Here’s what to expect at Mobile World Congress 2017

MWC 2017 offers a tantalising array of bezel-less smartphones, brainy AI chatbots, high-res VR and immersive AR

Mobile World Congress 2017 MWC 2017

If smartphones regularly pop up in your nightmares, it is time to update those models to the latest and greatest. After all, why should you be haunted by technicolour visions of low battery warnings on a dated phone when you can instead dream of low battery warnings on swanky new phones with Snapdragon 835s and a 90 per cent screen-to-body ratio? Mobile World Congress 2017, the world’s biggest mobile industry show, kicks off tomorrow and this year it is likely to bring convincing answers to that industry-dreaded question — why should consumers bother upgrading their phone when the one they currently have is doing just fine?

What’s different this year

Over 101,000 visitors from 204 countries attended last year’s MWC. Image: MobileWorldCongress.com

Mobile World Congress 2017 will unfold in Barcelona this week, from Monday to Thursday, and organisers note it will have seven core themes that make it easier for visitors to gravitate towards whatever is most relevant to their interests, profession and visions of the future.

However, if that future vision includes smartphones with battery life measured in weeks instead of days, you might as well wait till MWC 2020. For this year though, the themes include content and media, consumer IoT, the “Fourth Industrial Revolution”, which covers telecom and digital services, networks, platforms, government policies and sustainable businesses.

There will also be events such as Wome4Tech activities, designed to “elevate the voice of women in the mobile industry”. Although the bit we have been inexorably drawn towards is the Meet & Eat event where, as you might expect, you get to devour the culinary treats Catalonia has to offer. And, if you can look up long enough from your overloaded plate, you could network with fellow “foodie/business-minded people who crave just a little more out of MWC”.

Phone is where the heart is

But of course, the bread and butter of MWC remains new phones and accessories. And here, unfortunately, the biggest draw of the year won’t be turning up for the show. Samsung’s much-awaited and already much-leaked flagship — the Galaxy S8 — is skipping MWC and will have its own grand launch soon after the Barcelona event. The company will instead unveil a curvy tablet at MWC — possibly the successor to the Galaxy Tab S3.

However, there will be other interesting phones to more than make up for absence of the S8. LG has confirmed it will announce the waterproofed G6 on February 26, which sports a unique 5.7-inch QHD+ (2,880×1,440 pixels) display at a screen ratio of 18:9. This makes the phone longer that normal, and it will be interesting to see how apps and videos scale to these dimensions. Strangely enough, LG opted for a Snapdragon 821 processor instead of baking in the latest Snapdragon 835 — while the difference in performance would not be discernible in most cases, a slightly older chip might dampen the enthusiasm of buyers of top-end phones.

And oh, to those who invested in the G5’s Friends ecosystem of modular accessories, well, tough luck — you won’t be able to use them with the G6 as LG appears to have given up on modular phones.

Modular dreams

But all is not lost. Motorola is still plugging away on the modular front, and MWC will be a grand stage for the company to launch not just new phones such as the Moto G5 Plus, but also a gaggle of modular accessories for the Moto Z line-up.

Moreover, Alcatel, which has made its presence felt with mid-range devices, is expected to join the party by launching a challenger to Moto Mods.

Comeback time?

Meanwhile, HTC is expected to out the follow-up to its critically acclaimed HTC 10. We don’t know if it will be called the 11 or if HTC will start a new series. But we do hear the phone will have the 835 chip, and at least one version will come with a whopping 8GB of RAM.

HTC has earned the dubious honour of making great phones that nobody buys, but perhaps 2017 will be the start of its return to glory days.

Hey, don’t forget us!

The BlackBerry Mercury is now the BlackBerry KEYone? Image: Crackberry.com

Speaking of strugglers, we are also curious to see what those two never-give-up players have up their sleeves this year — BlackBerry, now owned by the Chinese behemoth TCL, will be holding a press conference of February 25, while at a press meet a day later, Nokia will perhaps prove it is still a force to reckon with — its new owners, HMD Global, could unveil a killer Android phone that might, just might, give the likes of Samsung and Apple sleepless nights. Okay fine, that does sound like a mission impossible!

Incidentally, on February 27, the third former mobile biggie — Sony — will make its own announcements. We are likely to see what the Xperia X has morphed into this year. Besides, Sony might unveil a few products in a category that it still dominates — wireless speakers and headsets.

Watch where they are going

Elsewhere, Google will focus on its recently launched Android 2.0 OS for smartwatches — this has been a significant upgrade, and could finally push the category into mainstream relevance.

The company could also showcase new Android One phones — these are its low-cost offerings for developing markets.

And that’s not all

Rounding things up, do watch out for Huawei — apart from its Watch 2, we might get to see the P10, which comes with a dual-camera setup and is geared towards selfie-addicts. Oppo too is gunning after snappers with phone camera tech — codenamed 5X Project — that the company claims will “change how the world perceives smartphone photography”. Also overdosing on the hyperbole is ZTE, which has announced it will launch one of the “most forward-looking” smartphones at MWC 2017. Among other things, the phone will bring a “qualitative leap to a new world of mobile experience”.

We will find out soon enough if the hype sits well with reality at MWC 2017. Overall, the event promises to deliver a potent mix of phones with bezel-banished displays, virtual assistants, AI chatbots, high-resolution VR and immersive AR. But will that be enough to convince you to upgrade?

Our own Daanesh Kalyaniwalla is at the Mobile World Congress 2017 — follow the action on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.