This year’s Mobile World Congress promised to take visitors to ‘the edge of innovation’, and we’re taking you into the action with highlights from the exhibition floor, keynote speakers and beyond.
From 2-5 March, the Mobile World Congress (MWC) conference and exhibition welcomed up to 80,000 people to the Fira Gran Via venue in Barcelona, Spain. Almost 2,000 exhibitors showcased the latest in mobile technology, from accessories to infrastructure.
Throughout the week, Siliconrepublic.com’s man on the ground, John Kennedy, and the rest of the team have been keeping you informed of the need-to-know news from this massive global event, all of which you will find right here.
If there was a company worth watching at this year’s Mobile World Congress it was Jolla, the start-up led by ex-Nokia workers who plan to turn their Sailfish OS into the world’s third biggest operating system.
The technology is advancing at such a rate that self-driving cars will be possible in the next 10 years, Dr Ken Washington, VP of research and advanced engineering at Ford told Siliconrepublic.com.
It’s all about craftsmanship, said HTC vice-president Peter Frølund. That’s the defining trend of 2015 when it comes to the latest smartphones on show at Mobile World Congress and he said HTC exemplifies this trend.
One of the great Irish stories to come out of this year’s MWC is Irish personalised learning company Fishtree raising US$3m in a funding round that will enable it to create 25 new jobs.
Addressing his keynote ‘The Road to 5G’, EU Commissioner for the Digital Economy & Society Günther Oettinger told the MWC that the rate of digital adoption means Europe needs to be a leader of 5G mobile broadband.
Getting back to gadgets, Kennedy got a quick look at the new Huawei TalkBand B2, which is a combination of Bluetooth headset and sports bracelet.
As wearables become mainstream, the next big buzzword in mobile technology is ‘internet of things’, and Ericsson’s country manager for Ireland spoke to Kennedy about how its 1,600-strong Irish workforce is contributing to this exciting new tech ecosystem.
More good news from Irish companies exhibiting in Barcelona as Dublin-based start-up Brite:Bill secured a major deal with US telecoms giant Sprint.
Anne Bouverot, director-general of the GSMA (the organisation behind Mobile World Congress), hit the conference crowd with some startling statistics on women’s exclusion from the mobile revolution. According to research released at MWC, more than 1.7bn females in low and middle-income countries do not own a mobile phone and women on average are 14pc less likely to own a phone than men.
Not everything at MWC is confined to the Fira Gran Via, and Samsung kicked things off with its own Unpacked event at the CCIB conference centre in Barcelona. Samsung Mobile CEO JK Shin strode onto the stage and quipped, “My first language is engineering,” before launching into the big reveal we were waiting for – two new flagship smartphones, the Galaxy S6 and Galaxy S6 Edge.
“In revealing the new S6 and S6 Edge, Samsung has thrown away the cheap and cheerful plastic designs of yesterday and has replaced it with a device that is all metal, but also which comes with a battery built in and not only that, capable of wireless charging,” said Kennedy as he drank in the new devices. Check out his first look at both the Galaxy S6 and Galaxy S6 Edge below.
Along with the Galaxy S6 and Galaxy S6 Edge announcement came the launch of Samsung Pay, Samsung’s competitor to Apple Pay. Samsung has partnered with key financial players for its mobile payments platform and has deployed magnetic secure transmission (MST) technology to enable compatibility with magnetic strip payments.
Competing directly with the Unpacked event for press attention was HTC’s unveiling of the much-anticipated – and much leaked – M9 smartphone. The new HTC One device builds on what has gone before in the M7 and M8 editions, and it looks like the somewhat suffering smartphone-maker has nailed it once again.
As is the privilege of being a visitor to MWC, our editor John Kennedy also managed to get his hands on the brand-new HTC One M9 for a first look at the device he believes takes the best of the M7 and M8 and potentially sets a new standard in smartphone design.
With no presence from Apple at MWC, it’s very much an Android-dominated event, with Sony also chiming in to announce its latest products, the Xperia M4 Aqua smartphone and the Xperia Z4 tablet, both of which feature Android’s latest operating system Lollipop at their heart.
Kennedy also received a sneak preview of Sony’s new range launching at MWC, including the mid-range Xperia M4 Aqua smartphone, and the Xperia Z4 tablet, the latter of which promises a laptop-like experience.
While we expect to hear exciting news from brands such as Samsung, HTC and Sony at MWC, one surprise manufacturer causing a stir was Swedish furniture-maker IKEA. With the attention of the world’s gadget fans focused on MWC, IKEA took the opportunity to announce a range of furniture with built-in wireless charging points compatible with 80 devices.
As well as exhibitions and product announcements, MWC also plays host to keynote speeches from prominent figures in the industry and 2015 has been no exception. Google product chief Sundar Pichai took to the stage at lunchtime on Monday, offering the company’s plans to launch its first broadband balloons and airplanes for the audience to chew over.
During his lunchtime keynote, Pichai also served up a tasty nugget about Google’s plans to set up its own mobile network. “You will see us announce it in the coming months but the goal is to drive innovations that the market will allow and to do it at a scale that people will see what we are doing,” said Pichai.
One of the (many) exciting sides of MWC is noting how mobile technology has spilled over to encompass more than just hand-held communications devices. Exhibiting at the event, security software company AVG demonstrated this with its glasses, to render the wearer unrecognisable to facial-recognition technology. However, the proof-of-concept design has its drawbacks and there are workarounds that counteract its abilities. All the same, AVG succeeded in starting a conversation around privacy in an increasingly mobile age.
AVG’s LED privacy glasses. Image via AVG
Another major keynote speaker at MWC 2015 has been Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, who has become somewhat of a regular feature at the event. This year, Zuckerberg quickly turned Google’s keynote headline on its head by down playing “blue sky” broadband projects involving balloons and drones and indicated the brunt of the work to get the world connected to the internet rests with mobile operators.
Before handheld technology became the order of the day, ‘mobility’ was a term reserved for the transport industry, and Ford has been sure to remind MWC visitors of this with the unveiling of a fleet of electric cars and an electric bicycle to boot.
Electric vehicles and an electric bike from Ford
We’ll be updating this article throughout the week with more from Mobile World Congress, so be sure to check back in.