Brave new world: First look at the Mobile World Congress' new venue

David Phelan explores the biggest mobile phone trade show in the world and checks out Samsung's latest offerings

The roads in central Barcelona, busy at the best of times, were jammed this morning as thousands of exhibitors, retailers and developers in the mobile phone world scrambled across town to the Gran Via exhibition centre.

After years at the Fira Barcelona venue in Montjuic, the show has switched to a new, much bigger location. And it feels re-energised as a result.

After all, many companies hadn't waited to get to Spain before revealing their new products. LG talked up its phones a few days ago and HTC launched its spiffy new One handset at a huge London event last week. Even Samsung announced its new tablet by press release the day before the show began.

So it could have been an excitement-free event. But the new, much bigger, brighter showgrounds have improved things in lots of ways. Easier to navigate, with fewer long queues for the toilets and more restaurants for when you've just had enough of yet more mobile phone apps, the Fira Gran Via is clean and efficient.

And where exhibitors previously had to make do with the same space and locations year after year, now there's a new playing field. That's useful because even a few years ago the major players were different. Suddenly Huawei, ZTE and even Samsung have bigger, more central displays for their wares.

Speaking of which, Samsung had several new products - the ones it talked about a few hours ahead of time – that will turn heads. It also made an announcement: the company will host a big launch in New York in three weeks' time. It's expected to be the Galaxy S IV, sequel to the all-conquering Galaxy S III mobile phone.

For now, though, there's the Samsung Galaxy Note 8.0. That's a new tablet with 8in display, clearly aiming to directly take on the Apple iPad mini. The screen is roughly the same size, give or take a tenth of an inch, it's a fraction heavier and just over 1mm wider.

It feels bright, appealing and highly accessible. The screen is higher resolution than the iPad mini, though not hugely. Nonetheless, this is a bright, vivid, colourful screen. Like Apple's tablet, this has a fast, powerful processor which keeps it moving at a great lick, even when multi-tasking.

The Note 8.0 is good at running several programs at a time, not least because you can divide the display to have two apps on screen at once. This is a trick Samsung has shown before but it's unique to the company's products.

Also unique is the S Pen, a stylus which slots into the body of the tablet. As you withdraw it the compatible software leaps into view. It's great for writing and drawing apps, or for annotating documents with notes.

Samsung also launched Homesync, a cloud-in-your-living-room (with no rain) that we'll come back to next time. But before the show has properly opened in Barcelona, Samsung is stealing it.

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