The 2018 Mobile World Congress (MWC) conference was held last week. I did not get to travel to beautiful Barcelona this year, but I was eagerly following along at home — and I’m excited to share some of the popular trends coming out of the forum. If you’re not familiar with MWC, it’s the world’s largest mobile exhibition, hosted by the GSMA. It’s been running for 30+ years and has over 100,000 attendees annually.
One of the main themes from this year’s event was "The Network," which meant lots of conversations about the arrival of 5G. AT&T has already established itself as a US frontrunner, with its January announcement of 5G service in 12 markets this year. Respectively, Sprint and T-Mobile used MWC as an opportunity to announce plans to have 6 and 4 markets by end of the year. Hat tip to AT&T and Sprint for including Atlanta in their initial roll out!
In addition to network news, several phone manufacturers added new models to their lineups this past week. Samsung officially announced the new Galaxy S9 and S9 Plus. LG hawked two new phone models, the V30S ThinQ and the V30S ThinQ Plus. Both products will include updated cameras with enhanced AI technology that will allow for visual searching on platforms such as Amazon and Pinterest. The Vivo APEX FullView concept phone was another noteworthy piece. It’s almost all screen, and Vivo has some pretty interesting approaches to solve the challenges that come along with that. The front-facing camera pops up from the top when needed. The fingerprint scanner is integrated into the screen and, to improve on the X20 that they announced at CES, this one works when the user places their finger anywhere on the bottom half of the screen. Instead of a traditional speaker, they used something called Screen SoundCasting, which sends vibrations through the screen, turning the whole thing into a speaker. I love seeing how companies get creative with these types of design challenges.
Another interesting mobile technology debut came from a group of researchers at Aachen University in Germany. They showed off microchips made of graphene, which are flexible and foldable. This technology could eventually lead to foldable phones, and the researchers are suggesting that these phones could be available within the next five years.
A mobile event wouldn’t be complete without talk of AR and VR innovation, and MWC was no exception. I was excited to see a demonstration of Ghostbusters World, an augmented reality game coming from Sony, that uses Google’s new ARCore technology. Another exciting experience was an immersive VR hot air balloon ride over the Grand Canyon, using the HTC Vive. The demo included a real hot air balloon basket to ride in, a fan to simulate wind and even a heater to blast your hands with hot air when using the burner controls!
AI was another hot topic at the exhibition this year. I was pleasantly surprised to see Pepper pop up in my twitter feed as I followed along with the event. Pepper is a robot from Softbank Robotics that can recognize faces, read human emotions and interact with people. Pepper is equal parts terrifying and adorable. I speak from experience when I say this because a Pepper robot lives on the second floor of Dragon Army’s temporary office space (#downtowndragons), waiting to greet us as we come and go each day.
With so much amazing innovation coming out of the conference this year, I’m really looking forward to 2023, when I can use blazing fast 5G networks to explore the Grand Canyon and fight ghosts, before rolling up my phone, tucking it into my pocket and heading home to my very own companion robot. What were your favorite innovations coming out of MWC18?
By: Erica Warhaftig, UX Architect at Dragon Army