Mobile World Congress: not so exciting no more?

Mobile World Congress: not so exciting no more?Mobile World Congress (MWC), previously held in Cannes but more recently making its home in Barcelona, is widely regarded as the biggest event in the mobile calendar. Sure, Las Vegas’ annual Consumer Electronics Show (CES) generally has some big mobile stuff, but MWC is the big daddy. The main event. The real deal.

Having said that, there are signs that MWC is becoming less relevant in the current climate, with this year’s conference in particular threatening to induce major shruggage.

While Apple has little interest in playing with others, MWC typically – okay, usually – plays host to (most of) the other big names in mobile: Samsung, HTC, LG, Sony, RIM, Nokia…

In recent years we’ve seen numerous flagships launch at MWC, including the Samsung Galaxy S, Samsung Galaxy S II, HTC Desire, HTC One X, and, er, the Sony Ericsson Xperia Arc.

However, times are a-changin’, and several manufacturers are taking a page out of Apple’s book, opting instead to have their own high profile launch events, rather than share – or fight for – the limelight in Barcelona.

Looking back, the cracks have been evident for a few years. While the conference generally runs from Monday to Thursday, some of the bigger players (Samsung and Sony spring to mind) would launch their new junk on the Sunday prior to the show. What the…?

And last year, at MWC 2012, there was a major snub from Samsung, with the South Koreans deciding not to showcase the Galaxy S III. Those sons of…

There was plenty of speculation as to why that was the case, with the most logical assumption being that Samsung wanted to close the gap between launch and release; actually sell the Galaxy S III while the post-launch buzz was still in effect. Makes sense, I guess.

The Samsung Galaxy S II, on the other hand, was unveiled at MWC 2011 in February, and didn’t go on sale till May that year. Pretty silly.

Anyway! Fast-forward to MWC 2013, and we’ve already had two fairly major dollops of bad news.

Sticking with Samsung, we’re told that the South Koreans mightn’t bother with a press event at all, instead simply showing off its wares on some sort of stand, presumably with a few token booth babes dotted around.

On the plus side, the Samsung Galaxy Note 8.0 has already been confirmed, but it seems destined for a relatively low-key launch. We might also see up to three new Samsung Galaxy Tabs, but… yawn.

As for everyone’s favourite Taiwanese manufacturer (no offense Acer and Asus), the HTC M7 is almost certainly set to launch on February 19, with events in London and New York.

We’ve heard mention of a couple more HTC smartphones, but they’re expected to arrive after MWC 2013. Heck, they’re significantly more modest than the flagship, so we can’t say we’re hugely excited anyway.

So, with Samsung and HTC seemingly set to keep a low profile, and Sony already launching the Xperia Z at CES last month, that leaves, uhm, Huawei and ZTE to possibly launch a bunch of Chinese stuff that mightn’t make it to the UK.

Oh, and not forgetting Nokia (ahem), and LG, which may or may not unveil the Optimus G2. The latest rumours suggest it’ll arrive in fall (or “autumn”, to you and me), so don’t get your hopes up.

To be fair, with literally hundreds of companies attending, there’s a whole bunch of other networking and businessy behind-the-scenes stuff that goes on, but for the smartphone fan, there’s simply less and less to get excited about as the years roll on.

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10 comments

JanSt / MOD  Feb. 6, 2013 at 19:09

I blame Android.

matt101101 / MOD  Feb. 6, 2013 at 22:41

I blame Android.
You would :p.

JanSt / MOD  Feb. 7, 2013 at 07:13

matt,
It's not Android's inherent merits or its flaws.
It's Android's perpetual news-engine. 6 years ago people kept their phones 18 - 24 months.
MWC and the like were thrilling because there wasn't a next best thing out every fortnight.
Apple didn't change that with its once-a-year cycle (initially) - Android did!
Google IS advertising. And all advertisers primArily promote themselves. Actual products are just proof of concept. (Which explains Google's many perpetually-in-Beta stuff).

