I didn’t go to Mobile World Congress in Barcelona this year, but I still felt its effects. I got thousands of press releases announcing new products and services to make up for my absence. With about 75,000 attendees, 1500 exhibitors, and nearly 2000 media representatives, it is the world’s busiest wireless show. Most of the major players were there to show off their new wares and get the current pulse of the industry.
Apple wasn’t there, as usual, but all the other big guns showed up. Samsung was there, but it didn’t show off its new smart phone. Instead, Samsung will introduce the Galaxy S4 on March 14 in New York City. However, the other smart-phone vendors showed their latest models. HTC introduced its One model, which will probably be a big hit. Nokia demonstrated its lower-priced 520 and 720 Windows 8 models. BlackBerry showed its Z10, which seems to be getting some traction, especially outside of the U.S. And, Google’s Motorola division revealed its new smart phones, which you don’t hear much about these days. China’s ZTE had new models to show too.
New tablets showed up as well. Samsung introduced its Galaxy Note 8, an 8-inch unit that will more directly challenge Apple’s iPads. HP announced a 7-inch tablet using Android. It will sell for $169. Maybe this one will succeed and get HP back in the tablet business.
One really interesting development was Mozilla’s announcement of a mobile Firefox OS, which got lots of attention. Already, some of the smaller phone vendors have announced support for it. Other OS makers like Tizen, Umbutu, and Opera also presented their latest versions. And let’s not forget Microsoft’s Windows Mobile 8 and the new BlackBerry’s BB10. Who would have thought we would see any other OSs except Android and iOS?
There were too many chip announcements to mention, but among the major ones were Qualcomm’s new Snapdragon processor, Nvidia’s Tegra processor, and a slew of LTE broadband modems. All the usual test equipment folks were there showing systems to test, verify, and confirm LTE and multiple-input multiple-output (MIMO) system compliance.
A big sub-show was the machine-to-machine (M2M) communications arena. There were many new module, software development, and service announcements. Near-field communications (NFC) got some good exposure this year as well. Progress has been made in getting consumers and retail outlets to use it, but overall, NFC has not seen the flood that many expected.
Automotive was also big and new to MWC. Telematics is a growing feature on new vehicles. Not only will cars connect to the Internet, they will also communicate with one another. Look for a whole new list of coming mobile features that will further distract your driving. And, don’t forget, the forthcoming driverless vehicles will allow you to do other things than drive.
Overall, there were no real breakthrough announcements at MWC this year. LTE 4G continues its rollout, and small cells are in the works. M2M and NFC are making progress, and the smart-phone and tablet makers produced some more me-too models. Is smart-phone saturation here already? Some say so. And what will be the next big breakthrough? And, by the way, just what is 5G?