Trends to Watch For at Mobile World Congress

Next week, while most Americans are lounging about in honor of President’s Day, the people responsible for your mobile phones, netbooks and cellular networks will converge on Barcelona for the Mobile World Congress trade show. Check back on Monday for clues as to what type of devices you’ll be toting in your pockets and purses next year, but in the meantime, here are a few things to look out for, whether you’re at the show or merely monitoring it from elsewhere.

As computing and mobile phones meet, expect to see traditional vendors of PC gear walking the floor. For example, wireless router maker Netgear (s NTGR) is showing off a 3G femotocell unit while chipmakers Nvidia (s NVDA) and Intel (s INTC) will also be out in force showing off their vision for mobile computing. Microsoft (s MSFT) is expected to launch a phone or reference design, and Dell (s dell) may, too.

Despite asking our mobile devices to become badder, we don’t want them any bigger, which is why several chip vendors are trying to cram as much processing power into devices, and as many radios into phones, as possible. That’s why we’ll see the industry’s first dual-core phones (featuring two processors that can run simultaneously, if needed) as one way to boost processing speeds, and more integrated chips, such as the latest MSM chips from Qualcomm (s QCOM) which combines radios and an application processor onto one chipset to enable sub-$150 handsets.

Also on the integration front, with Wi-Fi becoming more necessary on phones, companies such as Broadcom (s BRCM) and Nanoradio are attempting to make Wi-Fi chips part of an integrated chip and lower powered, so batteries last longer. We’re also likely to see a variety of gadgets dubbed mobile Internet devices that come with and without voice capability, which means the term will still generate tons of confusion.

On the carrier front, expect updates on the next-generation wireless network roadmaps, with Verizon (s VZ) likely detailing its plans for an LTE rollout. I’ve heard from some people that the company plans to launch LTE handsets as late as 2015, but really hope it’s a lot sooner. There will also be software news, some Google (s GOOG) Android announcements, and perhaps some progress on open access.