Each year Mobile World Congress kicks off on the Sunday before the main show starts, with lots of high-profile events where new devices and technologies are revealed.
Samsung has traditionally booked large venues at the show to launch their latest products and this year is no exception. Both Samsung and Huawei will be revealing new flagship smartphones at their respective pre-show weekend events, jostling for press coverage and trying to drum up enthusiasm from attendees and the media. Last year, Samsung made a sizeable splash on the Sunday with the launch of the Galaxy S6 and S6 Edge lineup, and it will be interesting to see whether they’ll repeat the feat this time around with the highly-anticipated S7 models.
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But for many smaller companies the huge cost of showing off their latest wares is prohibitive, with some companies are notably absent this year. That’s especially true of wearable tech companies who in the past almost stole the show in Barcelona. Furthermore this year’s MWC falls even closer to the Las Vegas CES show than ever, draining the budget for attending such a large event.
In the last few years, there has been a noticeable change in focus between the networks and device manufacturers in Barcelona. The operators traditionally fought hard to offer the most exciting and popular handsets, but as many of the today’s devices struggle to differentiate it’s arguably the networks that are now the key factor as far as customers are concerned.
There has also been speculation that some of the major handset manufacturers may exit the industry in 2016 as they struggle to generate revenues and gain market share. MWC may prove to be the last hope for some big names this year, going all out in a last-ditch effort to make a dent. Taiwanese company HTC for example became effectively worthless last year when its market cap fell 95 percent, with CEO Cher Wang stating last month that “We had to rethink phones as a company. VR is more important” [referring to the HTC Vive virtual reality headset].
As far as the highlights of the show are concerned, hopefully the networks will reveal more about their immediate plans for the development of 5G, with tests and trials already underway around the world. There are usually great (but not necessarily realistic) demonstrations of the maximum speeds that can be achieved with next-generation networks, with the likes of Ericsson, Huawei and Nokia Networks showing off their wares.
For example, South Korea’s SK Telecom is reportedly planning to demonstrate a 20 Gbps 5G network at the show (developed in collaboration with Intel and Nokia Networks) – fast enough to download a 1 GB movie in less than a second. SK Telecom said that the company will show three-dimensional holograms of Barcelona’s major tourist attraction sites using the technology.
5G won’t be widely available for years, but it’s exciting to see a glimpse of its future potential.
No doubt some of the major handset manufacturers will stand out this year, with featyre-packed new phones from Samsung, LG, Huawei, Sony, HTC, Microsoft, BlackBerry and many more. For Microsoft it’s yet another “last chance” to prove they have what it takes in mobile, with the newly-announced Lumia 650 likely joined in Barcelona by a mid-tier 750, and hopefully a flagship 850 running Windows 10. Is that too much to ask?
BlackBerry is widely tipped to reveal an Android version of the Passport at MWC, in addition to a new model called the Vienna which will run Android and offer both a touchscreen and a physical keyboard.
Personally, I’m eager to see the Galaxy S7 range, as Samsung will push the bar even higher for its competitors to beat. Waterproofing, the return of the removable memory card, a larger battery and he firm’s latest Exynos chip (or the Qualcomm Snapdragon 820 in some regions) are all welcome improvements to the S7’s features.
There’s only a few days left until all is revealed at MWC, setting the scene for the remainder of 2016. As ever, it’s sure to be an exciting show – keep an eye on Mobile Industry Review for coverage of the latest developments next week…