Mobile World Congress has come of age. Now in its 19th year MWC showcased an industry that is maturing not just in the average age of its attendees but also in its ability to deliver on long-awaited new technologies, such as M2M, wearables and the Internet of Things.
This was also the first year that wearables, such as the Samsung Galaxy Fit, stole the show, overshadowing the long awaited Samsung Galaxy S5, the Sony Z2 and other flagship smartphone launches, which for many delegates lacked the ‘x factor’ this year.
Dario Talmesio, Informa Telecoms head of Europe: Zuckerberg riles operators at MWC
The most important announcement from MWC was from the over-the-top players. Everyone was talking about Mark Zuckerberg’s proposal to team up with networks to help connect more people to the internet for free. The bottom line is Zuckerberg is asking operators to give customers free access to Facebook. This is a lot to ask of operators because there is little prospect of them making any money from this, at least in the short term – and some have already refused – but some of the smaller operators may consider the proposition as a way of gaining market share. It begs the question why MWC invited Zuckerberg to the event as the key speaker. Although it was very much in line with the theme of connecting the next 1 billion users in emerging markets the GMSA failed to take the mobile industry with it on this one.
Ben Wood, chief of research CCS Insight: The Chinese have finally arrived
For years the industry has been saying the Chinese are coming. Well this year they finally arrived at MWC. Apart from the known brands such as Huawei, Lenovo and Alcatel OneTouch there were also newcomers such as Gionee and Oppo who had huge stands and really nice products. Their home market scale also gives them the opportunity to do some really interesting and adventurous things and there has also been a massive improvement to the fit and finish of their devices. At the same time LTE is really ramping up in China so expect to see some interesting developments there too.
John Strand, CEO Strand Consult: The mobile industry comes of age
It was clear that this year the industry has finally matured. There is much more reality this year. The industry is acknowledging that the EU’s telecoms policy is a failure which has left us lagging behind the US in terms of new technologies and services. Meanwhile, connected services which have been talked about for years are finally a reality. We saw many more connected devices this year and operators all have a clear M2M strategy now. We will see this accelerate this year with many more things getting connected across many sectors such as the automotive industry and health.
Richard Windsor, founder of Radio Free Mobile: The industry is becoming middle-aged
There wasn’t much interesting – it was evolutionary rather than revolutionary. The jeans and T-shirt, which were rare in 2013, are now almost extinct and continue to be replaced with endless dark grey suits. This is not a negative sign, but it shows the industry is becoming middle-aged. The smartphone is now mainstream and will grow at about half the rate in 2014 that it did in 2013. Ecosystem users are set to grow nicely over the next three years and companies that are exposed to a number of users rather than handset shipment will see much better growth. Look out for Google, Microsoft and Yahoo!, and forget about HTC, BlackBerry, LG and other commodity plays.
Neil Mawston, executive director Strategy Analytics: Two to three years before fresh innovation
It was a bit of a ho-hum event as so much was leaked before it kicked off. Obviously the biggest handset was the Samsung Galaxy S5, and in terms of that device and its new wearable portfolio, Samsung stole the event. The Galaxy family is still its most popular device range by a long way, but the improvements to the new flagship were incremental rather than revolutionary. The fact is that most smartphone models look the same nowadays. I think it will be two to three years before we will see fresh innovation from anyone, and the industry will sit on its hands until that happens. From a purely strategic point of view, the Nokia X range was by far the most interesting. Rumours were abounding beforehand about Nokia creating an Android device and I think there will be a lot of excitement around it. The event was well attended and was up number-wise on the year before, but that is to be expected as mobile is the major category in the world at the moment.