48 hours @ #MWC11

I’ve just spent two days at Mobile World Congress in Barcelona – courtesy of the GSMA – an event described as the “must-attend annual gathering of the mobile industry”. An estimated 50,000 senior mobile leaders from 200 countries converge on Barcelona for four days to talk, sell and promote all-things mobile. It’s pretty full-on.

Here’s a very brief round-up of some of the things that caught my eye (and ear) over the course of those two days.

Move over 3G – it’s now all about 3D. LG showed off what they claim to be the world’s first full 3D smart phone – the LG Optimus 3D – which supports the recording, viewing and sharing of 3D content. Not everyone’s convinced that there’s a market for this, me included, and most people I spoke to more broadly about the various 3D technologies on offer at the Congress said that most made their eyes go funny. Conclusion: Work in progress.

Still on the subject of new phones, Sony Ericsson showed off their highly anticipated “Playstation Phone”, or Xperia Play if you want the official title. Expect to see it in some European and Asian markets from next month, and in the US from the spring (courtesy a CDMA version and tie-up with Verizon).

Something which appealed to the environmentalist in me was Sharp’s “Touch Wood” mobile range, an “eco-friendly phone made with the surplus wood culled from overgrown forests in Japan”. Felt good, too.

There was plenty of talk around the humble SIM card, too. The Embedded SIM project continued to build up a head of steam, proposing a “worldwide standard that will allow the remote management of SIMs, effectively removing the need for a physical SIM card and allowing them to be embedded in many different types of device”. It will be interesting to see whether they embrace the multi-SIM phones turning up all over much of the developing world. And Gemalto showed off their “Facebook SIM card“, effectively allowing even the most basic, entry-level phones to access a limited range of Facebook functionality.

According to a survey carried out last month, mobile apps “attract almost as much mobile device use as messaging, and exceed the totals for voice calls and web browsing”. Over the past few years the usage debate seems to have moved from voice vs. SMS to SMS vs. web. Expect it to now move more towards web vs. apps.

When I attended my first Mobile World Congress in 2008, Android was the new kid on the block, having just been announced a few months earlier. This year, Android was pretty hard to escape.

With the developing world now accounting for four in every five mobile connections, the potential of emerging markets was not forgotten, either (although the definition of an emerging economy remains open to debate – China, for example, continues to be counted as “emerging”, as does India). That aside, the Congress Daily produced an interesting breakdown:

On a more personal level, it was great to catch up with friends at the GSMA Development Fund, the UN Foundation, Grameen Foundation, ClickatellWieden+Kennedy, National Geographic, Vital Wave and the mHealth Alliance, to grab lunch with Jan Chipchase, share a glass of champagne with the Text to Change team, and catch up with Nigel Waller at Movirtu. There were many more people I didn’t get to meet, but I’ll hopefully bump into them at various other events during the course of 2011.

Further reading
An expanded version of this article was published on the Guardian “Poverty Matters” Blog, here.

16 thoughts on “48 hours @ #MWC11

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  3. jke says:

    Interesting, thx 4 sharing, Ken.
    I am curious about how European & US-American manufacturers see low budget Android devices and how they want to compete with those. And if there’s any exhibitor that specializes in low bandwidth data connections / adopted smartphone OS for such environments (~ data saving tools, available as a package).

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  10. Nathalie says:

    Thank you very much for sharing, Ken, I wish I could attend the MWC. This is an interesting summary!
    Note: Barcelona is the capital of Catalogna :). Have you spent too much time in Stanford, or it is to emphasize that the event is big (and in a big city)? Just kidding.

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