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MWC 2023 expectations

Telecom. Network and enterprise will dominate Barcelona’s huge mobile expo more than ever. Next Monday’s event appears to be focusing less on consumers.

Mobile World Congress was never a consumer tech expo, but smartphone makers made it a useful launchpad. CES (held in January) is where smart homes, wearables, autos, and robots thrive, while MWC joyfully accepted the mantle of the huge smartphone event.

Since last attended the expo in 2019, the industry and world have evolved. It seems like an eternity since we were all waiting for the GSMA to cancel the 2020 exhibition. CES barely made it that year (we can continue to debate the wisdom of that particular decision). Nevertheless, as the weeks went on, it became evident that late February or early March was not the best time for an in-person international tech event.

In 2021, the show resumed four months late. We and many others were absent. The concert seems unlikely to reach its organizational attendance cap. According to the GSMA, 60,000 people attended the show in 2022, restoring normalcy. Despite the drop from 2019’s 109,000, it’s not terrible.

As I often say, the smartphone industry struggled before the pandemic. 5G helped, but overall smartphone sales are down. More premium product costs, fewer innovative innovations, and improved mobile phones slowed the typical two- to three-year upgrade cycle.

The epidemic exacerbated everything. Many folks lost their jobs and couldn’t afford extras. They stopped going out and spent more on PCs and tablets. 5G has lagged in many markets. Supply chain concerns also cause bottlenecks. Inflation, too.

Towards the end of last year, most consumer electronics businesses seemed to have slowed their release pace. probably good for the world, but probably bad for stockholders. We’re waiting to see how tech company cutbacks will affect the category.

The trend away from using trade exhibitions to debut tentpole products precedes the epidemic. Most large companies started hosting their own events. Why share when you can shine alone? Virtual product introductions during the pandemic widened the disparity. The model works for most hardware devices.

The GSMA predicts 75,000 this year. Compared to the glory days, that’s a lot of people to fit in the Fira convention center in 2023. Samsung, Oppo/OnePlus, Huawei, and Xiaomi exhibit. Samsung and OnePlus unveiled new flagships, so don’t expect pyrotechnics. Though the latter has teased a “concept” device, the results will vary on whether that qualifies as “news.”

Qualcomm announced the latest Snapdragon chip at its Hawaii conference last year, as usual. The half-year refresh is likely months away, but the firm always has a surprise. I expect news from Xiaomi, ZTE, and Huawei’s Honor budget brand.

HTC, a Nokia IP licensee, and HMD are also significant exhibitors. VR, AR, MR/XR are intriguing. It’s definitely not a big presence outside of HTC, but everyone seems legally forced to do something these days. Meta/Facebook and Sony won’t attend this year’s expo. Lenovo will. During exhibits, the firm releases many devices, and Motorola, its subsidiary, always has something new.

Thankfully, the speaker program includes climate change. For what it’s worth, metaverse chatter is still prevalent. Microsoft is preparing cloud talks, while the GSMA has focused on sports. Most smart home discourse is about matter, not AI.

“Ready to Discuss 6G?” features speakers from Samsung, ZTE, and the European Space Agency. I don’t know the solution.

I’m looking forward to sitting down with top executives at these companies and asking tough questions about the industry’s future.

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