Smartphones Continue to Get Better and Better
Everything about Mobile World Congress 2016 (the mobile industry’s annual confab in Barcelona) rates a superlative: MWC is the biggest mobile event with 101,000 attendees, 2,200 exhibitors, 3,600 press and media) people present. It is the most important – the keynotes speeches and product announcements portend an even more dominant role for mobile technology in our lives. Even this year’s transit strike, which made getting around harder than usual and transportation lines incredibly long, couldn’t dent attendee enthusiasm for the show. MWC 2016 lived up to its theme: Mobile Is Everything.
Smartphone Development Still Strong
As expected, smartphone announcements from Samsung and LG kicked off the event on Sunday. Samsung rolled out their Galaxy S7 and Galaxy S7 Edge with a faster processor, new dual pixel 12-megapixel rear camera (the front-facing camera is 5 megapixels) and water proofing down to 1.5 meters (the S7 is also dust proof). The new LG G5 is a total redesigned handset with a Quad HD display, dual rear-facing camera and a removable battery. LG also announced a new line of accessories including a VR headset, LG Cam Plus and LG Hi-Fi Plus designed to bolt on to the smartphone.
Other smartphone vendors have also been very busy. HTC announced 3 new mid-range phones (Desire 530, Design 630, and Desire 825); Sony introduced new mid-range Xperia X and Xperia XA phones; Huawei launched the Mate 8; Lenovo introduced the TAB3 10 Business Android Tablet. Xiaomi launched the Mi 5 handset expected to be half the price of its much larger competitors. Qualcomm featured its new Snapdragon 820 chipset that is used in the new Samsung and LG smartphones.
For those of you that believe that there is not much more that can be done to enhance your smartphone, MWC 2016 showed that that there’s a much more to be done and interesting new apps (such as VR) being developed.
Virtual Reality – The Buzz of the Show
Virtual reality products have been an interesting side show for the past several years. The totally immersive technology that can place you in any digital world imaginable (think James Cameron’s movie Avatar) where you can simply observe, play games, or get trained on something. While MWC is about everything mobile, this week’s MWC seemed to be a virtual reality showcase.
Samsung started the VR deluge on Sunday where they introduced the Gear 360 camera; a 360-degre camera that takes both stills and video for VR headsets. The Gear 360 works with a dedicated smartphone app to stitch together the images/footage from its 2 15-megapixels sensors which can then be viewed on a VR headset. Samsung’s booth came complete with a VR roller coaster ride.
Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg was part of the Samsung Sunday announcement and said that the company has created a “Social VR Team” that will look for ways that people can interact with social applications using VR. The company, which owns Oculus, is also working on developing a foundation for social VR experiences on multiple platforms.
Other VR demonstrations included a VR submarine dive at the SK Telecom booth and HTC was showing its Vive VR system at its booth. Oculus headsets were used in numerous booths around the show floor. While VR is still a bit pricey and bugs still need to be worked out, VR was clearly the buzz of the show at MWC 2016 and lots of people are actively working on VR projects.
5G is Not Just Around the Corner
At the major mobile show, you would expect that the next stage in the evolution of wireless networks would be highly visible. MWC 2016 did not disappoint – the 5G revolution was everywhere! And as we have come to expect, the next-generation wireless network will be dramatically faster and more flexible and will transform (yet again!) nearly everything mobile.
5G demonstrations included Intel showing a 5G testbed with a “Massive MIMO” demonstration and Samsung and Deutsche Telecom demonstrating a robotic arm that exploits the low-latency capabilities of 5G.
However, even though the 5G hype is building, don’t expect your carrier to start offering it soon. The standard won’t be ratified until 2018 (maybe) with field rollout starting in 2020. Until then, the demos are fun and app developers can start thinking of the new, amazing apps they will create that exploit the new technology. Expect MWC 2017 to continue the hype!
Cars Cars Cars
For those who have followed our posts on both the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) and MWC, you know that automotive electronics have become an exciting staple at these shows. The “connected car” is a major theme at technology shows these days and MWC 2016 featured the latest smart car innovations.
New ideas being demonstrated this year included gesture control, using VR goggles to see around a corner (WOW!), dashboards that look like a tablet, replacing your keys with your smartphone, and connecting your “smart home” to your “smart car”.
Ford has been a major exhibitor (and keynote speaker) at recent MWC events. This year they demonstrated the Kuga SUV which includes touchscreen technology, a virtual assistant and some autonomous driving features. For example, Ford’s Pre-Collision Assist feature uses a camera and radar technology to prevent you from hitting pedestrians.
Volvo made their MWC debut this year and announced that they will replace the keys in 2017 models with a smartphone app. The app will automatically lock the car when the driver moves away from the car (assuming he remembered to take his phone!) and open the car when he returns.
Of interest to those with older cars, Samsung launched their Connected Auto Dongle. The dongle plugs into your car’s On Board Diagnostic Port (OBD) and allows you to track vehicle performance, fuel consumption and to receive real-time traffic updates.
As you would hope, the manufacturers are very focused on keeping your car systems’ secure. Security was mentioned in several keynotes and covered in focused conference sessions.
The connected car is arriving at a dealer near you right now!
We’ve just scratched the surface of MWC 2016. Much more is available from the coverage by the huge number of journalists that were present. Just put “MWC 2016 wrap up” in your search bar and enjoy.