Time capsule: here are the best devices from MWC... from 5 years ago

The biggest event in the smartphone and mobile world kicks off in less than a week: Mobile World Congress 2016 will bring us the Samsung Galaxy S7, Galaxy S7 Edge and LG G5, but that's just part of it. It will also serve as the debut launchpad for Qualcomm's Snapdragon 820 system chip, the big-in-Asia Xiaomi Mi 5, and many more.

In this day and age, we keep on hearing about curved screens, crazy swappable battery cartridges, sleek metal designs and we're used to a kind of excellency and innovation that might seem outworldly for someone stuck in time.

Imagine looking at MWC 2016 and all the new devices from a five-year distance... Let's go back to 2011.

Back then, we were already starting to see the formation of the wondrous device that is the modern smartphone. But also, phone makers had some crazy ideas. Here is how it all looked like then.

#1: LG Optimus 3D: the first 3D phone

We thought 3D could make it big

Specs | Review

One of the biggest launches at the Mobile World Congress 2011 was the LG Optimus 3D, the first 3D phone, equipped both with a parallax, 3D screen and a dual camera setup that allowed you to capture 3D videos. We were mesmerized by the effect initially and wondered whether this would start a new future of 3D devices, but boy, were we wrong. 3D was a passing fad, replaced by much more immersive technologies like virtual reality.

#2: Sony Ericsson Xperia Play

The first and only smartphone for gamers

The Xperia Play was a phone with a slide-out gamepad. They don't make 'em like this anymore. It was the first and only one of its kind, and we remember how it brought dreamy thoughts of reviving our dreams of a gaming career. Yet, this likable 4-inch phone was a bit on the chubby side, and worse, it came with a limited selection of games. And it just did not sell all that well. Ultimately, Sony decided to never make a successor to this phone and left us with paltry iPhone and Android gamepad cases that only partially have that 'gaming phone' feel.

#3: Samsung Galaxy S II

The beginning of something great

The 4.3" Samsung Galaxy S II was a revelation: after a good start with the Galaxy S in 2010, the S II really brought attention to the series. It was selling like hotcakes, a thin and good-looking phone with an extremely powerful dual-core processor (a first for Samsung), it ran on TouchWiz. And not just any kind of TouchWiz, but one of the first iterations that brought some not so useful features that did, however, seemed futuristic enough to capture everyone's attention. The camera was also remarkable.

#4: HP Pre 3

The best phone that never was

Palm was a company built on a dream. Its Internet-centric web OS, its innovative interface with card-based task manager, all of the culture was around creating an outstanding phone that would be better than anything else on the market. Including the iPhone.

Unfortunately, the dream was not meant to be. The first two Pre phones made by Palm were sluggish, lacked some features, had some crappy marketing, and ended up selling poorly. Palm ran out of money and was forced to seek to get acquired. HP bought the company, but after months of development, the HP Pre 3 was quickly discontinued after the company panicked over slow sales of the earlier-launched HP Veer. And that was the sad end for the Palm dream.

#5: The first Facebook phones

Dedicated Facebook button does not seem like such a terrible idea in 2016

HTC Salsa (Specs, Review) | HTC ChaCha (Specs, Review)

The first Facebook phones were nothing more than just a fancy Android phone with a dedicated blue Facebook button. Fast forward to today's growing addiction with Facebook, this does not seem like that controversial of an idea, does it? The Facebook phones that launched in 2011, however, were decidedly mediocre, both mid-rangers and one with a physical keyboard that even then was seen as a sign of the past rather than the future.

#6: Some of the first metal devices unveiled

HTC led the charge

HTC Desire S Specs | Review

2011 was a year when HTC was at its prime: with booming sales, HTC phones looked stylish and set the tone for design. While the HTC Desire S that arrived to MWC 2011 was not the company's flagship phone, it was one of the first metal devices that signaled the times that are to come. These days, we have much slimmer, better looking phones and metal has become a symbol of a device's premium status.

