For more than three decades, the annual Mobile World Congress (MWC), in Barcelona, has been the place to see the latest in mobile technology, from phones to tablets. And after a year off in 2020 and a small, delayed version in 2021, the conference came back this year — slightly muted in energy but full of innovations in virtual reality and fintech, plus bigger, brighter, and foldable screens.
This year, Billboard gave out awards to the most impressive new products that are essential, innovative, or simply just impressive for music fans and industry executives alike. Winners included a powerful phone and a flexible tablet, but also cool uses for existing technology that most people don’t know they need — glasses with speakers, a Bluetooth-enabled meat thermometer, and a phone-fueled treatment for bug bites (really).
Below are the winners of Billboard’s first Best of MWC Awards.
BEST PHONE — Honor Magic 4 Pro, with Earbuds 3 Pro
This slick new phone from Honor, the Chinese handset maker that spun out of telecom giant Huawei, comes packed with the latest technology — a 1312 x 2848 pixels infinity-pool screen, a quarter terabyte of storage, and 100-watt quick charging capability. It also has an “Eye of Muse” 50-megapixel camera with a flicker sensor and a laser-focus system that’s perfect for wide shots, as well as zooming in. plus video. Music fans will want to pair it with the company’s Earbuds 3 Pro, which has dual driver speakers and noise cancellation but also an in-ear temperature sensor made for gathering health information.
BEST LAPTOP/TABLET — Huawei Matebook E
Is the Matebook E a tablet that folds into a laptop or a laptop that folds into a tablet? The answer is yes — and with less compromise than you might assume. The tablet, which comes complete with the Huawei M-Pencil, offers convenience, portability and audio-video capability — and quad microphones and good speakers make it ideal for music. But the device also runs Windows 11, with a keyboard that feels more like a real laptop than an accessory. And the device comes together with a satisfyingly solid click.
BEST PERSONAL AUDIO PRODUCT — Fauna Audio Glasses
Want great sound without that all-up-in-your ear feeling of earbuds or the don’t-talk-to-me vibe of over-the-ear headphones? Try Fauna audio glasses — yes, really — which have high-quality MEMS speakers that offer remarkably good sound that’s surprisingly inaudible to others. They’re perfect for taking calls, as well as listening to music. (The company offers blue-light glasses and sunglasses, and the lenses can be replaced with prescription lenses.) The audio comes through clearly — it’s less personal than a headphone but more intimate than a speaker. And the glasses, made by an Austrian company, are likeably chunky. Now it is time to dance.
BEST AUDIO TECHNOLOGY — Snapdragon Sound
Lossless audio is finally mainstream, but most phones can’t handle transmitting it through Bluetooth. Snapdragon Sound makes sure lossless stays that way. It’s not a product, but rather a technology spec that handset makers and other companies can license in order to build into products. Snapdragon Sound is designed for master-quality 24-bit, 96kHz high-resolution music. It also synchronizes audio with video, which can be vital for video games.
BEST PORTABLE SPEAKER — Huawei Sound Joy
Portable wireless audio isn’t new anymore — or, in most cases, all that impressive. But the Huawei Sound Joy combines best-in-class sound with portability (it’s a water-bottle-shaped pound and a half), durability (it can withstand a dunk in a meter of water) and a form factor that’s more beach day than audio lab. Technology from the French audio company Devialet aligns the speakers, for solid sound, even from a single speaker, and two Sound Joy units can be paired by shaking them. The real joy is in the design, with woven mesh that makes it easy and pleasant to grip, plus beach-blanket-obvious controls.
MOST PRACTICAL — Heat It Insect Bite Treatment
This year’s MWC was filled with impressive but not-quite-there-yet technology, from virtual reality products that might change the world to fintech products that will make it more convenient — but maybe not this year. So it was nice to see a product that solves a problem that most of us actually have, easily and inexpensively. Heat It is a device less than half the size of a lighter that treats itching from bug bites by generating a brief burst of heat. (Heat doesn’t prevent bites or make them go away, but it is proven to stop itching to a significant extent.) The device is designed to fit on a keychain, and can be removed and plugged into a phone (choose between iPhone and Android) and controlled by an app. Heat It is already available in Germany and the device is awaiting FDA approval in the U.S. Essential for this summer’s outdoor festivals.
UNNECESSARY BUT AWESOME — Meater Plus With Bluetooth Repeater
There are meat thermometers, and there are meat thermometers with Bluetooth repeaters that have a 50-meter range so you can watch your backyard barbecue from anywhere in the house. The Meater Plus With Bluetooth Repeater is the latter, of course. It comes with a Guided Cook System (for tips) and an Advanced Estimator Algorithm (to predict cooking time). And if you want to
keep an eye on your cookout while you get ready for a concert — or even across town — the device even connects to the “Meater Cloud.” There’s more to cloud technology than work.