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“Intelligent Connectivity” was the theme at Mobile World Congress Barcelona 2019, the world’s largest exhibition for mobile networks.
5G, the next generation of mobile network and it´s expected impact on industries and consumers’ lives over the next decade was the central topic. Ericsson and Huawei, the largest 5G equipment providers, showcased their technology and potential use cases. Unmanned 5G controlled drones and smart city visions made the future not seem too far away in Barcelona.
Huawei and Samsung presented their first generation of smartphones with a foldable display. While Samsung made sure that no one came closer than two metres to its latest bid for tech leadership, attendees could get a lot closer to Huawei’s foldable Mate X. Both handsets are expected to go on sale later in the year.
Attendees also gathered around Samsung’s latest flagship S10 series where back-to-back charging and displays now take up the entire front of the phone, with a camera embedded into the display instead of a notch. ZTE, Xiaomi, Samsung and Huawei also presented first generation 5G phones and other 5G consumer devices.
Sony stood out in its message with the new Xperia, presenting 21:9 screen, the “longest” screen in the market, targeting content creators for movies and YouTube channels. Condor, a consumer electronics and appliances manufacturer from Algeria is set to enter more European markets, namely Spain, Portugal and Italy, after it entered France last year. This follows the trend of new, non-established smartphone manufacturers entering European markets, under-cutting the likes of Apple and Samsung by focusing on the budget smartphone market.
As mobile phones’ replacement cycles become longer, manufacturers are brainstorming ways to continue growing the market. Motorola introduced the ‘upgradable smartphone’, which allows for a 5G upgrade by attaching the ‘5G Moto Mod’ to the back of the phone – it contains a 5G chip and an extra battery. Attachable accessories such as a 3D camera and projector are also available. Remade, a leader in the refurbished smartphones market, presented a new concept with the motto “better than refurbished” with phones offered at price points 30% below market price. The company buys damaged or defective phones, repairs them and offers them in several colour options.
Chinese smartphone manufacturer Nubia launched the bendable phone. Nubia wants to challenge the way we carry our phone, by putting it on our wrist, instead of our pocket. Nubia presented a fully functional smartphone that allows the user to interact through a long and narrow bendable screen. However, it wasn’t clear how functional the phone would be as the wearer would need to move their wrist to view all the screen.
As big brands try to get closer to consumers, consumer-brand engagement is key. Several exhibitors presented solutions that allow brands to individually engage with consumers through normal text messages, WhatsApp or Facebook Messenger, eliminating the need for several apps. Highly personalised brand-consumer interaction is essential to retain customers and offer better products and services.
The MWC 2019 was not short of innovation and showed the potential of 5G. However, until 5G becomes a commercial reality for consumers, industrial users are most likely to see the benefits first, as the scale of operations is larger. The cost of 5G wasn’t a topic anywhere in Barcelona. Despite the innovation, there is also some resistance to 5G, cloud connectivity and always-on.