LTE devices and Nokia's European debut to dominate handset news - MWC 2012 preview issue

LTE devices, and smartphones in particular, were a main focus in January at the Consumer Electronics Show. Expect that trend to continue later this month at the Mobile World Congress 2012 trade show in Barcelona, Spain. However, much of the momentum in LTE will remain focused on the U.S. market since American carriers have taken the global lead in terms of LTE deployments.

Specifically, MWC attendees should expect to see global versions of the LTE devices announced at CES to pop up during the show, according to CCS Insight.

Another theme that is likely to emerge at MWC is the attempt by Android handset makers to stand out from the pack. Samsung has already confirmed that it will not announce a successor to its flagship Galaxy S II Android smartphone at the show. While Samsung is likely to announce new devices for Android and bada, and to focus on its Media Hub content strategy, the lack of a flagship device announcement could give other companies the chance to steal the spotlight.

One company that is likely to try is HTC. The Taiwanese smartphone maker had a disappointing fourth-quarter, with sales down 23 percent, but may make a comeback at the show through a handful of new flagship products. "We're expecting a fairly significant portfolio refresh" from HTC, CCS Insight analyst John Jackson said, adding that HTC might unveil a new design language for its devices and may even de-emphasize its Sense user interface. Specifically, HTC may release at least one smartphone with Nvidia's quad-core Tegra 3 processor inside. And there have been rumors that HTC may unveil a streaming music service--though Informa Telecoms & Media analyst Andy Castonguay said he is skeptical of this possibility given the success of services like Spotify. However, HTC may unveil a more unified content strategy.

Speaking of which, the newly minted Sony Mobile Communications may use the MWC stage to discuss how it will integrate more tightly with parent company Sony's content library and network. Likewise, LG will use its exposure to tout its LTE smartphones and Optimus 4X HD, its first phone with a quad-core processor, among other products.

However, one company that cannot be ignored is Nokia (NYSE:NOK), which announced at CES the LTE-capable Lumia 900 for AT&T Mobility (NYSE:T), Nokia's first LTE device and one of the first LTE phones running Microsoft's (NASDAQ:MSFT) Windows Phone software. In Barcelona, expect at least one new flagship Lumia smartphone from Nokia for the European market (though it probably won't have LTE), as well as a less expensive Lumia Windows Phone. Nokia may also tout its Asha products aimed at emerging markets.

Key press conferences to keep an eye on include ones scheduled for Sunday night by LG, Sony and HTC. Nokia scheduled its press conference for Monday morning. Also, don't miss a keynote panel on Wednesday that will include HTC CEO Peter Chou and Nokia CEO Stephen Elop.

LTE devices and Nokia's European debut to dominate handset news - MWC 2012 preview issue