Mobile World Congress: Update from Barcelona

By Robert Virkus, Director App Development Open-Xchange

As every year, Barcelona is calling the mobile industry to show their latest and greatest gadgets and services. Here are my impressions and insights from 2017.

Gadgets

As a longtime fan of slow motion video my favorite phone of this MWC is the Sony Xperia XZ Premium: with 960 frames per second and a 4K resolution you can create really great slow motion videos – actually less than half a second long, but hey, professional 1K FPS cameras are out of the reach of almost everyone. The XZ Premium will be available at around 800 Euro from June onwards. You will always need to start a normal video and can then integrate the 0.2 seconds super-slow-motion part while recording the video. This timespan is then expanded to a 6 seconds long video when playing back.

MWC

Other notable smartphones include the LG G6 handset, the reborn Nokia 3310 feature phone and the BlackBerry KEYone. Samsung has postponed the reveal of the Galaxy S8 until the end of March 2017.

Sailfish OS will also run on Sony Xperia handsets, and Ubuntu Touch is coming to the Fairphone.

Have Smartphones Reached End of Life?

There is no denial that the smartphone industry has entered an incremental improvements phase. Things get better iteratively, but exciting stuff is happening elsewhere.

Deutsche Telekom CEO Tim Höttges even predicted the end of the smartphone area and bets on smartglasses for the future.

The Sony Xperia Touch projector allows you to use any surface as a touchscreen – and this actually works quite well. I’m not sure if the expected retail price of around $1500 US will lead to any meaningful sales, but it’s a cool concept.

While Amazon Alexa, Google Home, Xperia Agent, Cortana, and more are sometimes painfully obvious version 1 products or even only concepts for now, the success of Alexa shows that people are accepting new interaction paradigms and generally open to ubiquitous computing. Voice is getting more important on the go as well, as shown by Sony Xperia Ear, the Vinci kickstarter campaign or the Cortana-enabled Jabra headsets.

MWC Trends

At MWC the main trends of 2017 are artificial intelligence with “predictive powers” everywhere, VR and AR, IoT and security.

Now that Amazon’s Alexa comes to most Motorola devices, Google has announced that their Google Assistant is being distributed to all Android 6+ handsets.

Wrap Up

As usual Apple, Google and Microsoft were only indirectly present, so more exciting news will undoubtedly be unveiled throughout the year. Nevertheless, MWC is – as usual – and exciting mix of vague promises, actual hands-on products and glimpses into the future. I’m already looking forward to the next tour-de-force in 2018.