Having now attended two consecutive Mobile World Congresseseses on behalf of Mobot, I think we can all agree that I’m now nothing short of an MWC vet(eran). I just hope society has a place for me when I get back home.
Of course, we learned lots of lessons last year (at which point we’d been around for just a few weeks), so this year is going a lot smoother. And hey, this guide might come in handy for Apple if it decides to make the trip next year (ahem).
Behold: eight simple rules for surviving Mobile World Congress.
1. Arrive early – in Barcelona
Technically, Mobile World Congress doesn’t open its doors till the Monday, but there’s a growing trend (just check out our news pages) for manufacturers to spill the beans early.
The last thing you want to do is find yourself in transit on the Sunday while the top dogs are shooting their mouths off about their latest wares.
2. Register at the weekend
Registering for your Mobile World Congress pass is best done at the weekend, in order to avoid the Monday queues. Also, you’re pretty much guaranteed to grab the obligatory free Mobile World Congress swag bag, containing a rainforest worth of paper that you’ll never look at and possibly a pen. If you’re lucky.
3. Get accommodation close to the venue
Barcelona is a genuinely massive city, but thankfully comes fully equipped with a fantastic Metro system, not to mention buses and taxis.
However, this year we had a bit of a fright when the transport guys threatened to strike, and the action was only averted at the eleventh hour. Said transport guys had specifically chosen the four days of Mobile World Congress in order to maximise the impact of the strike. The cheeky devils.
Transport strikes in Barcelona are sadly pretty common in my experience, so don't rely on the Metro. I can only imagine how knackered I would've been if I'd had to walk to the conference every day while carrying Wendy's bloomin' camera tripod.
4. Keep your head down on the way in
For some reason, the gates at Mobile World Congress are invariably flanked by protesters. We’re not entirely sure what this year’s crazies were demonstrating against, but some of them wore slightly terrifying bags over their heads with holes cut out for their disapproving eyes. Wendy didn’t think it was a good idea to take a picture of them. She’s no fun.
5. Arrive early – at the venue
To describe the press room as a hive of activity might qualify as understatement of the year. It’s like a fevered battery cage crammed with mobile journalists desperately trying to keep on top of the seemingly endless tidal wave of announcements. As I write, I actually feel like I might vomit. For serious.
Arrive late, and you’ll face a brutal struggle to find a seat. We’ve already had one German guy go absolutely mental because someone left a bag at an otherwise unattended station. “I left my seat; I took my bag! This person leaves their bag and is nowhere to be seen!” Fair point, big man.
6. Don’t attempt to cover everything
Unless your site/blog/publication has sent a horde of staff numbering well into double figures, you can forget about covering everything. Even if I spent zero time writing, I’d have approximately three seconds to take in each of the products on display. Actually, that might be quite fun in a bizarre way; a bit like speed dating with mobile phones.
7. Leave early
If you find yourself staying till the end of the day (and let’s face it, it’s an absolute inevitability on the Monday), be prepared to face a hideous bottleneck of exhausted journalists (not a pretty sight), all aggressively jostling to make it beyond the gates and into the freedom of the cool Barcelona night. An ice-cold pint of Estrella for supper is highly recommended.
8. Don’t wear your pass outside the gates
Barcelona remains one of my favourite cities (second only to New York), but unfortunately it’s still rife with pickpockets. Wearing your Mobile World Congress pass away from the venue is just asking for trouble.
Last year, Wendy and I witnessed some scumbags “helping” an MWC-bound oriental gentleman through the Metro’s barriers (a common scam); while one pair distracted him from the front by waving his ticket around in the air, a third attempted to raid his bag from behind (er, not a euphemism). Fortunately, there were undercover police on hand, and they kicked butt. Awesome.
On a similar note, I almost had my phone nicked on Saturday night, as a supposed club rep tried to convince me to go to his venue (if it did indeed exist) by holding a leaflet off to the side and dancing suspiciously close. I spent a while living in Barcelona back in 2010, so I’m well used to such nonsense, and when I grabbed his hand (which had just about made it to my HTC Desire HD) he shouted: “Excuse me!” and ran off. What a polite young man.
Now if you’ll excuse me, I’ve got a further 8,912 new devices to go play with.