This week has seen the arrival of the biggest yearly event in mobile (the GSMA Mobile World Congress) and as always it has left us buzzing about all things mobile. This year’s theme was ‘Redefining Mobile’ and the city of Barcelona saw thousands of mobile & technology professionals from all corners of the world arrive en masse for the event from 27th Feb to 1st March. Yours truly was on site to report back on the latest this year. Whilst there weren’t nearly as many big stories or new product announcements as last year, the congress was exciting nonetheless. Below is a summary of the key trends, announcements, and highlights that have come out of this year’s MWC.
HTML 5 & The Mobile Web
One of the bigger announcements at MWC was that of Mozilla and Telefonica (the company who owns O2 in the UK) forming an alliance to create a new platform for HTML-5 based devices with the intention of creating a phone architecture that relies entirely on web technology. The implications of this are huge as everything from calling to messaging & browsing would eventually be executed via the Firefox browser if successful. More Info Here
Facebook also announced that they were focusing on the mobile web by investing in initiatives to support its development; more specifically HTML5 technology standards and payment enabling. This is a move that inevitably makes sense because if users are using the Facebook mobile site instead of the native apps, Apple is effectively taken out of the equation. More Info Here
On the Google side of things, a portion of Eric Schmidt’s keynote speech centred on the Chrome for Android app – now available in over 20 countries for handsets and tablets supporting the Android Ice Cream Sandwich OS. Google said the browser was designed with three concepts in mind: it had to be fast, clean, and simple….and it looks very sleek and fast indeed. You can see a demo of Chrome for Android within Eric Schmidt’s keynote
Mobile Payments / NFC
Whilst there’s been a lot of talk around payments and NFC for a while, this year’s congress saw a lot of companies showcasing services around NFC and mobile payments. However, the biggest announcement came on Monday when Vodafone announced it was partnering with Visa to roll out mobile payments via NFC across all the markets where it operates More Info Here
More Smartphones…More Android
There weren’t nearly as many new devices unveiled when compared to last year’s show. However, there was fair share of exciting smartphones on display out there, most of which were running on Google’s Ice Cream Sandwich OS.
The big surprise was Huawaei’s launch of the Ascend D Quad – a powerful Android Smartphone with a rather impressively sharp and vivid graphic display. HTC’s One X also generated a lot of buzz with its thin body, sleek design, and Beats Audio integration. The folks at Phone Arena have coincided with us and have put these two handsets amongst their favourite new phones showcased at MWC.
Unlike last year, Samsung* did not steal the show by unveiling its latest Galaxy S smartphone like many may have originally hoped (The Galaxy S II was unveiled at MWC 2011). They did, however, showcase the Galaxy Beam (an innovative phone and projector combo) and updated versions of their tablets (in both 10.1 and 7.7 varieties). Moreover, the biggest move was the launch of the Galaxy Note 10.1, essentially a larger version of the original Galaxy Note phone/tablet combo, complete with a stylus.
Coincidently, Samsung also picked up a few awards at the GSMA global awards during the congress. They won the Best Smartphone award for the Galaxy S II as well as the overall Device Manufacturer of the year honours. SMG was nominated for Best Mobile Advertising & Marketing campaign in partnership with Enrich Mobile for our global Angry Birds Samsung Galaxy S II campaign. The complete list of GSMA Global Awards winners can be found here.
Interestingly, there weren’t nearly as many tablets on display as last year (amusingly, Apple announced their iPad 3 unveiling event for next week at the same time that Eric Schmidt was delivering his keynote at MWC). However, nearly all of these were running on Google’s Android OS…as were most of the new smartphones on display. As if Android’s power wasn’t big enough (now the leading smartphone operating system ahead of Apple’s iOS), Google made sure that Android’s presence was felt throughout the event. Their clever marketing tactics included erecting an entire Android wing complete with a smoothie bar and delicious Android ice cream sandwich treats (see below) in honour of the latest version of their operating system. They also brought back a series of new Android collector pins this year which saw MWC attendees (and even staff!) running around Google’s partners’ booths in order to acquire them. Not only were people trading these on-site at MWC, communities started forming on EggDrop where people were exchanging and trading these via the mobile app. Very fitting!
More info, videos & news of this year’s MWC can be found on the Mobile World Live website
*Samsung is a client of Starcom MediaVest Group