#7: 'Twas the time of dual-core phones

Two is better than one

Do you know that we basically had no dual-core phones until 2011? The move to dual-core designs provided a huge leap in performance, and chip makers agree that the jump was much more significant than the jump from dual-core to quad-core, and then octa-core designs. You can take a look at a quick comparison that showed the performance of the best phones at the time right here.

#8: 'Android Market' was in its infancy

Just 9-month old, the Market had reached 150,000 apps

The 'Android Market', now Google Play Store, had just started and it was one of the key elements to Android's success as a platform. Developers embraced it and while in the beginning it had to do some tough catch-up with Apple's App Store, it seems to have managed to do that quite successfully. The Google Play Store these days has over 1.5 billion apps.

If you want to feel like you are in a time machine, simply type in www.phonearena.com/mwc2011 to get immersed in the atmosphere of the tech world 5 years ago.

Also, do not forget that you can look up the specs of even older phones at our all-encompassing Phone Finder database here.



1. bucky

Posts: 3790; Member since: Sep 30, 2009

Ah the (exynos) s2. One the very best phones I've ever owned. Touchwiz didn't lag at all with that version gingerbread.

21. Shocky unregistered

Yes, it did lag and even had the usual app launch delays that were associated with touchwiz up-to the Galaxy Note 4. However compared to the original Galaxy S it was a night and day difference. It was a great SoC at the time, coped with everything extremely well, even things it shouldn't have been able to handle like Tegra games using chainfire 3d. My only grip with that phone was the low resolution display.

2. aesthetics

Posts: 128; Member since: Oct 02, 2014

An Xperia Play 2 please, with SD820 and 5" screen, + games like GTA4 :D

12. kkmkk

Posts: 699; Member since: May 06, 2013

what about no ? Sony cant take any risk right now as they are very near of being kicked out from the market

24. drifter77

Posts: 402; Member since: Jun 12, 2015

Sony is a love-hate company. Childhood memories with Betamax video and walkman, Sony stood out for years. I'm no industry expert but they really need to refresh their mobile division to stay in the game. Their previous partnership with Ericsson didn't sell well either.

25. monoke

Posts: 1172; Member since: Mar 14, 2015

I'd buy if there was slimmer profile and bigger game catalogue. It's a huge differentiator as all android's are the same these days. Too gimmicky first time around, maybe not the second imo.

3. GreenMan

Posts: 2698; Member since: Nov 09, 2015

I really truly deeply surely miserably miss those SLIDERS! Like this HP (Which I've never heard of before!) and Blackberry Torch! And I also miss the ones with T9 Keyboards on board.... Like Nokia N92 or C2 etc... Now, those darn slates are all the rage now! I hate slates, I despise slates, I dislike slates, I can't take slates, I don't want slates, I...... (Narrator: And the whining goes on and on)

4. GreenMan

Posts: 2698; Member since: Nov 09, 2015

Time capsule: here are the best devices from MWC... from 5 years ago... Now how about this: "TIME MACHINE": here are the best devices from MWC... 5 years from now...

16. Arch_Fiend

Posts: 3951; Member since: Oct 03, 2015

Not possible......yet?

5. Xperia14

Posts: 1208; Member since: Sep 01, 2015

I got the Galaxy S2 which I loved. It's not working anymore unfortunately..

11. Techist

Posts: 311; Member since: Jan 27, 2015

Mine still does. It truly was one fine phone. Unsurprisingly it won plenty of accolades, including CNET's best phone of 2011, the T3 Awards phone of the year, #1 on Consumer Reports, etc.

22. Rocket

Posts: 673; Member since: Feb 24, 2014

mine still is and work like new using it on freedom pop :)

6. Dr.Phil

Posts: 2450; Member since: Feb 14, 2011

I truly think the Pre and WebOS operating system could've been the third major ecosystem if it was bought out by any other company than HP. I honestly think Blackberry should've bought it out and used it since they were both geared towards business/productivity users. I used a Pre Plus and it was one of the smoothest devices I have ever used. I couldn't believe it was underpowered in terms of specifications.

19. Crispin_Gatieza

Posts: 3151; Member since: Jan 23, 2014

Wireless charging, tap-to-share, full contact integration, swipe gestures, universal search, homebrew app "store". All webOS firsts and still the best. Their hardware is what did them in. That, and those ridiculous ads with Manny Pacquiao.

