This year's Mobile World Congress has seen nostalgia rub shoulders with the bleeding edge. The Barcelona event, now underway, is firmly casting an eye to the future with a steely focus on 5G and The Internet of Things, and yet there is also a trend towards better serving the discerning mobile user without the bells and whistles. Here's what we know so far...
- Nokia is back. The product of a collaboration with Finnish start-up HMD, a suite of exquisite yet affordable Android-powered devices bearing the iconic brand have been unveiled to positive critical reception. Trading on promises of quality, reliability and savvy global marketing strategy aimed at millennials, the brand has every chance of becoming relevant in the consumer market again. Nokia also scored a direct nostalgia hit by bringing back the fan-favourite Nokia 3310, complete with a modern rendition of Snake.
- 5G is coming. Everyone is betting big on the Connected Future, looking beyond devices to the core of the Internet of Things. Faster mobile data speeds will spell a generational leap in everything from apps to self-driving cars and connectivity, with everyone vying to be at the centre. With Nokia and Samsung both announcing significant investments in technology and infrastructure, a clever tactical land grab is seeing manufacturers aiming to be the backbone of our smart lives, an even bigger opportunity than delivering the latest features to our phones.
- Virtual reality isn't dead. Last year's MWC was VR-heavy but the emphasis was on its wizardry, rather than its practical uses. This year the tide has turned and tech giants are asking how they can make it relevant to consumers. BT and Nokia's joint study into how 5G could support VR for fully immersive live sport, for example, could change the smart TV market, as we know it.
- Android opens up AI to everyone. Formerly the preserve of its Pixel smartphones, Google's voice-driven Assistant software is heading to a swathe of modern Android devices in 2017. From setting reminders and answering cursory questions to controlling the heat and light in your home, this broadening of virtual intelligence across the Android ecosystem has huge implications for the way we interact with mobile phones in the future.
- Manufacturers are listening. Whether a genuine act of altruism or a response to muted flagship device sales and PR firestorms - both of which have had discernible impacts on bottom lines - is debatable. Either way, many manufacturers are making concerted claims to finally give the people what they want in 2017, including flagship devices - like the LG G6 - that nail the basics of display quality and reliability, whilst continuing to iterate on the key areas of looks, camera capabilities and horsepower.