Android is Google's perfect Beta cornucopia of news.

Again: it has created some great devices, but the vast majority of the 2000 or so Android devices are forgettable and forgotten. But great to serve as a minut by minute distraction from real innovation and real NEED versus created want.
It's Google's ride - everybody else just a passenger, forver not-quite thrilled but unable to take the eyes off of the tracks.
MWC and the like require patience. Time and the desire to analyse what was shown.
Nowadays we know most or all specs by the time the product is announced - same way you know what happens in a 1ID song after the intro. And before.
That is Google's contribution.

JanSt / MOD  Feb. 7, 2013 at 07:15

Typos are mine ®

matt101101 / MOD  Feb. 7, 2013 at 10:16

When I'm at a computer, I shall construct a decent reply : p.

JanSt / MOD  Feb. 7, 2013 at 11:17

Which I shall edit as I see fit

JanSt / MOD  Feb. 7, 2013 at 11:20

Note, most stuff is rubbish. Android's many hundreds of corgettable handsets and tabs do note stand out in that larger picture - just so that is clear. And again: some Android phones are truly great.

JanSt / MOD  Feb. 7, 2013 at 11:20

Forgettable, not "corgettable"

matt101101 / MOD  Feb. 7, 2013 at 13:35

matt,
It's not Android's inherent merits or its flaws.
It's Android's perpetual news-engine. 6 years ago people kept their phones 18 - 24 months.
MWC and the like were thrilling because there wasn't a next best thing out every fortnight.
Apple didn't change that with its once-a-year cycle (initially) - Android did!
Google IS advertising. And all advertisers primArily promote themselves. Actual products are just proof of concept. (Which explains Google's many perpetually-in-Beta stuff).

Android is Google's perfect Beta cornucopia of news.

Again: it has created some great devices, but the vast majority of the 2000 or so Android devices are forgettable and forgotten. But great to serve as a minut by minute distraction from real innovation and real NEED versus created want.
It's Google's ride - everybody else just a passenger, forver not-quite thrilled but unable to take the eyes off of the tracks.
MWC and the like require patience. Time and the desire to analyse what was shown.
Nowadays we know most or all specs by the time the product is announced - same way you know what happens in a 1ID song after the intro. And before.
That is Google's contribution.

Right, reply time :p.

I agree, Google are, at heart, an advertising company. What I'm not quite so sure about, is why that makes it Android's fault that MWC is less interesting nowadays?

Most "normal" people do keep their phones for 18-24 months, we're not "normal", we don't fit into the manufacturer's and network's desired model of mobile phone ownership. Just because there are new model released more frequently (though at the high end price points, there hasn't been much of an increase in frequency, it's still an annual event).

I also agree about Android devices, the vast majority of them are forgettable at best, and downright terrible at worst. The number of genuinely brilliant Android devices in any 12 month period, can easily be counted on the fingers of one hand. I guess that's one of the features of a free to use, open source operating system. Many people will use it and many of that greater many will implement it badly. Saying that, the failure of many Android devices in no way detracts from the brilliance and success of others. The Galaxy Spica doesn't detract from ownership experience of the Note 2, even though they're both Android devices made by Samsung.

Android is great, you just have to ignore the rubbish which doesn't interest you. Do that and you'll find that you end up with only a handful of devices each year, with each of those devices only being succeeded in ~12 months time.

JanSt / MOD  Feb. 7, 2013 at 14:26

Yes. You made my point :p
I bet MWC would still be interesting to attend, but Android has enabled bloggers and tech journos to churn out oh-so-interesting stuff on a minute to minute basis. In the time it's take them to pin the visitor badge to their shirt they can publish two posts on brandnew leaks from the cheap safety of mum's basement :p
Android also has this level of urgency - now!!! At most in 2 weeks or we forget about it. Something like MWC is often featuring stuff that is aimed at investors... All that is drowned in white noise now.
Anyhoo. I clearly won :p

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