After a decade of iPhone releases, innovation in mobile phone manufacturing is still a key component of what drives the industry today. At this year’s Mobile World Congress, both Sony and Alcatel (among others) presented their latest phones, the Xperia XZ Premium / XZS and the Alcatel A5 respectively. Whilst the Sony devices focus on camera abilities, including slow-motion video capabilities and an impressive 801 pixels per inch density (compared with 534 pixels per inch in the recently released Google Pixel XL), the Alcatel A5 is a phone made for gadget geeks, since it comes with three different accessories that can be attached to the back of the phone: a loudspeaker, an extra battery pack and an LED cover that can be customised to light up as and when the users sees fit, for example when a message comes in. There was even an opportunity for nostalgia at this year’s MWC, when Nokia launched a release of their iconic 3310 model, originally manufactured in 2000, which went on to sell 126 million units worldwide.
This year’s theme, ‘everything connected’ alluded to the fact that whilst the release of new mobile phone models is still a key component of the event, more and more devices are now connected to the internet and communicating with each other. It is expected that by 2020, more than 50 billion devices will be connected to the internet, including home appliances, cars and wearables such as personal fitness trackers.
For example, T-Mobile showcased a fridge that makes recommendations on what you should consume based on your mood (measured through facial recognition).
With mobile’s ubiquitous presence firmly established for a few years now, the connected home is definitely the next area ready for a mainstream revolution.
Many companies also presented their own IoT Development Kits, consisting of hardware boards with wireless sensors that can be integrated with just about anything that’s tech.
On the road, smart cars are now joined by smart lorries, which not only communicate GPS location, but also temperature and potential freight issues resulting from vibration and other ad-hoc issues. Being able to make use of this technology will not only help a fleet work more efficiently across driving schedules and fuel, it will also ensure that freight is kept in optimal conditions as it travels through different weather conditions.
In previous years, wearables had made headlines at MWC, with some experts predicting that connected smartwatches would soon outgrow mobile phones in popularity, but this has not been the case yet. Instead, virtual reality was one of this year’s main attractions, with technology companies offering experiences ranging from VR rollercoaster rides to submarine experiences. Virtual reality is moving beyond gaming experiences in a big way, and companies such as VIVE are specialising in providing cinematic VR experiences, giving users access to remote locations such as the Himalayas or offering them the opportunity to be a pirate in their own fantasy pirate story.
The network that will have to support this myriad of connected devices in future is 5G which is expected to surpass its predecessors’ capabilities by far, in terms of speed as well as helping to preserve phone battery life by reducing download drainage. Many device manufacturers are already promoting their 5G capabilities, with the network being tested in London over the next few months.
Urban Airship, experts in mobile engagement, delivered an engaging presentation on mobile wallets and streamlining loyalty enrolment. Going forward, Urban Airship will support enhanced rewards experiences with Apple Pay, meaning that businesses and consumers can experience more rewarding loyalty schemes that enhance and channel mobile payments, which are expected to rise to $34 bn annually by 2019.
Last (but not least), Line made the exciting announcement that it is creating an Asian rival version of Amazon Alexa with the backing of Sony and LG Electronics. The assistant which goes by the name of Clova is expected to be launched in Japan and South Korea within the next few months, with expectations for additional products such as connected earpieces coming to market next year.