MWC17: Everything you missed from the world’s biggest phone show. Retro phones, shrinking bezels, 5G on deck and Samsung’s tease: That was the Mobile World Congress that was.
That’s a wrap for another Mobile World Congress (MWC17). With the exhibition halls in Barcelona cleared out and the press conferences long done, it’s time to look back on the week that was — and what it means for the future of our UK mobile and tech industry in 2017 and beyond.
What’s old is new: Nokia, BlackBerry and Moto
As we said in the glory days of Nokia, the company’s stubby phones would last forever. Nokia, or at least the company now licensing its brand, did its best to remind us of that in Barcelona when it rebooted one of its best-selling models ever, the 3310. The device does barely anything, but neither of those attributes has stopped a wave of fascination over the ‘new’ version of a phone that landed in our pockets 17 years ago.
You get a month of battery life, but you’ll have to give up your apps and touchscreen. With the BlackBerry KEYone, TCL revived the phone that gave us all sore thumbs. Though running Android, it has signature BlackBerry characteristics like BlackBerry Hub and…a physical QWERTY keyboard. Meanwhile, Lenovo kept the historic “Moto” brand burning by unveiling the Moto G5 and G5 Plus. It’s even going to revive the Motorola brand name.
Nostalgia is emotional, powerful and positive. Tech is just one of a multitude of industries to adopt a nostalgia theme. It’s easy to see why…we always remember the first time we saw Star Wars or the first time we banged out an email on an original BlackBerry keyboard.
Samsung phone…no phone presence!
When Samsung hangs back on a phone, you notice. It still launched an interesting Android tablet and a 2-in-1 Windows hybrid for power users (both of which even come with their S Pen stylus), but we all had to settle for a mere tease of their upcoming device, which by the way, will launch on March the 29th in New York.
Is it hype or real? That’s the constant question surrounding 5G — which stands for the fifth generation of wireless technology. It promises a blazing connection that smokes even your fastest home broadband connection and is supposed to transform the way we live by connecting everything around. More importantly, 5G will unlock the potential of many other tech trends like VR and self-driving cars. The answer is somewhere in between. Companies are showing off the hardware necessary to pull off those crazy speeds, but there are still tonnes of hurdles. The industry hasn’t come to an agreement on what 5G will look like, and there’s the issue of getting the necessary airwaves to power these new networks.
Slim is in, but it isn’t just phone thickness anymore. We’re talking about bezels, too. The LG G6 has a slender border that helps make more of the phone face about the screen. And it isn’t alone. The Huawei P10, P10 Plus and the Sony Xperia XA1 and XA1 Ultra have slim frames as well. This is a trend you’ll continue to see on high-end phones, including perhaps the next Samsung, judging by their tease creative.
Who had the most interesting gadgets? Start ups!
It’s not just the big brands at MWC; you increasingly have to pay attention to the start up scene brewing at this annual event. Held alongside MWC is 4YFN (four years from now), a start up conference where mobile companies exhibit, pitch and learn from huge players like Facebook.
While VR wasn’t so visible on the main floors this year, it was a popular theme at 4YFN. Also, a trend were products and services aimed at families. One of the best pitches came from SkyGuru, which uses a combination of weather and flight plan data along with the sensors in your phone to quell your fear of flying. It does so by guiding you through your journey with explanations of noises and movements.
Another hot trend is IoT…
…the idea that anything ‘dumb’ can wise up with little connection to the web. Think a connected beehive designed by a start up from South Korea to make beekeeping easier for humans and less stressful for bees. There was also a super-light, ultra-thin phone made from composites by a company called CarbonWorks. Never say never!
And finally…a few more things besides
- Motorola, a unit of Lenovo, unveiled five upcoming Moto Mods, including one that turns your Moto Z into a game controller.
- Netflix CEO Reed Hastings vowed to kill buffering.
- VR was everywhere at last year’s show, but this year saw more emphasis on content and less on hardware. Around the world at the Game Developers Conference in San Francisco, though, plenty of new VR gear was on display from the likes of Qualcomm, Microsoft and LG.