Europe may be facing a double dip recession, but confidence seems to be back within the mobile industry. MWC 2011 boasted record attendances and there was a real sense that there were far more exciting and innovative products on show this year.
What stole the headlines? The Sony Ericsson Xperia Play, LG Optimus 3D, Samsung Galaxy S II and, for some, the Motorola ATRIX were the most exciting handsets. In the tablet arena, the HTC Flyer was the most surprising new tablet, the webOS-powered HP TouchPad was widely admired, while the previously seen Motorola XOOM and BlackBerry PlayBook continued to receive plaudits.
The rise of video was a key theme in the sense of generally improved screen displays and the arrival of a number of dual-core processor devices better able to handle HD video content. Other additions pointed the way to the future, including NFC-enabled handsets and HSPA+ and LTE-enabled devices.
Mobile working and the need to make off-the-shelf handsets secure for enterprises was another key theme that several manufacturers and software providers sought to address. Here is Mobile’s view of the key trends.
Key trends from MWC 2011
Technical excellence and innovation
The first 3D phones, tablets and games were on show, but everywhere there was more design elegance: handsets were slimmer, faster and more powerful with improved user interfaces and longer battery life.
No question – Android ruled at Mobile World Congress. With the exception of RIM and HP, most manufacturers were keen to display their Android credentials. Now Nokia has announced it is abandoning Symbian, it looks like Google’s runaway operating system is heading for the top spot.
There were plenty of good looking tablets on display from Samsung, LG, RIM, HTC, Motorola and others, but operators are wondering whether they will really take off if people need to take out a second data plan. And with the iPad II waiting in the wings, can anyone catch Apple?
Differentiation through content
It’s not what it is, it’s what can it do for you. Manufacturers thought more carefully about preparing attractive content ahead of launching devices, be it games, apps or secure services for enterprises. With so many equally good devices, attractive content is one way to get cut through. Meanwhile, the operators fought back against Google and Apple by boosting their Wholesale Applications Community alliance to start offering apps from which they can (finally) get some revenue.
NFC and M2M
2011 is being hailed as the year that Near Field Communications will take off. A number of new NFC-enabled devices were on show.
There are plenty of deals being done by payment service companies, banks, credit cards and other enterprises. But they still need to get the payment readers into the shops. There is plenty of noise around mHealth and other M2M verticals, but operators have a long way to go before turning them into major revenue streams.
Work phone/personal phone in one device
Consumerisation is the new buzz word. People don’t want to carry two devices for work and personal use. Manufacturers and software security providers are working hard to come up with solutions that give businesses the robust protection for sensitive information, while allowing customers to use their devices to the full without applications being locked down or for their personal information to be read by their employers. The solutions are out there.
Devices Xperia Play; Xperia Arc; Xperia Neo; Xperia Pro (all Android) – but no tablet.
Release date The Play and Arc will launch on 31 March 2011.
Available from All four networks are selling the Play.
The buzz No question – Sony Ericsson’s first PlayStation phone, the Xperia Play, was one of the big talking points at MWC and parent Sony’s endorsement is a clear sign of its confidence in SE’s future – something many had begun to question. Sony Ericsson’s ability to tap into the mighty Sony brand is (at last) a real plus for SE globally.
The fact that all four UK networks are eager to sell the Play is highly unusual and shows they have a lot of confidence in the handset and believe it will sell. Sony Ericsson has cleverly waited until it has 50 games ready to go when the Play goes on sale (with many others eager to sign up apparently). Expect a big marketing campaign for the Play and Arc and lots of live demonstrations in stores.
Sony Ericsson has worked hard to bring more innovation to its handsets through the Exmor R camera technology and the Bravia engine reality display for highly detailed screen visuals. The Neo and Pro will provide cheaper smartphone options to help it claw back lost market share, with the latter aimed at the enterprise market.
Summary The new range provides Sony Ericsson with its best chance in a long time to regain its reputation for innovation and leadership – but it must get the execution right.
Devices XOOM tablet; ATRIX; PRO; GLEAM.
Release date Q2.
Available from No definite news yet, but the XOOM tablet is expected to be ranged widely. Everything Everywhere has an exclusive on the ATRIX.
The buzz The XOOM and ATRIX had already been showcased at CES in January, so only the PRO (based on the DROID PRO) was new. It also had the temerity to display the GLEAM – a clamshell feature phone no less.
The Android-powered XOOM tablet has impressed many within the industry, but the ATRIX was the US manufacturer’s bravest and most innovative move. The phone doubles up as a computer – place it in a docking station with Bluetooth connections to keypad, mouse and monitor and you’re away.
Motorola announced the acquisition of 3LM, which provides enterprise style security to the Android platform: Sony Ericsson, HTC, Pantech and Sharp will partner in developing an end-to-end mobile management solution.
Summary Motorola is clawing back brand awareness and market share slowly, but it still has a long way to go to regain its caché in Europe. The XOOM is a superb tablet, but can it really challenge Apple? The ATRIX is a brave and innovative move, but will it take off? The push into the enterprise space is a good move, but again, is the brand strong enough to challenge RIM and others in that space?
Devices Galaxy S II; Galaxy Tab 10.1 tablet (both Android); Wave 578 (Bada); Galaxy S WiFi 4.0 ‘Smart Player’; Galaxy Mini; Galaxy Fit; Galaxy Gio; Galaxy Ace (Android).
Release date Galaxy S II, Tab and Wave all out in May; Galaxy S WiFi to launch in first half of 2011 with UK to get it first.
Available from Galaxy S II and Tab 10.1 will be available from most channels.
The buzz Samsung’s 2011 strategy is to ride the momentum created by the 10 million selling Galaxy S and two million selling Galaxy Tab.
Its two main launches at MWC are evolutions of these two products: the Galaxy S II is slimmer and faster than its predecessor with a slightly bigger screen and a 1GHz dual-core processo