As ever, the show looks like it will really get going on the Sunday before, with a host of events scheduled by the big-name manufacturers. Samsung, Huawei and LG are just some of brands that have booked out big venues in Barcelona to launch products.
There should be some significant handsets unveiled at these events too, with both of the Korean manufacturers expecting to reveal new flagships at their Sunday shows. Grabbing the attention of the event’s attendees and generating the enthusiasm of the media from this point of the week is crucial. Last year Samsung made a real effort to ‘own’ the Sunday with the launch of its edge products, and it will be fascinating to see whether it plans to do the same again.
As with most trade shows, the costs of showing off your brand are considerable. For some, this year has proved too much of an expensive exercise to invest in. Interestingly, among these notable absentees are a number of wearable manufacturers. Once the darlings of industry events such as these, they now appear to be taking a slight step back from the mobile game. That said, this year’s event comes much closer to the Las Vegas CES show, which would almost certainly have affected the marketing budget of some of the smaller players.
Over the past few years the balance of power between the mobile networks and manufacturers appears to have shifted. It used to be that operators battled it out to stock the most desirable handsets, with a great deal of range and variety of form factors. However, as differentiation in the device market has lessened, it is now frequently the networks that hold the key to the customer. This change is particularly evident at events such as Mobile World Congress, where the most senior figures in the industry come together and some of the biggest agreements are made.
There has been a huge amount of speculation within the industry that this year will see some significant exits from the manufacturer space. Whether the 2016 edition of Mobile World Congress will provide any clues as to who this might be remains to be seen. Anyone who is considering it is unlikely to give too much away in Barcelona. Nevertheless, it may represent a swansong for whoever is looking to leave the market.
Last year, once again, the uneasy relationship that exists between over-the-top providers and the mobile industry was played out. Facebook founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg has become a mainstay at the Barcelona show – his appearance last time around alongside a number of operators demonstrated the strained but necessary relationship that exists between the two businesses. There