Many solutions, fewer answers – Barcelona

IMG_1646To Barcelona for Mobile World Congress, an insanely large gathering of all of the major global players in the mobile world (except Apple) – 70k+ people in a venue over a kilometre from end to end.

Some takeaways:

Tech vs user experience

There were a lot of “because we can” products which seemed to beg the question “but why?” – incremental innovation forward from previous models seemingly driven by engineering possibility rather than user demand.

This was most visible in technology where the mobile functionality had moved away from the device  – and throughout the show it seemed that cars = connected object – many of the watches and wearables were filled with functions, but not functionality or relevance for the user. This is an emerging market segment which definitely feels that it needs a step change in innovation before it will become a mass market proposition.

Two products which felt demand targeted by contrast:

  • The new Huawei “phablet” is way too big to be something I’d want, but it is light, the screen looks great and it matches exactly to an Asian preference for larger screens.
  • The Nokia X was notable for its Android OS, linking to Microsoft services like Skype but providing access to the wealth of Android games and apps. Also in look, feel and price it is squarely aimed at emerging (rather than an established) mobile markets – if you were an Indian or Indonesian teenager you’d be interested in one of these.

Content (or lack of)

For an industry which is now so focused on additional content experiences there was a notable lack of any visibility of content providers – in fact fewer than last year. One contact from Telefonica Studios put it down to an industry which has always relied on the user to provide the content – e.g. voice. More charitably I’d suggest that the scale of the show makes it impossible to gain visibility – leaving hardware and platforms, just not content.

One place where there was a creative focus was within the Barcelona Mobile World Capital presence, an interesting initiative of the city as mobile lab with strong support from local government.

And the biggest content platform? Very interesting that Mark Zuckerberg was the keynote, with Jan Koum from WhatsApp also speaking, reinforcing the importance of mobile to Facebook’s growth. And although the focus of his speech was on enabling universal internet access its likely that mobile would be the key device which drove that possibility.

Blurring your eyes at the margins, away from the mega stands, to look for MWC trends:

Upwards trends: Advertising / data propositions, new hardware (Yolla, Fairphone, Blackphone, Yotalabs), cars

Downward trends: m-commerce platforms (now mature), AR (gone?), consumer-facing apps (B2C is elsewhere)

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