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The Weird, Wacky Gizmos and Gadgets We Saw at MWC 2024

The Weird, Wacky Gizmos and Gadgets We Saw at MWC 2024

The camera can recognize objects and read out text, so imagine if you’re in a grocery store in a foreign country—you can show the camera an item, ask what it is, and ask it to translate the text.

The company says it’s working on adding voice recognition so you can command the camera with your words, as well as hand gestures. You can also train your own AI functions through PhoneCam’s backend. For example, if your grandma makes brownies in a specific way, you can have her wear the PhoneCam and it can record her movements to create a recipe for you to follow, no need to jot it all down on pen and paper.

There’s a lot of interest from the enterprise side, or so the company claims. Japanese carmakers have inquired about putting it on all of their factory workers and having the AI identify and validate that the worker has done everything they need to do accurately, making the quality control process much more immediate. Grocery store workers can walk through an aisle and the camera can identify when there’s low stock of a certain brand of cereal and make a note of it.

The basic functionality of PhoneCam is free, but to access its full suite of features, you’ll have to sign up for a subscription—the lowest-tier plan starts at $4 per month.

This tiny and cheap camera is dreaming big, and I’m not sure how well all of this will really work. (My brief demos had internet connectivity issues, a common problem at trade shows.) But I do appreciate that this isn’t meant to replace your smartphone.

Always Have Signal With the Satellite-Connected Skyphone

Thuraya Skyphone

Thuraya’s Skyphone runs Android 14…

Photograph: Simon Hill

Thuraya Skyphone

… but also connects to it’s own satellite network.

Photograph: Simon Hill

For folks in remote areas or out at sea, those big satellite phones with the long aerials can be a literal lifesaver, but you still need a regular phone. That said, we’ve started to see satellite functionality added into regular phones, like the iPhone 14 and 15 range, to ensure you can get help in emergencies when you have no signal.

Thuraya’s Skyphone is something in between. It runs Android 14 and works like a regular smartphone, but it’s dual-SIM and can also connect to Thuraya’s own satellite network. There’s a toggle in the network settings to set your default connection and switch between the two.

It’s kinda chunky, with uninspiring specs, but it has a built-in aerial that you can slide out of the top and a larger-than-average battery that Thuraya told us is good for up to 80 hours using the satellite connection and 380 hours of regular use. There’s no price yet, but it’s set to launch in Q3 this year.

This Ebike Has 5G and AI Object Detection

Orbic Ebike

5G connection sees the Orbic eBike stream Spotify via dual speakers and use Google Maps.

Photograph: Simon Hill

With fat tires, a 7-inch touchscreen, and camera front and back, Orbic’s new eBike is a real head-turner. Its claim to fame is 5G connectivity, and the company hopes to sell it through carriers (partnering with Verizon in the US), so you can buy cell service along with the bike.

All the Top New Gadgets at MWC 2024

All the Top New Gadgets at MWC 2024

Mobile World Congress—or just MWC—isn’t one of our favorite trade shows just because it’s situated in the beautiful city of Barcelona during a seasonally appropriate time of year. (Cheap cava and tapas don’t have anything to do with it either.) No, this show is a favorite because it’s one of the easiest to navigate, and there’s always plenty of interesting, fun, or just plain crazy tech to scavenge through.

This year, such bounty includes transparent laptops, bendable phones, a Barbie flip phone, and more. Here are the highlights.

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HMD Rebrands (Sort of) and Teases a Barbie Phone

People watching a phone reveal for HMD phones

Mattel mobile: HMD is working with the toy brand to launch a Barbie flip phone (behold the pink pixelation).

Photograph: Julian Chokkattu

HMD was supposed to be the rebirth of Nokia phones back when it made a splash at MWC 2017, but it wasn’t long before the company lost steam and it was clear that the Nokia brand name wouldn’t really compete with the likes of Samsung and Apple anymore. HMD instead put its focus on budget Android phones over the past few years and its feature phone business. At MWC, it announced that 2023 was the company’s first profitable year, and now it’s trying to change things up with a rebrand. First is the name—it’s leaning more on “Human Mobile Devices” (the full version of its acronym) instead of HMD. This year’s lineup of devices will include an HMD phone, an iconic Nokia phone, plus a Barbie flip phone.

Yep, you heard that right. HMD is collaborating with Mattel to launch a Barbie feature flip phone. It’ll be coming this summer, will obviously be pink, and is being touted as a digital detox device. That’s all we know. The only pictures of all the teased phones were pixelated.

What we do know about HMD’s other phone is that it will revolve around a system called HMD Fusion. Similar to Motorola’s Moto Mods or Google’s long-lost Project Ara, it sounds like a system of modular components that developers can build for the smartphone, from an extended battery and a barcode scanner to a payment terminal to medical equipment. It released a toolkit that developers can use to get started.

HMD also had a big focus on repairability—it expects half of its devices launched globally this year to be repairable. But this summer, it says it will have a system that dramatically reduces the number of steps it takes to fix a cracked screen.

Motorola Bends a Phone, and Debuts Smart Connect

Motorola Adaptive Display phone

Bendy blower: Motorola bendable phone concept can have a number of viewing options.

Photograph: Julian Chokkattu

Late last year at Lenovo’s Tech World event, Motorola unveiled a bendable concept phone called the Adaptive Display. I got a chance to play around with it at MWC. It looks and feels like its Razr folding phones, except instead of having a hinge that snaps the phone closed precisely in half, you can bend the whole thing backward.

