Thursday 10 July 2014

Adrian Weckler: Four things I've noticed at Mobile World Congress so far

Adrian Weckler, Technology Editor

Published 24/02/2014|11:56

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The Nokia XL is seen at its unveiling at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, February 24, 2014. Nokia, soon to be acquired by Microsoft Corp, is turning to software created by arch-rival Google for a new line of phones it hopes will make it a late contender in the dynamic low-cost smartphone market. Its first model, the Nokia X, will rely upon an open version of the Android mobile software system created by Google that has become the world's most popular software used in smartphones. REUTERS/Gustau Nacarino (SPAIN  - Tags: BUSINESS TELECOMS)
The Nokia XL is seen at its unveiling at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, February 24, 2014.

I've been at the biggest mobile tech conference (Mobile World Congress in Barcelona) for a day, now. What stands out? Other than a couple of launches, here are four things I've noticed.

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1. The place is flooded with manbag-toting non-telco executives

Mobile World Congress is the annual mecca for the telecoms industry. But because the mobile industry is now bigger and more important than the PC industry, there are gazillions of marketing, financial, internet and software types here. For example, Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg is giving a speech here this evening. He doesn't do that too often. Advertising executives are particular prevalent: lots of thick glasses and pricey manbags hovering about.


2. Big manufacturers seem scared to radically redesign their biggest phones

I've had a look around at the flagship models being launched by the biggest operators. And you know what? They're mostly all cautious upgrades from the last model. In fact, I haven't seen a real eye-opener yet. (There is one related product that will probably stand out, but it's not launched until later this evening.) This is actually disappointing: it's a sign that the focus-group beancounters are running the industrial design divisions.


3. The mobile 4K video mystery

Really, mobile industry? 4K video? Yep. Sony spent a portion of its Xperia Z2 launch showing 'ultra definition' 4K video captured on the device played on an 80-inch telly. But a one-minute clip is a whopping 400MB in file size. Is this realistic? "It's more of a future-proof feature," Sony's senior product manager, Jun Makino, told me in an interview. "It's something we really believe in. Not many people have 4K televisions at present, but we think it's a format that has a good future." This sounds great (the quality is really good) but most video from phones is for Vine, Instagram, Facebook and other low-resolution formats on mobile devices.


4. Prices really are tumbling

In Ireland, we've seen the price of a basic tablet fall to €70. Phones are quickly following. Nokia's new Android-compatible X smartphone (4-inch screen, 3-megapixel camera) costs €90. Its 5-megapixel XL model costs €110. We already have some really good Android phones from Motorola and Alcatel (each of which costs less than €150) and there's still the Chinese (Huawei, ZTE) assault to come. As phones overtake PCs as computers, so is commoditisation and economies of scale. And prices are plummeting.

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