Have handset manufacturers hung up on MWC?

From the sheer number of people complaining of aching feet and rubbing their eyes all week, it can only be calm after the blister-inducing storm that is MWC.

Walking around the Fira Gran Via and even looking at the news once the debris has settled, one thing is clear – the event is no longer the fiesta of smartphone launches of a few years ago. The show appears to be evolving away from ‘Mobile World Congress’ to what is effectively a ‘Wireless Technology World Congress’.

This clearly has been the intention of the GSMA for some time. Having spent years promoting NFC, mobile payments and Bluetooth devices, the IoT and ‘smart everything’ has moved into prime position at the top of the Association’s wish-list. Walking through the halls offered the complete smart experience – from ‘5G-powered’ robots courtesy of SK Telecom to the array of connected cars wheeled out for the event.

Unfortunately what seemed to be lacking was a solid sense of direction. After talking to several journalists at the show there was a distinct underwhelming feeling about the launches and lecture programme. A second successive Mark Zuckerberg keynote failed to draw the level of queues and crowds of last year and a common comment was that 2015 was just ‘more of the same’.

5G still isn’t ready, VoLTE is still ‘on the way’ and connected devices are lacking the protocols and ubiquity needed to make them as smart as they could be. The only serious excitement about wearables is in colleagues comparing how many steps they had done each day – just like they were in 2008 with their pedometers in hand.

Of course, there were plenty of interesting innovations on display, but unlike previous years these weren’t the latest mobile devices. With Apple still not joining in the MWC party, Samsung announcing its new handset prior to the event, Sony opting for CES instead for its phone launches, Nokia dead and BlackBerry missing in action, perhaps the all-star handset launch in Barcelona is finally over.

What we have been left with is very much a networking event to discuss all facets of the technological landscape, rather than one with a solid, preset news agenda based around lectures and launches. Well, that, a couple of connected toothbrushes and a lot of blisters.

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