TechWeekEurope’s refelcts on the major launches, events and trends of Mobile World Congress 2016 in Barcelona
And so it is over for another year – Mobile World Congress is done. After months of build-up and speculation, more than 100,000 attendees flocked to the city of Barcelona to experience the latest and greatest in mobile technologies.
With more than 2,000 exhibitors from 200 countries, MWC 2016 was truly a hot-bed of innovation, but what were the big stories of the show?
Samsung brought out the big guns
The fact that Samsung was going to launch its latest flagship smartphones at MWC 2016 was hardly a secret.
It has made major announcements in the Catalan capital over the past few years and a steady drip-drip of leaks and rumours meant much of the detail was already known.
But it is one thing to anticipate something, and another to see it become real, and the Samsung Galaxy S7 and S7 Edge are truly fantastic devices to behold.
Providing a much-needed boost in power, battery life, and camera functions, these should be the devices that allow Samsung to extend its run as the leading Android smartphone manufacturer.
And the company didn’t stop there, revealing a new camera device that was able to capture 360 degree images and video as part of its efforts to cover all areas of the media.
But the real surprise came after the smartphone reveal, as Facebook founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg appeared on stage to talk virtual reality. Looking to grow the relationship between Facebook, Oculus, and Samsung, Zuckerberg’s support is a sure sign that whatever the latter is planning, it should go big.
With friends (and products) like this, 2016 could be a very good year indeed for Samsung.
But Virtual Reality stole the show
Everywhere you looked at MWC, there seemed to be one new trend, one product that kept surprisingly cropping up everywhere – Virtual Reality.
As mentioned, virtual reality played a big part of Samsung’s press launch on Sunday night, but for many of us, this was the first chance to experience the technology first-hand, as VR headsets were distributed to all attendees at the event.
The sheer fact that Samsung was able to deliver a fully-functioning VR experience to thousands of people all at once, with minimal interruptions and no need for complicated set-up, shows how the technology could be poised to hit the big time sooner rather than later.
Facebooks’s involvement in Virtual Reality could be a major turning point, as Mark Zuckerberg promised to try his best to get VR headsets into the hands of millions across the world. And with major companies such as LG, HTC and Samsung all backing VR, the once-mocked technology could soon be a common sight in every home.
Mark Zuckerberg delivered…kind of
Samsung’s launch event wasn’t the only reason Mark Zuckerberg was in town this week (although it was a major surprise for almost everyone there) as he also took to the stage on Monday for day one’s closing keynote.
Fresh from extolling the virtues of virtual reality in developing markets around the globe, Zuckerberg faced questions from a sympathetic crowd on topics ranging from connecting the world to his baby daughter Max.
One of the trickiest questions he faced concerned opposition to Facebook’s Internet.org campaign, which looks to provide Internet access to people in developing markets, but has recently been blocked in India.
Despite this initial opposition, Zuckerberg has no intention of letting up on his and Facebook’s efforts, and was keen to push a further telecoms infrastructure project for the years ahead, which he hopes will go some way to providing reliable Internet access to many.
As the head of one of the most important technology companies in the world, what Zuckerberg says often ends up coming to fruition. Don’t be surprised to see both him and Facebook playing a bigger role in technology events throughout 2016.
5G is on the way
The other side of Mobile World Congress, often lost in the wave of shiny new handsets and wearable devices, is the work going in to building networks that can support new applications and services.
The world’s thirst for data is growing exponentially and technology like VR and the Internet of Things will need high capacity, faster speeds and low latency. Supporting these connections will be a key concern for years to come, which is why the development of powerful, fast 5G networks is key.
It is expected the first commercial 5G services will launch in 2020, but the standards of these next generation networks are still yet to be finalised. MWC offered operators, chip makers and equipment manufacturers the chance to show off their progress.
A range of companies, from Huawei to Nokia, from Deutsche Telekom to Qualcomm, all demonstrated faster, stronger and more reliable networks than ever before, showing that the technology is not too far away at all.
Our phones got a lot smarter
One great thing about Mobile World Congress is that it truly does show off the sheer scale of mobile innovation and invention in the industry. Everything from accessories, apps and add-ons was on show, from smart clothing to connected fridges.
Not so long ago, our mobile phones were ‘dumb’ devices only capable of making calls and sending SMS messages. Now they are able to carry out a huge range of functions, from unlocking car doors to controlling central heating, from tracking lost pets to scanning our health and vital signs.
Walking the halls of the show, we saw new wearable smart glasses, biometric security scanning, electric cars and connected clothing – and that’s just a small taste of what was on offer.
Smartphones and wearables are becoming increasingly personal, and MWC 2016 showed us that this trend is only going to keep growing. Who knows what MWC 2017 will bring?
What do you remember about Mobile World Congress 2016? Try our quiz!