Mobile Digest 2019: Day One!

The first day at Mobile World Congress in Barcelona is always a bunfight to see who grabs the biggest headlines. We say ‘first day’, and yet, unofficially, the press conferences start on Sunday afternoon before the venue even opens.

This year was no exception. Yesterday’s highlights produced a flurry of news announcements but there is little doubt Chinese company Huawei stole the march. It has become more of a political bust up rather that a technology race. On the eve of the show, the head of GCHQ warned that Britain’s 5G telecoms network is under threat from Chinese tech megalodons.

As always, timing is everything.

That gives a clue to the underlying theme to this year’s show. The race is on to install the first 5G network, operate the first 5G handset, run the first 5G autonomous vehicle. It’s going to be a big year for the spectrum.

And then, there is the folding phone (more below). The concept has seemingly been around for decades. The leading operators are at least now showcasing the tech. Some seem to be more ahead of the game than others. Step forward Huawei and Samsung leading the charge.

The tech is not cheap but presents the next big (small) thing in mobile tech. The industry must be seen to be moving forward, and each year must have its innovations. As Apple, once again, fails to grace the world’s mobile showcase, it allows some headline space for the rest of the world’s mobile operators.

Announcement Roundup

MWC is always gadget heavy with new handset announcement coming thick and fast. It’s all about 5G, foldable and more flashbulbs than you’d find on a red carpet. Here are just a few of the highlights (and whatever you may think, Donald Trump was not totally off the mark with his recent comments about 6G…):

  • One company that has jumped on all of those trends is Huawei with its ‘Mate X’. The handset has an 8-inch OLED screen which folds into a 6.6-inch display. It also features 5G connectivity and three rear cameras but will set you back at least $2,600!
  • Nokia has taken multiple cameras to the next level with its ‘Nokia 9 PureView’ featuring not two, not three, but five rear cameras – three 12-megapixel monochrome cameras, two 12-megapixel RGB cameras, a standard flash and a time-of-flight sensor for depth mapping
  • It wouldn’t be MWC without a Nokia throwback, and this year it also announced the more user-friendly ‘Nokia 210’ with physical keys and a brick body
  • Onto the big boys… Samsung, which very much looks to the future with the ‘Galaxy Fold’, announced last week ahead of the show. It has SIX cameras, two batteries, converts to a tablet and costs a mere $1,980…
  • The Samsung Galaxy A50 and A30 phones were both unveiled at MWC. Both models feature 6.4 inch 1,080×2,340-pixel Super AMOLED Infinity-U displays. The main difference? The A50 has a triple-rear camera whilst the A30 has one on the front and two on the back. The phones offer full access to its ecosystem of features and the A50 comes in four colours. Of course, the Samsung S10, S10 Plus and S10E were also unveiled just before the show as the latest additions to its best-selling range of handsets.
  • Back to foldable phones, or not in this case. LG seems to have hedged its bets by creating a case for its new ‘V50 ThinQ 5G’ handset, which features a second screen: instead of creating a foldable screen, it has made two that snap together…

An Open and Shut Case

You may wonder why the fuss about flip phones all over again. It’s all about having first mover advantage, according to the pundits. Being the first to demonstrate or display the technology is thought leadership at its very highest form. It’s a little like having the bragging rights to a new tech or being top in the class. You can go far on the reputation.

However even more importantly, it advances the industry and serves as a MWC showcase. Look at some of the coverage and discussion on the launches. The first iterations we see this year at MWC may not necessarily be perfect, but they are the first step in showing consumers the brand is thinking about their future.

Besides, admit it. You’ll be in the queue at 4am waiting to be one of the first to buy one when they finally go on sale…

I like Driving in My Car

Cars are a big thing this year at MWC, especially if they are connected. The link is Internet of Things (IoT) and crucially 5G, which prevents latency – a big issue when instant reactions are needed on the road.

AT&T and Vodafone Business announced an alliance on IoT applications across connected cars. The plan? To develop connected car solutions for customers in North America, Europe and Africa – collectively working with almost 50 automotive brands around the globe.

Further collaborations can be seen with the likes of VNC Automotive and Alpine partnering to announce their latest ‘Add-On Box’ concept. This little device of joy is all about ‘infotainment’. Step into your car and connect to any app or device on your mobile handset instantaneously.

Finally, putting the car into ‘connected’, SEAT has reinvented the 1960s microcar, called the Minimo. Admittedly, the design has moved on at little. The Minimo is designed to be all-electric, agile, comfortably fit two people and squeeze into small parking spaces. It’s said to be efficient, vibrant and high value. Parallel parking here we come!

Surgical Precision

One of the first big announcements this year was Microsoft’s HoloLens 2. Unlike most sequels, this one truly is an improvement on the original – the company claims the change is equivalent to jumping from a 720p television to a 2K set for each eye.

It comes with a ‘time-of-flight’ depth sensor and some fancy algorithms to track your hands without sensors. At a cost of $3,500 it’s not geared towards your home gamer but rather towards enterprise-level applications. Health technology provider Royal Philips has already taken up the tech to showcase a concept for ‘novel augmented reality applications for image-guided minimally invasive therapies.’

It’s called mixed reality. When the surgeon is trying to work his or her way through a warren of arteries with nothing but a 2D map as a guide, augmented reality can take over, turning a 2D screen into 3D holographic images. It’s automatic and projected onto the holographic lens. Clever stuff. It’s the future, except it’s here now, just like most of the tech on display at Mobile World Congress.

Expect to see more tomorrow when the keynote announcements come thick and fast…