Mobile World Congress (MWC 2022) took place, as a face-to-face event, earlier this month in Barcelona. So, what were the key trends that we saw emerging from the show? Dario Betti, CEO, Mobile Ecosystem Forum reports…
Big announcements for new mobile devices were not all made at MWC this year. Big brands now prefer to do this at their own shows (Apple, Samsung, and Xiaomi for example). Some brands, such as Sony, did not take part at all.
The area of mid-range devices (between 250 and 450 Euros) is the hard one that manufacturers are trying to move away from. Realme, Xiami, Honor and more showed that they were keen to diversify upwards. The hot releases at MWC were new laptops, a transparent TV screen, and dog robots. A bigger reflection on the maturity of the smartphone market is necessary. Branding appears to be key and features secondary. This is not a good sign for long term innovation and sustainability.
Poco by Xiaomi was one of the few new releases at the show. Xiaomi is so keen to become a full premium brand that it picked its Indian focus brand Poco to position within the price-sensitive Generation Z market. Meanwhile Xiaomi is extending its devices upwards while still trying to hold on to the medium-high market which it grew from.
The unfortunately named Poco (it means ‘a little of’ in Spanish/Italian) would like to show that it has a lot to offer this segment, with a focus on imaging and social media. The high-end version of the phone is based on the Redmi Note11 Pro. For a fraction of the price users can get a remarkable phone. This should be making the premium brands feel a bit uncomfortable.
Who are the other contenders for the high-end market? Realme stands out. It might only be three years old, but the Chinese manufacturer is on a high. It is a brand owned by BBK Electronics, best known for Oppo, Vivo and OnePlus. At 750 Euros its GT2 is a deserving challenger to premium phones. In 2021 Realme grew by 548% in Europe. This is a brand to watch.
Honor has been sold by Huawei and the new management has decided to go looking for a higher market positioning phone. It made its intentions clear by announcing the Magic4. Other real eye-catchers were new laptops from Samsung and Nokia while also worth noting is the TCL new Fold and Roll screen, not a flip phone but an extension screen.
The real news for the operator community was the development of OpenRAN and virtualisation. The appeal of these technologies is high, but problems were shown to be the cost of legacy systems and integration. The technology is available, but not all can manage legacy system integration. The question is how to finance this or how to make it cheaper.
In terms of financing, some operators were horrified by the new cost GSMA reported; 600 US$ billion will be needed to deploy 5G and network optimisation in the years to 2025. Most operators we spoke to are not willing even to consider 6G unless a new source of revenue is clearly identified.
For new revenues, look at what edge computing is doing. There is real potential for mobile operators here, possibly in collaboration with hyperscalers. However, most of the stands were more metaverse inspired than edge enabled.
The Metaverse: the bad side of the ‘Hype-verse’
It was everywhere, yet it is nowhere. The metaverse is a great concept and one the industry needs to engage with. Disappointingly, though, there was too much vapourware at MWC. The numbers of companies truly working on something exciting on virtual reality and augmented reality were possibly a handful. The industry needs to stop playing the hype game. Some real innovators are finding it difficult to stand out and cut through the empty announcements.
The industry innovators
Bringing the app and start-up world (the 4YFN event) and CPaaS/Payment to the main floor of the MWC event was required in order to cover the big empty blocks. But, that said, it was also a great story. Innovators are needed in this industry and there are many. MEF will publish a list of companies that have raised the bar during MWC. Plus, there are the innovation winners of the Meffys. It is well worth a look at these names. https://mobileecosystemforum.com/2022/03/02/meffys-2022-winners-announced-announced-live-at-mwc/
A smaller MWC is better
What was the 2022 congress experience like? It was certainly lovely to be back in person. With 60,000 visitors it had just over the 50% attendance level of previous years – yet it felt right. Perhaps GSMA might have found that the future of this mega event is more about focusing on sustainability rather than getting bigger. This was a great event, and part of its greatness was having less of a crowd to battle through. It proved easier to move around the city as well as the event itself and most importantly it was easier to interact, to talk face-to-face, make connections and learn.
Dario Betti is CEO of MEF (Mobile Ecosystem Forum) a global trade body established in 2000 and headquartered in the UK with members across the world. See https://mobileecosystemforum.com/