My top 3 take aways from the MWC in Barcelona 2016

Mobile World Congress 2016 – the biggest mobile summit in the world

So it’s that time of the year again. Almost 100.000 tech-enthusiasts from all over the world fly to Barcelona and turn the catalan capital into the hottest city for a week even though it is just February.

The cities metro is even more crowded than normally. Same counts for the streets. Fleets of black limousines and taxis commute between the city center and the exhibition area on Montjuic. CEOs squeeze willingly into busses that look more like cattle trailers. And all that, just to be part of the biggest mobile fair of the world. One can ask himself: is it worth it?

For the citizens of Barcelona it certainly is a good preparation of the upcoming summer, when hundreds of thousands of tourist will swamp the city again. They tend to avoid the fair and its countless after-parties. I on the other hand, love the event. It makes me feel right at the pulse of time.

So for the third year in a row I attended (funny enough I never actually paid for my entrance ticket, but that is a different story) and had a close look at the spectacle for myself.

2016-02-25 15.23.11

For you who don’t know the Mobile World Congress: its an annual summit where the who-is-who of the tech scene pilgrims to Barcelona and present their newest apps, hardware, phones, wearables and marketing platforms. Samsung, Nokia, Microsoft, Lenovo, SAP, Valve are among the peers, just to name a few.

While I could tell you about how 5000 different companies introduced their “innovative-and-totally-different” solution to cloud services, mobile commerce, user engagement enhancement, hardware security and smartphones, I prefer not to.

Go read that up on one of the thousands of extensive reviews I am sure that are out there. Sorry you wasted your time to find out just now.

I am gonna present to you nothing more but my personal top three take aways of this years MWC (plus an hilarious extra at as a bonus at the end). So lets get started and dive right into the most used bass-word of the conference: 5G!

5G is the new cloud

Seriously, it seemed like every 3rd booth was about yet another company introducing their groundbreaking hardware. It was by far the most marketed hardware technology on the Mobile World Congress. If I wouldn’t have talked to Paul from Ceragon I could have easily believed 5G is already on its way to replace the current LTE technology.

Truth is, the majority of presented 5G backhauls and distribution units are still undergoing heavy testing. Paul revealed that the whole industry is still experimenting with different solutions and that 5G is very much still in R&D and shouldn’t be expected to roll out before 2020.

So no need for you to worry that you have to buy a new smartphone that supports 5G any time soon. But it is definitely the next big revolution on the mobile carrier horizon. The highly distributed transmitter approach with hundreds of cluttered units per city will ensure better coverage and an expected downlink throughput of more than 20 Gbit/s are definitely making 5G the most promising mobile data carrier service for the next decade.

Top trends on MWC 2016
The future is gonna be fast

Yes, 20 Gbit/s. Mobile live streaming here I come.

Cloud services was the most-presented service in 2015. 2016 it has become the standard for most SaaS services. Let’s see how long it will take before 5G is around.

Virtual Reality gets very real

Samsung’s Gear VR theatre was easily the single most popular attraction of the conference. Last time I checked, the queue, to get on the virtual roller coaster ride, stretched twice around the Samsung booth. Mark Zuckerberg picture walking by the Samsung VR presentation made it around the world.

Although I did not have the patience to wait in line, it sure looked like fun.

Admittedly, virtual and augmented reality are not the newest trends and are hyped for quite some years now, but this year I had the feeling it finally grows out of his baby shoes. Big things to come here in the next years. The days of boring demos and badly rendered 360° experiences seems to be counted.

The biggest PC gaming platform, Steam introduced its Steam VR hardware, which easily marks a milestone for the VR industry. I am sure in a couple of years high quality game experience will take its part in our living rooms. Stronger processors and the necessary hardware are finally catching up to deliver what long was promised.

Technology companies become luxury brands

It is well-known that Apple successfully made the transition from an technology company into a luxury brand. This allows them to market their products at a much higher price point than the competition and still get away with it.

I love Scott Galloway’s The four horsemen at DLD 15 explaining how exactly Apple understands his own brand in that perspective.

It is good business practice to copy successful models, hence other brands try to follow that approach. While Samsung at the beginning of the smartphone area stuck to the lower-price product range to attract a different target group, they certainly stepped up their game in the last years leading to the high-class Galaxy S7.

Nevertheless, Samsung must admit Apple’s dominant role in the smartphone sector. Reason enough for them not to miss the next trend: smart watches. Right from the beginning they delivered high-quality solutions. Now, take this picture for an instance. Looks pretty similar to a jewellery to me, doesn’t it?

Samsung Gear S2 the road to luxury
Samsung Gear S2 the road to luxury
Other brands such as Tag Heur followed the same approach when presenting the Tag Heur Connected. They however, aren’t completely confident on how successful their first smart watch really will be. Otherwise, I can’t explain why they offer to exchange the $1500 watch to any other traditional Tag Heur watch within the first year after purchase.

Best of Mobile World Congress

As promised, I saved the best for the end. I present to you: the booth that made me think about how different modern technology can be perceived. Please welcome the new mobile phone product line of Ying Tai Electronics Co.

They actually managed to make me stop and take a picture of something I truly believed to be a practical joke. It was like 1999 all over again. This 9m2 area was a time machine back to clamshell phones and innovative features such as SMS and incoming call reminder LED.

For the younger ones: SMS is that service we used before WhatsApp was around. You actually had to pay per message sent. So you better made sure to stay within the 160 character limit.

It still is a mystery to me why they actually made the long journey from China and paid ten of thousands of Euros to rent this space.

chinas contribution

For now I saw enough and gonna make my way back to the 4YFN (4 years from now) startup conference, which after all is more my area of expertise.