Phones and flamenco dancers show their stuff at Barcelona Mobile World Congress 2013

The Mobile World Congress 2013 in Barcelona attracted 72,000 visitors in February. Even with eight airplane hanger-sized buildings the Congress felt busy as central station at rush hour. Nokia, Samsung and other big players had elaborate temporary buildings within the hangers. Apple and Google stayed away. Mozilla created a buzz with its new mobile operating system, modeled on the Firefox browser and meant to compete with Android. I tried a small, full-function ZTE smart phone running the Mozilla OS and found it smooth and intuitive. Telefonica will sell it in Brazil for €60 to €75 ($80 to $100), and that seems to be without a contract. Europe comes later.

After two-and-a-half days working for my client I took a few hours to wander around. Tucked away in the far recesses of the cavernous buildings were quirky gems, like tiny solar cell arrays that charge an iPhone 50 percent in six hours, Chinese knock-offs of Samsung phones one generation behind and a whole lot cheaper, and a flamenco dancer in full regalia dancing for a well-known chip maker (not precisely sure of the connection, but it was entertaining). Between the buildings I sat in the driver’s seat of a modified Ford, let go of the steering wheel, and it parked itself.

One of my favourite finds was a Korean company displaying tiny add-ons for Samsung and iPhone mobiles, none much larger than bud earphones. One is the A-Scan portable breathalyzer, which plugs into the headphone jack. Blow gently and it displays your blood alcohol level. Mine was zero until I took a sip of the excellent Catalan wine they provided, and then it shot up to levels that would have prohibited me from parking the Ford.

The iLucir portable body fat analyzer requires you enter your height and weight into the phone. Pinch the left side with your left thumb and forefinger, do the same on the right, and your body fat-to-weight ratio pops up. What did it show? I’d better head to the gym more often.

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