MWC 19

Brown’s Bytes – What was hot at MWC 2019 then?

Welcome to Brown’s Bytes! Your weekly insight from Mobliciti’s CTO Andy Brown. Follow #brownsbytes

1st March 2019

MWC has been in full flow this week.

The annual shindig in Barcelona has now drawn to a close and I have been watching with interest (from afar) to see what the big trends have been. So, in no particular order, here are my thoughts:

1. Foldable Phones

You wait years for them to show up and then two come along at once! Following on from the Samsung Galaxy Fold, we now have Huawei coming to the party with their Mate X device.

To my eyes at least, the Huawei Mate X is the winner on looks and the outside wrap display seems to make more sense to me than the inside wrap with another outer screen.

Having said that, this is all conjecture as it is also very, very noticeable how little anyone has been allowed to get their hands on these devices yet. In addition, I’ve seen enough screen fold optical issues even in the limited video that has been released to make me wonder whether the tech is quite ready yet.

Time will tell. As mentioned last week, I’m excited to see how manufacturers break out of the Black Rectangular mould now… but no way I’m paying two grand (or more) to be an early adopter!

2. Lots of other new phones

There were loads of other phones announced, almost all of which were firmly in the Black Rectangular Mould! You have to look quite a bit harder to see any press about these… says it all really.

3. 5G in full Hype Cycle

This is the year that 5G finally landed. Everyone was talking about how 5G is going to transform things with presentations full of the usual Buzzword Bingo items like IOT and AI, but in the background, the demos were underwhelming to my eyes.

I remember well when 3G was launched. It was going to change the world and the way it was going to do this was with Video Calling. All the demos at the time were with chunky handsets with tiny screens that would allow you to video call everyone. In the end, it wasn’t even close to being the killer App for 3G (in fact video on 3G is usually awful these days). It was Apple and Google that actually came up with concepts that used the available network effectively, and the App-running Smartphone as we know it was born.

Now we’re on the dawn of amazing bandwidth and low latency connections everywhere, thanks to 5G. So how do you think Vodafone chose to demo this step change in bandwidth at MWC??

Yup – it was a video call. But it was in 4K! Soon you will be able to see all the hairs up someone’s nose in spectacular detail when they hold their phone at the wrong angle!! I’m being flippant, but it’s hard to sell the benefits of more bandwidth and lower latency to a consumer… especially when you’re promising all the same stuff you promised last time (e.g. 4G).

However, in the background there were loads of useful announcements from the likes of Intel and Qualcomm about how they’re integrating 5G into chipsets. This is what will actually power the revolution when these chipsets are integrated into devices all over the place. IOT may well finally have lift off with 5G as the data connection running in the background.

It’s just too soon to say precisely how this will manifest itself. Classic Hype Cycle… Personally, I’m already in the Trough of Disillusionment!!

4. Carriers need love too

My favourite soundbite was from the Chairman and CEO of Telefonica. He highlighted how the value of mobile services (e.g. SIM, Airtime, SMS and Voice) was out of step with the quality they provide. Mobile Services cost less than the price of two cups of coffee a day.

I love this… so vague it’s brilliant! Underneath this sentiment is the problem all Carriers now have – people take them for granted. Well, of course they do!! Carriers are now a utility – all they provide is a connection. Same as my Broadband at home… I don’t care what flavour it is so long as it works. And I can change it if I want to (in fact I just did, and it was pretty much seamless as well)

It seems Carriers’ big hope is 5G and, in particular, how 5G will somehow transform things for them and bring some loyalty or difference back… but how can it?? It’s still just a connection!

5. The Elephant still not in the room

Apple doesn’t go to MWC… everyone now waits to see what they announce later in the year. Love them or loathe them, they have a habit of driving the news cycle far more than the combined efforts of everyone else at MWC.

My personal prediction from them… eSIM-only devices. I’ve blogged about that before… if Apple does this then carriers really are a commodity. Things get really interesting when eSIM-only devices land!

It’s going to be fun to now see how this all pans out.