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Mobile World Congress (MWC) is now less than a month away. The annual Barcelona bash starts on February 25th, with new handsets and tablets likely to be revealed to tech-mad journos at pre-briefings a day earlier.

So, what can we expect from the biggest players this year? And will they be able to ramp up the pressure on the absent Apple? Read on to find out.

1 HTC M7

htc m7

Endlessly hyped and not on show at CES in Las Vegas, HTC’s M7 is a critical device for the Taiwanese mobile maker.

The five-inch full HD screen will put it bang up against the recently revealed Sony Xperia Z and forthcoming Samsung Galaxy S4, while a boosted version of HTC Sense should make it a major proposition for fans of older HTC handsets.

But after a couple of years of hardware disasters and software failings, HTC will be desperate for the M7 to succeed.

Boss Peter Chou reckons it’s over the worst, but if the M7 tanks, expect plenty more doom and gloom for HTC in 2013.

2 Samsung Galaxy Note 8.0

samsung galaxy note 8.0

The Galaxy S4 is unlikely to be on show in Barcelona and is reserved instead for its own headline-grabbing event some time later in the spring.

However, Sammy is likely to wheel out the Galaxy Note 8.0, after an exec last week confirmed it was plotting a new Note tablet for MWC.

Leaked specs point to 16GB and 32GB variants, the latest Android Jelly Bean software and a five megapixel camera.

Make no mistake, this is Samsung’s attempt to take on the iPad Mini, an area where it’s some way behind rival slates from Amazon and Google.

3 Nokia EOS Pureview

Nokia 808 PureView white portrait

Nokia’s 808 Pureview turned heads at last year’s MWC thanks to its mind-blowing 41-megapixel sensor. Unfortunately, it was powered by creaking Symbian software.

However, rumours have pointed to a new Pureview device, dubbed the Nokia EOS, being released this year and running Windows Phone and packing a sleek aluminium design.

Could Nokia, improving but still well behind Apple and Google, be ready to show off an early version at MWC?

It would certainly create plenty of buzz and grab headlines away from key competitors.

4 BlackBerry 10 L Series

blackberry 10 l series

BlackBerry 10 is being outed later this week at a special event held by Research in Motion (RIM).

But its new L Series touchscreen device, said to be the platform’s flagship handset, will doubtless be on show at MWC where tech fanatics will get the first chance to play with it properly.

The device will be trailed during this weekend’s Super Bowl half time in the US, but whether it can help RIM claw back some much-needed market share remains to be seen.

Early indictors look positive, but MWC should provide the definitive answer as to whether this is really a game changer.

5 Sony Xperia phablet

Sony Xperia Z

You could be forgiven for thinking the Xperia Z was Sony’s move into the hideously-monikered phablet market.

Alas, no. Rumours are doing the rounds of an even bigger 6.44-inch device being shown off at MWC, taking the trend for big smartphones just a touch too far for our liking.

Expect Android, a full HD screen and the very latest Sony tech. Just remember that you’ll need a pair of fashionable-ten-years-ago combat trousers in order to carry it around.

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