Friday TechMunch: Wave Goodbye To 2015’s Mobile World Congress

From exoskeletons, virtual reality headsets and news of Google’s wireless service, to phone-charging furniture, here are the technology teams key takeaways from the world’s largest mobile show.

Mobile World Congress grows in stature every year, and it’s never been bigger than 2015. Over 90,000 attendees poured into Barcelona last Sunday and roughly 1,900 exhibitors, all vying to make their mark. So who stole the show? Was it Mark Zuckerberg’s keynote or Google’s long-rumoured wireless service?

Following several product and service launches, it seems like security, IoT, wearables, and virtual reality headsets have once again taken centre stage in Barcelona.

Leading the charge…

We’ve all experienced the annoyance of the dead mobile battery… that dreaded red mark hovering away in your mobile battery icon. Well, cross your fingers because that may all be a thing of the past!

At this year’s Mobile World Congress, StoreDot showcased its latest battery charging technology that may find its way to a smartphone by the end of the year. The company first showcased their battery and charging system in 2014 but this year they are back with the latest, refined iteration that’s able to recharge a mobile battery in a blink of an eye (check this video out to see it in action).

Using nanotechnology, StoreDot has created special batteries that are able to soak up the charge quicker, significantly reducing the time wasted waiting around for your mobile to reach a decent battery percentage.

So what’s next for this great technology?  Mobile phones may be the immediate concern but StoreDot has also revealed plans to develop this product for electric cars with the aim to charge a Tesla in a mere five minutes. No one can say that’s not impressive.

Time to think security

Unsurprisingly, we saw device security continuing to gain momentum at MWC. Responding to growing consumer worries regarding personal privacy and mobile security, a few companies demonstrated their latest solutions…

Finesh company, Jolla, launched version 2.0 of its Sailfish OS and partnered with SSH Communications Security to create Sailfish Secure – an offering that uses SSH’s communication encryption and key management features. Jolla has also been crowd-funding its own brand tablet, which is expected to arrive in the market in the second quarter of this year.

But Jolla is not the only mobile startup eyeing security.

A year on from revealing its first Blackphone, startup Silent Circle revealed a second-generation secure-phone successor along with a tablet for today’s mobile workforce.  The Blackphone 2 has been built to offer enterprises privacy its “Silent Suite” which automatically encrypts video and voice calls over a peer-to-peer VoIP service, offers encrypted messaging, and an automatically encrypted address book. One major advantage for such encrypted conscious folks is that Silent allows subscribers to make encrypted calls to others who haven’t bought the same encrypted device. Pretty clever, right?

If you don’t fancy the hassle of changing phones, fear not as Open Whisper Systems has also released version 2 of its Signal secure calling app for iPhone. This free application offers end-to-end encrypted and contains no advertisements as the development is supported by community donations and grants.

The VR market heats up

Last but by no means least, one of the most exciting products to launch at MWC this year was the HTC Vive – a virtual reality (VR) headset developed in partnership with game developer, Valve. Not only did no one see it coming, the specs suggest it’s actually more powerful than its Oculus Rift and Project Morpheus rivals.

This new VR “game changer” has so shook up the industry that it’s even made people question whether Oculus has started to lose its way. After all, HTC has confirmed a 2015 launch date while Oculus has yet to announce a consumer release, despite its original Kickstarter campaign getting its funding way back in 2012.

Will the Vive be the device that finally takes VR mainstream? Only time will tell.

Whatever happens, this newcomer is good news for consumers. More competition inevitably means more innovation, more choice and better pricing. And there’s no doubt this sudden new challenger to the VR throne will be keeping Oculus and Sony on their toes.

Written by Christina Farrugia, Emma Carey and Francesca Palmiero, Technology Team