Barca goes even more mobile mega this year


The industry’s showcase event is expected to smash all attendance records

The world’s biggest industry trade show, Mobile World Congress, returns to Barcelona on Monday with a number of manufacturers feeling they have a point to prove to either continue recent momentum or arrest struggling fortunes.

Last year’s MWC smashed all records before it. More than 85,000 people attended, up from 72,000 the previous year. Some 1,800 companies, 100 more than in 2013, showcased their latest products and services, with the number of media representatives and analysts up by 400 to 3,800.

Following the four-day event, organisers the GSMA estimated the show contributed more than €365 million to the local economy – up from €320 million from 12 months previously.

This year’s show is again expected to smash all records. Attendee numbers will most likely exceed 90,000, with 1,900 companies from more than 200 countries signed up to exhibit.

More than 250 senior business leaders and industry experts will participate in keynote speeches and presentations over the four-day event, including EE CEO Olaf Swantee and Vodafone Europe CEO Philipp Humm.

Facebook founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg returns to Mobile World Congress for the second straight year on Monday evening to take part in a keynote session with Airtel Africa CEO Christian De Faria, Millicom senior vice president of operations Mario Zanotti and Telenor Group president and CEO Jon Fredrik Baksaas, discussing efforts to connect more people around the world.

The following evening will see chairman of the Federal Communications Commission Tom Wheeler join GSMA director general Anne Bouverot on stage to discuss recent telecommunications regulation in the United States.

Spotlight on manufacturers
The Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas in January proved to be a damp squib for the mobile industry, with a real lack of major handset announcements being made.

It therefore points to Mobile World Congress as the event where most of the manufacturers may use the busy four days to take the wraps off brilliant new products as the smartphone race begins to heat up, with Q2 often proving to be a popular period for highlight releases.

Much of the spotlight will be on Samsung, which will hold its annual ‘Unpacked’ event on Sunday night and was is widely expected to unveil its new flagship Galaxy S6 smartphone.

Last April’s release of the Galaxy S5 failed to hit expectations, with the manufacturer stating in October that sales of its high-end smartphones had been disappointing.

According to the latest preliminary global smartphone share figures for Q4 2014 from analyst IDC, Samsung now holds just a 20.01 per cent share of the global smartphone market, down by almost nine per cent from a year earlier, while Apple’s share has risen 2.42 per cent over the past 12 months to move within touching distance with 19.85 per cent.

Elsewhere, HTC is also expected to announce the One (M9) on Sunday, the follow up to last April’s popular One (M8) smartphone, but doubt surrounds the possibility of rivals Sony and LG following suit as neither have press conferences scheduled.

As the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas came and went without any flagship announcements from either in January, it was thought they were holding these back for MWC.

However, reports suggest the Sony Xperia Z4 and LG G4 may not get an outing this time either, with both manufacturers holding back from unveiling these products for another few months. However, we could be wrong and despite a lack of media activity in Barcelona, LG announced earlier this week it was showcasing four new mid-range handsets, as well as  a new smartwatch, the LG Watch Urbane.

The industry will also be keeping an eye on the likes of Microsoft Mobile Devices, Lenovo/Motorola and BlackBerry, all of which have encountered seismic changes internally over the past 12 months.

Since Microsoft’s £4.5 billion acquisition of Nokia’s devices business last May, it has quickly gone about trying to establish its own name in the mobile space. This was apparent with the launch of the Lumia 535 – the first name that saw the Nokia branding disappear in favour of Microsoft.

However, the firm has been quiet on the high-end smartphone front and has yet to unveil a successor to the flagship to the Lumia 930 from July. MWC could be around the right time to change that.

Motorola had not announced any products since last September and despite being bought from Google by Lenovo for £1.72 billion in November, it had been very quiet.

However, it unveiled an upgraded version of the Moto E from last year on February 25, which will be on display at the show, although it is doubtful any more new product announcements will be made.

With all this in mind, Mobile News takes a look at the biggest event in the mobile industry’s calendar and rounds up what to expect from the manufacturers.