12 Best Amazon Echo and Alexa Speakers (2024): Earbuds, Soundbars, Displays

12 Best Amazon Echo and Alexa Speakers (2024): Earbuds, Soundbars, Displays

Amazon’s family of Alexa-enabled devices is vast. From the spherical Echo to the swiveling Echo Show 10, you can get Alexa into your home in many ways. These devices can answer your questions, help you order essentials, set timers, play all sorts of audio content, and even function as the control hub for your growing smart home. These are our favorite Echo- and Alexa-compatible speakers for every home and budget.

The best time to buy any Amazon speaker is during a major sale event like Black Friday or Amazon Prime Day, as there usually are steep discounts. If you’re trying to decide which smart devices might be best for you, be sure to check out WIRED’s picks in our roundups: Best Smart Speakers, Best Smart Displays, and Best Bluetooth Speakers. We also have guides on setting up your Echo speaker, creating Alexa routines, and Alexa skills that are actually fun and useful to help you get started.

Updated February 2024: We’ve added the Echo Show 8 (3rd Gen) as our new smart display pick. We’ve also added advice for controlling content shown on your Echo Show device.

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7 Best Theragun-Alternative Massage Guns (2024): Portable, Affordable, and Heat Therapy

7 Best Theragun-Alternative Massage Guns (2024): Portable, Affordable, and Heat Therapy

Lyric Massager for $172: Lyric’s massager was one of our top picks. As of this writing, the brand’s website is down to prepare for “a whole new Lyric experience,” but it was like that the last time we checked in November. Hopefully it actually does come back. If you happen to find it in stock, it’s a great massager that also looks pretty. The small touchscreen explains each of the four attachments and walks you through guided massages—or you can use it manually. Plus, it has an extension handle you can click on to get hard-to-reach areas like your back.

Bob and Brad D6 Pro Massage Gun for $250: This massage gun feels very high-end. It’s heavy in a good way, with nice attachments. I also like that the brand was started by two physical therapists. But it’s pricey compared to our other favorites, and I found the noise it makes to be quite annoying.

Turonic GM5 Massage Gun for $160: I really like using the Turonic. It’s light (much lighter than the LifePro Sonic above) and has one of the lowest intensity levels. That’s good for people who generally feel that “low” isn’t quite low enough on massage guns. It’s still quite powerful too. It has seven attachments.

Dr Massage Prowlr Massage Gun for $100: The Prowlr looks a bit like you’re putting a floor sander on your body. The large head spins, instead of the hammering-like motion of other guns. It feels more like a traditional rubbing massage, rather than a device that pounds into deep muscle knots. The handle is great for gripping and getting difficult-to-reach areas, but the attachments feel cheap. I also wish there was one smaller head for working on areas like your neck.

Hyperice Hypervolt Plus Bluetooth for $229: If you can find the Hypervolt on sale, it’s a good option that has a Bluetooth-connected app like Therabody’s devices. It’s heavy and doesn’t come with a carrying case, though it has a small case for its five attachments.

Yunmai’s Slim Elegant (SE) for $180: Like the Lyric, Yunmai’s Slime Elegant was our favorite non-Theragun device. It lived up to its elegant name with its soft coating on the attachments and charging stand. However, it’s nearly impossible to find on sale.

23 Best Wireless Chargers (2024): Pads, Stands, iPhone Docks, and More

23 Best Wireless Chargers (2024): Pads, Stands, iPhone Docks, and More

Does my phone support wireless charging?

Not all phones support wireless charging, but most brands have models that do, so look up your phone model first. You’ll usually see “Qi wireless charging” (the default standard) or simply “wireless charging” if it does. Phones that support the latest Qi2 standard, bear the Qi2 logo and have a ring of magnets for easy alignment (just like Apple’s MagSafe).

Do wireless chargers work if you have a phone case?

Yes, most wireless chargers can charge through cases, unless it’s a particularly thick case. Check the product listing—there’s usually a case thickness limit in millimeters. Phones can get hot when charging wirelessly, so don’t worry if your phone is really warm when you pick it up. Most smartphones have limits to stop accepting a charge if they get too hot.

Yes, cords will charge your phone faster

Some manufacturers like Apple and OnePlus make wireless chargers that recharge their respective phones faster than others, but if you’re looking for speed, you’re better off sticking with a cord. Wireless charging is best for desks or nightstands when you’re not really using your phone or in a rush to recharge it.

What’s a fast wireless charging speed?

We said this at the beginning of our guide, but you’ll see “Compatible with iPhones and Android phones” under each slide, and that means the charger has a standard charging speed of 7.5 watts for iPhones or 10 watts for Android phones (including Samsung Galaxy phones). The latest MagSafe and Qi2 chargers can go up to 15 watts, and there are a handful of proprietary wireless chargers for specific phone models that can charge even faster. It’s worth noting that, even where phones support them, the maximum charging rates are only reached some of the time (the charging rate is automatically adjusted to preserve battery health).

Is wireless charging safe to use?

There’s no definitive evidence that it’s harmful. You may worry the phone’s battery might degrade faster with wireless charging, but manufacturers set safe limits for phone batteries, stipulating how much a battery can be charged and how far it can discharge. Regardless of the charging source you use, whether you plug into a wall adapter or use a wireless charging pad, these limits can’t be overridden. There’s no risk of overcharging your phone by leaving it on a wireless charger all night.

How do I keep my phone’s battery healthy?

However, try to keep your battery between 50 and 80 percent for optimum battery health. Keeping your phone fully charged or fully discharging the battery will degrade it slightly faster, and regularly swinging between full and empty will shorten its life. Battery technology has improved in recent years, and phone batteries are more reliable than ever. If you switch phones every two to three years or don’t mind paying a modest fee for a battery replacement on that timescale, it’s not worth worrying too much about how often or when you charge your phone.