TechMunch: Mobile World Congress 2014: A Summary

Mobile World Congress (MWC), the largest exhibition for the mobile industry, took place this week in Barcelona. With news being announced by the industry’s biggest names left, right and centre, it can be hard to keep up! So the tech team has compiled a breakdown of some of the topics, news and trends that we found most interesting.
 The internet of everything
This year we have heard more and more about “the internet of things” and MWC was no exception. It is much more than a buzzword though as businesses including telecom companies, car manufacturers, software-as-a-service vendors and networking equipment makers connect devices at an increasingly rapid pace, they are not only offering new services, but also disrupting their own industries. Here are a few examples of the latest connected products launched at MWC.

–          Emilie Bernoux
Pro-privacy smartphone
One of the more intriguing devices launched in Barcelona is Blackphone: a pro-privacy handset being developed by native tech startup, Geeksphone. It’s a striking, $629 unlocked handset that puts security ahead of style, megapixels and Gorilla Glass — encrypting everything from texts, to phone calls, and local storage. It also packs a 2GHz quad-core CPU, a 4.7-inch IPS panel, 2GB RAM, and 16GB of internal storage. Covert agents and criminals take note; it’s already available for pre-order and will be shipping (presumably via nondescript brown packages or briefcase drop off) in June.
–          Liz Mercer
Star Trek inspired wearable tech
Over the past year we’ve seen a plethora of wearable tech devices take to the market and this week was no different, with wearable technology taking front and centre over the course of the week. At this year’s MWC we’ve seen ‘tech gloves’, fitness bands and smart watches (including fashionable smart accessories) all competing to become the number one contender in the market.
A product that seems to have elevated in popularity within the wearable tech environment is the health and fitness band (I haven’t succumb to this trend myself but I have seen many fitness band wearing advocates brandishing their accessories proudly around London – a constant reminder of their commitment to their fitness plans…your body is a temple and all that jazz). Apart from the product launches, these innovations form part of a much wider conversation currently going on within the tech underbelly: is wearable tech really the future? Wearable tech is still in its infancy with many tech enthusiasts stating that this is just the tip of the iceberg as we head into a tech-warped future with bigger, better and refined wearable innovations heading our way… Captain Kirk would be proud.
–          Christina Farrugia
The end of the feature phone?
One of the first big stories out of MWC this week came from Mozilla, which announced the launch of its Firefox OS; an operating system that it hopes will make smartphones affordable for emerging markets, such as India or Indonesia, where Apple and Android aren’t yet well established. The devices might be limited compared to the latest iPhone or the Samsung Galaxy S5 but, with a price of just $25, Firefox OS might just be the final nail in the coffin of the trusty old feature phone. Except for those of us who like to keep our old Nokia 3210 handy for the occasional game of Snake…
–          Phil Corfan
Mark Zuckerberg was there!
With a queue forming hours before he took to the stage it was clear that Mark Zuckerberg’s keynote was going to be highlight for many attending MWC. Mark quickly brushed aside questions around the $19 billion acquisition of WhatsApp by stating that he actually thought the company was worth more and moved onto what he wanted to talk about –
Facebook is part of a coalition that is all about delivering the internet to everyone across the globe. Mark admitted that giving Facebook away on a free data service offered in emerging countries was going to cost them initially but said it will eventually bring in revenue.  The premise being that educating those who don’t know why they would want internet on their phones would quickly see the benefits and then want more.
MWC used to be the preserve of handset manufacturers, mobile operators and global mobile networking companies. But this year, more than any other, companies that are not associated with the mobile space, like Ford, were exhibiting, and small firms and start-ups have also had their chance to share the spotlight on this global stage.
–          Sarah Wilkinson
 Start-ups fuelling the economic recovery
MWC 2014 saw myriad start-up events form part of the show, as well as the fringe. For example, Mobile World Capital’s Four Years From Now event included successful debates and workshops giving entrepreneurs time to discuss key issues, while the StartUp Europe Partnership led discussions on how to make the StartUp Europe manifesto become reality. A new fund worth €10m for web enterpreneurs was launched and no less than three different award ceremonies for start-ups took place. Even UKTI was on hand to support British mobile start-ups with a fringe networking event for them.
For me, this just underlines the fact that start-ups and SMEs are really helping to power our economic recovery and as a result are likely to have a different, enhanced role in our new, post-recession economy.
–          Deborah Nazareth