Looking Back on #MWC2013

I’ve been back from Barcelona for a couple days now. A few things are sticking with me.

First of all, what’s with the new location for MWC? It may be beyond massive – gargantuan, really – but it was bland and soulless. It had the vibe of a telemarketers trade show. MWC really needs to push the boat out on location next year.

While devices were the star of the show, it was the mix of software and hardware that caught my eye.

It was particularly exciting to see Mozilla enter the OS wars. Their new HTML5-based OS is supported by more than 15 operators globally and handset support will initially come from Alcatel, ZTE & Huawei. It’s fair to say that Mozilla need to get more mainstream traction before the new platform has marketers asking ‘should we support Firefox?’ but it’s got significant potential.

It was sad for me to see Nokia cornering the cheap end of the market this year. Ten years ago, could you imagine Nokia releasing the cheapest handset going? Nope, me neither. But that’s exactly what they have done. The mid-range Lumia 720 and 520 are decent, Android competitors but nothing spectacular. Nokia needs to roll out something truly impressive to help push Windows Phone further into the mainstream.

Smartphone manufactures clearly see a viable commercial opportunity with the device that is somewhere between a tablet and a phone or, as I’ll begrudgingly call it through gritted teeth, the ‘phablet’. Sony launched the Sony Xperia Z, the world’s lightest and most water resistant tablet and the geniuses at Asus launched two devices the Padfone  and the Fonepad (one’s a tablet and the other’s a phone), which have been widely mocked across the internet.

NFC was also a big deal at MWC. The tech was everywhere, there seemed to be a start-up in every other aisle that involved contactless in some form or another. Now that the ‘mobile wallets’ are in place and the top OEMs (minus Apple) are coming with NFC built-in, the marketing and practical, ‘life-enhancing’ benefits can start to move into the mainstream.

The personal highlight for me during the 2012 conference was when Bill Ford Junior delivered a fantastic keynote on the subject of connected cars. Therefore it was great to see Ford taking prime positioning 2013 showcasing the Sync platform (a joint proposition between Microsoft and Ford). General Motors also announced a partnership with AT&T to launch 4G LTE-connected cars to American roads in 2014. GM and Ford are clearly trying to position themselves as market-leading innovators in the automotive space.

All in all, it was bit of a mixed bag this year. The new venue didn’t feel quite right and the big OEMs held back on releasing ‘wow’ products. Both of which left us with a glut of mid-range products and quite frankly some weird ones.

However, it was pleasing to see the number of non-traditional mobile brands such as Unilever, the InterContinental Hotels Group & Coca Cola that are now coming to MWC and the scale of this show goes to show just how engrained the mobile phone is now in everyday life throughout the world.

Dan Beasely, Head of Mobile at Jam, is representing Engine at MWC 2013. MWC runs from 25 to 28 February.

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