Cutting Room: Mobile World Congress is alive and well

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Handset manufacturers have saved major product launches for outside of MWC over the past couple of years but as Paul Withers explains, they’re likely to make a welcome return to this year’s event 

Mobile World Congress is upon us yet again and, if the GSMA is to be believed, promises to be one of the best yet. Not only will it once again break attendee and exhibitor records, but this year firmly marks the return of the handset manufacturers. Hallelujah.

For the past couple of years, the mobile industry’s biggest trade show has been a bit of a damp squib, with the majority of vendors shunning the event in favour of holding their own launch events in the days and weeks prior to MWC.

Last year in particular, the buzz was notably dead at an event that was always seen as a battlefield among manufacturers. Samsung, Nokia, Sony Mobile and LG were the only manufacturers of note to make big announcements, and even they were relatively muted.

Welcome return

This year it appears the manufacturers are prepared to do battle with one another to see which product remains on everyone’s lips throughout the duration of the four-day conference. The GSMA is clearly relieved at the heavy manufacturer presence.

Chief marketing officer Michael O’Hara told Mobile News: “I’m very excited to see device launches come back to MWC this year. Having them come back adds the icing to the cake and excitement on the Sunday and Monday of the event.”

Samsung Galaxy S5

Samsung makes a welcome high-profile return to MWC and on the Monday night is holding its “Unpacked 5” launch event, which will no doubt attract hundreds if not thousands of interested bodies.

It will inevitably see the wraps taken off its premium Galaxy S5 smartphone, a product line that has broken records for the manufacturer over the past couple of years.

The manufacturer’s last major launch at MWC was the Samsung Galaxy S II in 2011. Since then, it has launched the Galaxy S III and S4 at its global Unpacked events in the weeks proceeding MWC.

Paranoid Android

Nokia is set to somewhat shock visitors by unveiling a smartphone running a stripped down version of Android. It will come as a surprise as Nokia has made a lot of noise about committing itself to Microsoft’s Windows Phone platform for the past two years, and even more so when its acquisition by the IT giant for £4.7 billion will likely go through in the coming weeks.

Sony Mobile has a history of making high-profile launches at CES Las Vegas in January and MWC, and is rumoured to be launching a new Xperia smartphone – possibly the Z2.

Many eyes will also be on Lenovo. It may provide an update on Motorola, which it bought for £1.7 billion last month, with the possibility of a peek at new handsets. HTC is expected to add to its mid-range portfolio – HTC denies a successor to the HTC One will launch, and Huawei and ZTE will both, as always, be busy too.

The only disappointments could potentially be LG and BlackBerry. LG will not be holding a press conference, so a product launch is unlikely. It will likely show off its curved G Flex device, which has already been widely seen. It is especially disappointing considering that it made a lot of noise to Mobile News at the back end of last year around doubling its marketing spend to achieve double-digit market share in the UK this year.

BlackBerry’s lack of activity at MWC shouldn’t come as too much of a shock as it has generally not been too busy at the event. However, with its device manufacturing deal with Foxconn last month and BlackBerry revealing to Mobile News last month it was committed to hardware, a new device to revive BlackBerry 10 may have been on the cards. However, with silence from BlackBerry around MWC and nobody apparently available for briefings, it might be a quiet one.

5G

Aside from the manufacturers, this will be the first time that wearable technology will be a big topic of discussion – and arguably one of the more exciting mobile market’s segments in recent times.

Meanwhile,4G is also now firmly established throughout the world over the past year, and that will no doubt be much talked about. The GSMA even reckons early conversations around 5G and its potential will be talked about, with Korea leading the way with talk of multi-billion pound investment in the technology.

Bringing all this together, it really could be a breakthrough few days for the industry and shows that MWC has finally got its mojo back.

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