Mobile World Congress: The Greatest Smartphone Show on Earth!
The largest mobile trade show in the world has once again come and gone. Yes, of course, I’m talking about the 2016 Mobile World Congress and this year’s line-up of announcements, previews and all things shiny certainly didn’t disappoint. So, without further ado, here are my top MWC moments of 2016.
As I Predicted …
There’s no doubt that Alcatel’s move to ditch the OneTouch aspect of its persona has resulted in a cleaner image that’s in line with its latest Idol 4 offering on show at this year’s MWC. A quality smartphone alternative, whose Quad HD display and JBL speakers perfectly accompany its high-end metal and glass looks. I particularly liked the addition of its quirky packaging, which doubles up as a nifty VR headset – cunning, very cunning and bang on trend for 2016 as I recently predicted this as being the year of virtual reality.
Oh, and as if echoing my thoughts, Mark Zuckerberg made an unexpected guest appearance during their presentation to talk about Facebook’s creation of a ‘Social VR’ team. This, he announced, has been formed to look into the future of interaction using such devices as the new Samsung Gear VR system, of which Zuckerberg is a personal fan. There’s more to it than just a casual ‘like’ though as the Gear is partially powered by Oculus (owned by Facebook) and paves the way for the new Oculus Rift launch later on this year.
Find Me the Beer Tent
Of course, MWC wouldn’t be MWC without oodles of Googliness and this year was no exception, with the added addition of an Android Garden – “oh someone please lead me to the nearest beer tent,” I remember muttering. But seriously, enough of all those award badges and achievement pings. Can we please just focus on the functionality of the apps and the future of development tie-ins? Or is it just me?
But before you write me off completely as a geeky kill-joy, I will say that some of the new smartphones look and feel great, in particular the HTC Desire (with a finish aptly named micro splash) is damn right fun! And, staying with HTC I’m excited to see what these guys come up with for the forthcoming launch of their (yes, you’ve guessed it) VR system, HTC Vive. Sneak preview demos were given and a launch date released, but I have a feeling that HTC are holding back on just what this beauty can do until it hits the shelves later this month.
I’m incredibly impressed by what Huawei has been able to bring to the smartphone market in a relatively short space of time. Its products are affordable, but far from ‘bottom of the rung’ in terms of looks and performance. For me, Huawei are true smartphone ninjas, silently attacking their competitors whilst actually making a profit, which is an achievement in itself.
Their latest offering, the Mate 8 was showcased impressively at MWC and their forthcoming iMac/iPad Pro rival, the Matebook is one to watch out for. It’s a sleek and beautifully engineered full aluminium metal laptop/tablet hybrid that’s a joy to hold and use and features advanced fingerprint sensor technology along with joyously resonant speaker tone, making it both a great work horse and a fantastic entertainment device – Apple, be afraid, be very afraid!
LG had a few announcements to make this year, not least their forthcoming launch of the G5, which marks a different way forward in design, being modular in nature with a Quad HD display and a removal battery that promises superb longevity. I was particularly impressed with their bolt-on accessories, the LG Cam Plus, which provides additional camera functionality such as shutter and video buttons, along with a nifty zoom dial and the HI-Fi Plus, which has been crafted in partnership with Bang and Olufsen Play to provide seamlessly integrated high quality audio into the mobile experience.
And it doesn’t end there – LG also showed us the LG Rolling Bot, which got everyone talking as who in their right mind wouldn’t want a bot that connects to your home Wi-Fi network and is controlled via your phone? Genius!
Where Are the Wearables?
Surprisingly, this year’s MWC didn’t see a great deal of wearables being launched, not that I’m a big wearables fan, but I found the lack of them at the congress surprising nonetheless. However, Garmin did announce its new fitness training solution, the Vivoactive HR, which they purport “blurs the line between a fitness tracker and a sports watch”.
The Vivoactive comes with the addition of an inbuilt heart-rate scanner and allows GPS and motion tracking for a variety of sporting activities. Alongside this, it can regularly send notifications to your smartphone, making it a step ahead of many of its competitor fitness devices on the market.
Jokers and Gods
The MWC will always have its usual fun filled moments of gadgets that ‘wow’ the crowd with their “I don’t know why I need one of these but I kind-of do” appeal and this year we were all privy to the excitement of the smart-tape measure (drum-roll please) whose batteries ran out during the demo (hmmm, not so smart then), the Fitbit for dogs (because dogs need wearables too?) and the oh so un-amazing smart facemask that apparently reads your brainwaves while you sleep but unfortunately doesn’t know what to do with them once it has them. I could ramble on about some of the other inane gadgets on offer but you’re probably reaching for your shot-gun right now.
So back to the stars of the event and, once again, Samsung stole the show at this year’s MWC. As previously mentioned, the surprise stage appearance of Mark Zukerburg clearly showing his love of all things Samsung, marked them as the Smartphone Gods of 2016 – oh, and did I mention that part of their showcase this year was done using Virtual Reality or should I say ‘Social VR’? Get used to hearing that expression folks, as it’s definitely going to be a key buzz-phrase this year.
Until Next Time …
Column completed and I’m off to do a spot of DIY. My smart facemask brainwave analyser tells me that I’m still alive so I’m off to a good start. The wife’s out shopping for the afternoon so I’ll take my time building the shelves, although using my new smart tape-measure should ensure it’s done in no time. Meanwhile, I’ll keep the dogs entertained by sending them out for a few laps around the garden using their Fitbit for dogs devices to keep an eye on their progress – it seems I’m a sucker for useless gadgets after all!
So, this is where a toolbelt-wearing Dr. G signs off.
Originally published in Technically Speaking.