone, and then there was the Fonepad, a tablet that's also a phone.

Last but not least we had HP, a firm with a whole lotta history: according to Head of Mobility Alberto Torres, HP is going to be "a leader in the tablet space and eventually smartphones." We can't help thinking that HP's tablet adventures so far rather resemble Nadine Coyle's solo album, Insatiable, described by reviewers as "homogenised" with a "by-the-numbers approach" that lacked "the individuality to stand out in a [saturated] marketplace". Maybe we'll live to see the day when HP calls the shots once more.