Mobile World Congress is usually jam-packed with breaking announcements for global mobile brands. After all, it isn't called Mobile World Congress for nothing.

Although it was billed as the biggest and best Mobile World Congress yet, in 2013 most of the action came before -- or comes after -- the main mobile event this week in Barcelona, Spain.

"The three major platform vendors were not at the show: Apple, Google and Microsoft," Avi Greengart, an analyst at Current Analysis, told us from Barcelona. "Microsoft was way off site at a hotel and didn't have any announcements. Google usually takes over Mobile World Congress and this year wasn't here at all. And Apple never comes to these things."

Galaxy Note 8

Still, there were some big announcements worth noting from Nokia and Samsung. Greengart picks Samsung as one of the show standouts. Samsung launched a few products, including Knox for secure management in a "bring your own device" environment, HomeSync to create a connected media experience in the home, and the Galaxy Note 8 tablet.

The Galaxy Note 8 offers multi-window options to split the portable 8-inch screen and allow access to several live applications. The Note 8 also comes equipped with a new generation of Samsung's intelligent S Pen, access to a suite of S Note templates and tools that allow you to create, edit, manage and share everyday documents; and Samsung "reading mode" technology for e-books with optimized resolution, video and voice calls.

"The Galaxy Note 8 offers the same pen technology they have in some of their smaller and larger products. This fills a nice hole in the middle," Greengart said. "This is a very nice product but they didn't announce pricing so it's a little hard to know how it will perform. But Samsung's big announcement is on March 14 with the Galaxy S IV."

The Most Exciting Product

As for HTC, its big announcement came one week before Mobile World Congress. The HTC One aims to compete with Samsung's Galaxy S IV. But Greengart said an offering from Nokia most turned his head. Nokia launched some new Lumias at lower price points for Western markets, but also rolled out a model called the 105.

"The 105 is not a smartphone at all, but it does sort of look like one. It looks like a shrunken down Lumia. It's designed for places like sub-Saharan Africa, India and China, where people are looking for the absolute lowest cost," Greengart said.

"For 15 euros, or about $18, you can get a phone that makes calls, does text messaging, has a flashlight and an FM radio and is really quite stylish. It comes with the Nokia brand. I thought that was, quite frankly, the most exciting product at the show."