The good people of Barcelona can relax for another year – Mobile World Congress 2015 has drawn to a close. With more than 90,000 attendees, MWC 2015 was the biggest yet, and there were some pretty big topics covered too. It was a quick pit stop in London before heading to the next conference Beyond the Install but here are my big takeaways from this year’s MWC…
1. The developing world is the new frontier
There was a lot of talk about the two-thirds of the world’s population this year that doesn’t yet know mobile connectivity. Mark Zuckerberg of Facebook appeared in what was reported as a non-event of a keynote, but it wasn’t necessarily so. Service providers like Facebook and the mobile operators won’t connect the developing world out of kindness – the case for doing so as far as they’re concerned involves the making of cash.
Google’s Sundar Pichai also talked up his employer’s innovations in non-traditional connectivity. Project Loon – Google’s scheme to bring connectivity to the world via connected helium balloons launched into the stratosphere – seems hairbrained, but they’re making it happen. And the more people are connected, the more marketing dollars will go to mobile.
2. The industry is over smartphones
As cool as the Samsung Galaxy S6 and S6 Edge handsets and the HTC M9 are, there is a real sense that innovation in smartphones isn’t really innovation at all. Iris scanners, ever-bigger and higher-res screens, and design tweaks will get the gadget mags’ tweeting, but for the manufacturers it’s a game of one-upmanship that may be getting old.
Connectivity has officially gone beyond the slab of technology we call the smartphone. Even Huawei’s CEO agrees. If the developing world is the new frontier for providers, the body is the new frontier for consumers. Wearables and Internet of Everything ideas are what will excite people.
3. The spectre of Apple is never far away
Despite Apple’s continued absence from this show, the company still has the power to set the tone. Apple Pay, launched with the iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus, has certainly focused Samsung’s minds when it comes to mobile payments. Samsung’s acquisition of LoopPay and launch of Samsung Pay looks to have similar strengths and weaknesses to Apple Pay, but Apple’s entrance into the payments arena, after years of snubbing it, means its rivals must now get their ducks in a row or risk Apple stealing the market from under their noses.
MWC’s place on the calendar just ahead of the Apple Watch launch was not lost on manufacturers either. Huawei, LG and Pebble all showed off new watches, but Samsung seemed to take a different approach as it announced a “pause” in smartwatch rollouts. Presumably Samsung wants to see how Apple’s watch fares first. A risky strategy – but if it turns out even Apple can’t move the smartwatch beyond a novelty item – it might be a sound one.
4. My next car will be driverless
But mainly because I’m unlikely to be in the market for a new car any time soon. There are so many motors on the show floor of MWC that you could mistake it for the Barcelona branch of AVIS.
Every car manufacturer worth its salt is seen to be working on driverless cars at MWC, but it’s clear these are a long way off. For now, car makers are plugging their connected car features. Audi and AT&T announced that all its cars in the US in 2016 will be 4G-connected for up-to-date traffic information, internet radio and integration with various smartphone apps.
5. Sci-fi cities will arrive with 5G
If the driverless car really is what you’re looking for, then stick around for 5G. Chatter reached fever pitch as to what the next next-gen connectivity network will be capable of, despite it not being properly defined yet. But it’s easy to be swept up by promises of connectivity everywhere – connectivity that moves seamlessly between wi-fi and mobile data and has enough bandwidth to support a genuine Internet of Everything. If that’s the future, then sign us up.