26. monoke

Posts: 1172; Member since: Mar 14, 2015

Yup. It had the smoothness of ios and more functionality than either os during its time. I liked its multitasking panel. Apps truly stayed open I believe. webos with today's hardware would be awesome for me!

7. GeorgeDao123

Posts: 432; Member since: Aug 20, 2013

The girls in S II picture are the best.

8. natypes

Posts: 1110; Member since: Feb 02, 2015

Brings back memories, especially the Android Market screen shots. I had an HTC Thunderbolt then.

9. avishekmukherjee

Posts: 362; Member since: Apr 09, 2015

Has the Xperia Play and Samsung galaxy S2 both working fine :)

10. shield

Posts: 852; Member since: Sep 12, 2015

LG optimus 2x first Dual-core smartphone 2010 december.

13. RuneMaster

Posts: 75; Member since: May 31, 2015

I still like the design of Galaxy S2.

14. Biernot unregistered

i see 2015 iphone specs

15. Podrick

Posts: 1285; Member since: Aug 19, 2015

Still have the S2. Awesome device. Great performance.

17. htcisthebest

Posts: 437; Member since: Nov 15, 2011

Hot ladies

18. legiloca

Posts: 1676; Member since: Nov 11, 2014

2011 was the time I got so in love with phones with TV antennas I just don't know why, I never had an Android smartphone till late 2012 from a local company and guess what, it had this TV antenna once again lol.. good times

20. skymitch89

Posts: 1453; Member since: Nov 05, 2010

I've still got my S2 (Epic Touch on Sprint) that I got few years ago. I have to say, it's still a relatively fast device for what it is. I was actually surprised about a couple months ago by Samsung, they sent an update to fix the "stage fright" issue on it.

23. Nexus4lifes

Posts: 298; Member since: Feb 13, 2014

S2 had a super amoled PLUS screen, where has that tech gone sammy? we are seeing super amoled screens only from then on. Loved that display on the S2...

27. monoke

Posts: 1172; Member since: Mar 14, 2015

Was the plus screen non-pentile? Is that the key difference from regular amoled?

29. OdysseasP

Posts: 67; Member since: Aug 08, 2014

Samsung Galaxy S2 was the only S series flagship smartphone from Samsung which featured a Super Amoled Plus screen. The Plus designation meant that the screen combined the advantages of Super Amoled screens, such as deep black reproduction, excellent contrast and wide viewing angles, with a standard RGB sub pixel layout. On the contrary, typical Super Amoled screens on Samsung Galaxy S/S3/S4/S5/S6 feature pen tile matrix sub pixel layout, meaning that for each pixel there are two sub pixels (Red & Green) instead of the three (RGB - Red, Green & Blue). Blue sub pixels are being shared between neibouring pixels, reducing the actual resolution of the screen to about 30-50% in comparison to a non pen tile screen featuring standard RGB subpixel layout. But because the number of pixels which have to be moved on the screen is the one stated by the manufacturer, it is just that the pixels aren't that sharp, the GPU has to work overtime in order to cope with the increased work load. This with its turn increases energy requirements, meaning that the phone runs out of battery faster than it would otherwise. While the move from a pen tile matrix sub pixel layout screen on the Samsung Galaxy S to a standard RGB sub pixel layout screen on the Samsung Galaxy S2 was considered a step in the right direction for Samsung at the time, the move back to a pen tile matrix sub pixel layout screen on the following Samsung Galaxy S3 and all the models which replaced it had a negative impact for Samsung among tech fans. Samsung publicly stated that this was done due to the fact that the Blue sub pixels were aging faster than both Red & Green, and by reducing their number resulted in a screen with less colour fading over time, which supposedly Samsung Galaxy S2 was suffering from. Of course Samsung never mentioned side benefits such as lower cost of production, increased profit margins, simpler production lines or increased production yields.

28. TerryTerius unregistered

Wait.... The One-77 came out in 2011? Damn, time is moving at a serious clip.

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