Mobile brands have used this week’s World Mobile Congress to unveil new flagship models and announce strategic partnerships, as the battle for mobile dominance heats up.

With Apple absent from the event, HTC, Sony, Samsung and Nokia have buddied up with a variety of content brands in a bid to grow their share of the hotly contested mobile market and chip away at Apple’s dominance of apps and content.

Facebook was one of the most promiscuous players at the event, jumping into bed with Samsung, Microsoft and Orange to develop a mobile web app store as an alternative to Apple’s App Store.

The move was announced by the social network’s chief technology officer, Bret Taylor, who outlined the vision for a single mobile web standard and simpler payment system that will enable developers to create apps for the mobile web, rather than rely on third-party app stores.

Meanwhile, Nokia revealed plans to extend its Groupon tie-up to bolster its location-based offering, as well as relationships with Red Bull and Kraft Foods to broaden its mobile offer.

Sony, which bought out Ericcson to take full control of its mobile brand, announced an aggressive approach to relaunching its brand alongside its flagship Xperia S handset, with marketing spend set to triple in key markets this year.

Samsung, now the biggest smartphone seller, introduced two new Android models, Galaxy Note 10.1 and Galaxy Beam, while HTC unveiled three new Android phones, the One X, One V, and quad-core S “superphone”.

Nokia looks set to continue its revival announcing its first Windows Phone aimed at the mass market – the Lumia 610 – and the PureView 808, a Symbian-based smartphone targeted at extreme mobile photographers.

Core smartphone functionalities, such as camera and music playback, emerged as a strategy for brands struggling to compete with the big players’ content and value-added services.

Principal analyst at Ovum, Tony Cripps, says the decision to focus on these areas is a pragmatic one for brands who lack the resources to differentiate themselves from rivals such as Sony, Samsung, and Apple in terms of value-added services.

“HTC’s strategy to streamline its branding and to offer fewer, better-differentiated products is a reaction to both market forces and engineering necessity,” Cripps says.

“The company lacks the resources to easily differentiate itself from rivals such as Sony, Samsung, and Apple in terms of value-added services, so its decision to focus on perfecting core smartphone functionality around camera and music playback.”

Visa announced a new service that provides financial institutions and mobile network operators with a one-stop solution to securely download payment account information to smartphones enabled with near field communication (NFC) technology

The mobile market is forecast to be populated by 24 billion connected devices by 2020.

As Australia’s only LTE operator, Telstra announced the launch of two new LTE enabled devices, Samsung’s Galaxy Tab 8.9 4G and a prepaid internet dongle.