MWC 2014: The Wrap Up

Sorry for the delay.
I will admit that Mobile World Congress this week was a bit underwhelming. Samsung decided to both not bring the crazy with its Unpacked 5 event for the Galaxy S5 and second generation Galaxy Gear devices. HTC announced mid to low range phones based off their HTC One. Alcatel showed a smartbook concept running on Android. and Lenovo showed off new models of it mobile phone line (that won’t be coming to the North American market anytime soon).
samsung-galaxy-s5-blue-730x743
Canonical showed off the two Ubuntu phones that will ship sometime late this year or in 2015. They are being made by BQ and Meizu respectively. The funny thing about the devices is that Canonical still isn’t showing a prototype with working software. Other than a brief video on shared code nothing new has come out about Ubuntu for mobile. Canonical says the first Ubuntu devices will launch in the fall
Actually for me the biggest news out of MWC this year was the Nokia X line; and that was mostly because of what it meant for Windows Phone.
In looking at the coverage for MWC it is easy to be underwhelmed by the products being shown. I mean company X has new Android phones, maybe a tablet and they look almost exactly like the one from last year. Yes chips have advanced and there has been serious hardware innovation, but the reality that the mobile landscape is settling down is clear.
samsung-galaxy-gear-fit
Some writers complained about Microsoft not having a bigger presence at the Conference but honestly outside of new hardware most of the big software news will come from Microsoft’s Build, Apple’s WWDC, and Google’s I/O. New hardware is only exciting when there is new software to run it on. I think that is why the developer shows are more important than the hardware conferences now. I am not saying there is not news to be found, but I think the big story is that mobile is mainstream to the point of being kind of boring now.
I think the thing that has struck me with this year’s MWC and honestly for the last year is that consumer tech has become predictable. Now for some this predictability will equate to a lack of innovation. This past decade saw a rapid cadence in consumer technology. From the iPhone to the iPad and the introduction of Android there has been new features and devices launched. We are now watching the slowdown. Android and iOS are settling into their place as the big two platforms. Samsung is settling into its position as a mobile powerhouse. Platforms like Windows Phone and a plethora of Linux operating systems and Android clones are more often staring from the outside in. Devices like wearable’s and smart watches feel more like mobile phone spinoffs than the next big thing. They are part of the predictability I mentioned earlier.
Having said that mobile is getting predictable doesn’t mean its uninteresting.
The biggest overall trend has been the shift away from markets like Canada, the US, and Europe to the emerging market. Countries like China, Brazil, India, and Ghana where mobile adoption is still growing. This shift in focus changes things for incumbent players and newcomers. Chinese based companies like Oppo have overtaken Samsung in these markets. Windows Phone does better in these markets than in the US. Its in the emerging market that Android (AOSP) has massive growth. These markets are forcing lower prices, cheaper hardware, and changes in OS software. Fore example both Google and Microsoft are redesigning their software to run on lowered powered hardware. Google pushed out KitKat a few months ago and Microsoft will offer Windows Phone 8.1 soon.
I think this shift in focus will have a longer effect and will effect the more established markets. And that was MWC (for me).
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