Everyone’s first challenge at this year’s Mobile World Congress is to learn their way around the huge new digs at Fira Gran Via. As many of you remember, it wasn’t long ago (2006) that MWC moved from Cannes to Barcelona and took up residence in the 115,000 m2 (plus 50,000 m2 outdoor space) Fira de Barcelona (Montjuic). The Gran Via has 240,00 m2 spread over 8 pavilions and everyone has to learn where the Conference Village, App Planet and other MWC staples were located. The obvious benefit of the new venue is the additional room for both exhibits and conference sessions and lots of restaurants. It is unusually cold in Barcelona this year, but the opening day announcements definitely heated things up a bit. As expected, at the opening press conferences by Huawei, LG, Nokia, Asus and ZTE, mobile device news ruled. Nokia introduced two low-end smartphones, the Lumia 520 and 720 with 4” and 4.3” displays respectively and running Windows 8. Huawei claimed its news Ascend P2 is the fastest smartphone ever with a 1.5GHz quad-core processor and LTE Cat 4 connectivity which Huawei says can handle 150Mbps download speeds. Samsung launched the Galaxy Note 8 tablet featuring an 8” screen and a stylus. In the race to create new categories, LG introduced its new “phablet” – (PHone+tABLET = phablet!). Technically, it’s the LG Optimus G Pro with a 5.5” screen and a 13MP camera running Android 4.1 Jelly Bean. Many vendors have followed Apple’s approach of announcing their flagship products at dedicated events of their own. In that vein, Samsung decided to issue invitations to a launch event to be held on March 14th in New York at MWC. Speculation is that the Galaxy S4 will be announced at the New York event and as a marketing person, I am always interested in the tactics being used to “one-up” (or sometimes spoil) the competition’s news. The big buzz of Day 1 seems to be Mozilla’s Firefox OS release of the first commercial build and the announcement of 18 network operations that have signed up. Initial handsets from ZTE and Alcatel were previewed today. All-in-all, a busy day but pretty much as expected. A friend of mine commented on the fact that when you walk the floor at MWC and see the huge number of mobile devices on display you quickly realize how similar all the devices look. Is it time for another innovation to keep people buying new devices? Or are we seeing a shift to an emphasis on how mobile is changing our lives. One of the numbers being talked about this year is an estimate that by the end of this year there will be more mobile device connections than there are people on earth. That’s over 7 billion connections! Things are definitely changing!!