Mobile World Congress 2013

Background and Details

This year’s Mobile World Congress (MWC) was the biggest yet. Over the course of the event, Barcelona welcomed more than 72,000 attendees from 200 countries. Here are the highlights of the world’s biggest mobile get together:

The Launches
LG brought six distinct handsets to MWC, and although their smartphones were announced prior to the conference, the top-end devices still made a splash. LG also unveiled Dual Recording, which enables users to shoot video simultaneously from the front and rear-facing cameras so that the recording embeds the filmmaker’s reaction to the subject in the same movie. Nokia showed off four new handsets that will join its Lumia and Asha lines, aiming to bring smartphone functionality to more cost-sensitive markets. Huwaei announced that it was launching two new handsets. MWC also showcased an impressive array of devices that blur the line between smartphone and tablet (“phablets”). Samsung unveiled the Galaxy Note 8.0, an eight-inch phone-tablet hybrid (the launch of Samsung Galaxy S4 is this Thursday 14th March). Other different sized screens included the 5.5” screen on the LG Optimus GPro and Lenovo K900, and the 5.7” screen on the ZTE Grand Memo, to the larger 7” screen on the Asus FonePad.

The Trends

NFC MWC hosted the NFC (Near Field Communications) Experience, a showcase to demonstrate to delegates and attendees the magic of the technology. There were scores of announcements about freshly-forged partnerships that will drive mobile payments, mobile advertising, and mobile commerce to new heights this year including: Foursquare’s integration with MasterCard and Visa to offer special discounts for card holders when checked in to specific locations and Visa’s announcements that it is partnering with Samsung to build Visa PayWave into future Samsung smartphones and also partnering with ROAM to help bring the Visa payment platform to more retailers.

Media Takeaway: The mechanism for mobile payments and mobile wallets offers a range of opportunities for brands to engage with consumers, e.g., click-to-wallet solutions that seamlessly deliver discounts/coupons, a platform on which to build loyalty schemes and new data streams to utilise. However, any activation in this space must consider how the platform impacts and can improve the current user journey.

Connected Cities The GSMA (The GSM Association - the organization behind MWC and made up of the world’s mobile operators) is moving beyond the connected home to focus on the Connected City, showing how retail, municipal and personal can be networked together to increase the efficiency and safety of dense urban habitats. AT&T showcased energy consumption and home security management systems, Deutsche Telekom and IBM demonstrated how mobile helps create better public transportation, and Vodafone showed how they can monitor solar energy production while remotely controlling street lighting and signage for maximum energy efficiency. All of these technologies focus on machine-to-machine connections, also known as ‘the Internet of Things’, in many places cutting humans out of the loop to create the best results.

Media Takeaway: Connected devices open a wave of new opportunities for brands to create intelligent products, services and communications. Developments in this space offer new routes for content delivery and a rich stream of data to generate actionable insight.

Practical Mobile Emerging markets featured heavily in presentations at MWC, with both Nokia’s and Mozilla’s CEOs highlighting that the next billion internet connections will come from mobile users in these low-to-middle-income countries. This anticipated growth meant that the event saw manufactures launching devices to target these markets. The most exciting development was Mozilla’s announcement of the launch of Firefox OS, an OS built on open web standards and capable of operating on much less sophisticated devices.

Media Takeaway: Recognition must be given to nuances in consumption patterns and a focus on emerging markets is crucial. Test and learn strategies must be deployed to explore the most effective means of communication. Keep in mind that smartphone penetrations level, while growing dramatically, are still low in many markets. Alternative marketing tactics (SMS, MMS, browser-based marketing) may be the norm not the exception.