With more than 2,200 exhibitors, Mobile World Congress is a truly enormous event. Spread over eight halls of the Fira de Barcelona, this year the event attracted over 100,000 attendees. Even for the veteran, a week at MWC can be exhausting and overwhelming.
Once the dominant feature of MWC, new handsets are just one of many strands today. For all the high-end announcements, Mid-tier Android phones represent the vast majority of the market in the developed world, and in this fiercely competitive area most handsets are as powerful and feature-rich as the high end of 12–18 months ago. HMD Global stole the show in a fit of nostalgia by relaunching one of Nokia’s most famous feature phones, the 3310. Handsets were not the only mobile hardware, with larger-format devices such as Samsung’s Galaxy Tabs showing maturity, and more voice-powered assistants (think Amazon Echo) from Sony and SK Telecom among others.
There was plenty on show about the coming benefits of 5G networks, although it still felt premature for many with widespread deployment unlikely before 2020. Low-power wireless area networks (LPWANs), on the other hand, are now widely available, allowing a true Internet of things (IoT) — swarms of low-cost, long-lived devices connected directly to the Internet to provide ever-richer data and the opportunity for control. Along with all of that data, platforms to make effective use of it were also on show, from helping consumers to replace individual batteries before they run out to optimising agriculture and cities at huge scale.
Health applications, both professional and consumer, were strongly in force. At the consumer level, the emphasis had moved from providing information to providing advice and guidance, using machine learning informed by rich data sets. At the professional end, many companies are vying to be the network “glue” for the increasingly connected health industry.
Media, marketing and apps at MWC had less of the “Wild West” of previous years, reflecting growing maturity. Adtech vendors are increasingly struggling to differentiate, and “App Planet” was more about the building blocks of modern mobile experiences, with the buzz about consumer apps shifting to MWC’s sister event Four Years From Now (4YFN).