Mobile World Congress (MWC 2017) kicked off this morning in Barcelona, Spain. This is arguably the most important event of the year for the mobile industry. As customary, most of the big brands that sell smartphones, tablets and attachments held their product launch events and press conferences in the weekend before the trade show kicked off. As you will have seen here on Coolsmartphone.com we had a crazy schedule and managed to cover most of the most important events in the run up to MWC.
In this post, I will attempt to sum up the events, brand by brand, and give you the main points and my impressions of the companies as I go. Essentially this is the Pre-MWC round-up of events, so it should save you a few clicks around the web if you don’t have better things to do with your time.
This was the first MWC for Blackberry. This isn’t the Blackberry we have covered in the past, rather a passing over of the brand to a new steward. That steward is TCL, the Chinese company that also brings Alcatel branded devices to the market. The Blackberry of old, the Canadian company we love, now focuses on software and has input into the development of Blackberry branded smartphones.
We were lucky enough to attend the launch of the first Blackberry device under the new parent company arrangement: the Blackberry KEYone.
The event was MC’ed by Crackberry Kevin, an industry legend who is now back after a hiatus. With the senior management of Blackberry, Qualcomm and TCL on stage for the launch, the event was short and to the point. Their message was clear: from now on, Blackberry products starting with the KEYone are going to be targeted at power users who focus on work and messaging.
The Blackberry KEYone is a new device which harkens back to the Blackberry of old, which dominated the smartphone market during the advent of touchscreen devices. It is a pleasantly chunky device with a 1080 x 1620 display and a Blackberry QWERTY keyboard. The Keyboard acts as a trackpad, and the device’s Android-based OS is hardened for security and privacy.
The Blackberry KEYone isn’t competing with the current crop of flagships in terms of specs. TCL/Blackberry Mobile are aiming this device at a specific type of user who doesn’t want to do much more than messaging and work on their device, but who requires reliability and good battery life. The metal chassis and soft touch plastic back are testament to that. The Qualcomm Snapdragon 625 chipset, 3GB RAM and 3505 mAh battery confirm that. My impression of the device in the time I had with it was very positive. I’m looking forward to using a KEYone on a daily basis, probably because I know I’m the sort of user they are aiming this device at.
I left the event with very good vibes for Blackberry Mobile, the future is looking bright for the brand (under TCL stewardship). I’ll definitely be getting a KEYone when it goes to market next month, so keep an eye on Coolsmartphone.com for more coverage of it.
LG, the Korean chaebol, had their most important product launch of the year here on Sunday, before MWC officially started. I was lucky enough to be given a First Look device from the LG team here in Barcelona and got to spend some quality time with it (under strict NDA) before the press conference and launch.
The LG G6, their 2017 flagship, is definitely something very innovative for the current smartphone market. The LG G6 brings a new shape to the smartphone form factor with an 18:9 screen. What does that mean? Essentially, the width of the screen is exactly half the length of the screen. How does that work? As I try to demonstrate in the image above, the LG has a 5.7″ display which is similar in width to a 5.2″ display. The height of the screen is significantly taller which means you have more screen real estate to browse the web and use your favourite apps.
This extra screen length is also a killer feature when it comes to multi-tasking: the Android 7-based OS can do multi-window multitasking like a champ, meaning you effectively have a 1 x 1 window for each app. In my experience, this is significantly better than similar multitasking on my Google Pixel, just for that screen. LG’s product engineers have also reduced the bezel size all around the screen, to give the device a smaller footprint than the Pixel XL or the iPhone 7 Plus. It’s like having a current 5.2″ device with a lovely big screen. The best of both worlds.On the
On the back, the LG G6 has a dual camera setup: one standard lens and one wide-angle lens, both with 13MP sensors and OIS. That enables the device to have extra features implemented in software. More on that to come in the full review.
LG’s press conference for the G6 launch was an informative show at scale. Leigh and I covered the event live and I used the First Look LG G6 for most of the snaps in low light. Despite it not quite being the exact product that will go on sale in March, the images were great.
LG’s event was well orchestrated and directed, with good explanations of why the 18:9 aspect ratio was used, and all the reasons for the new form factor. Hint – it includes having water and dust resistance. Mentions of customer safety and how LG was addressing this were made, with empathy shown for the other Korean chaebol (Samsung). Overall I came away with good vibes for both LG themselves, and their current and upcoming product portfolio. You’ll be able to read more in the coming months on Coolsmartphone.com. We’ll probably discuss it in depth on the Coolsmartphone Podcast too.
Huawei is now perceived as the top device manufacturer at MWC. This is my impression and that of others. Their event just confirms the impression many of us had.
Their event was held in a venue not far from LG’s, and it was massive. Another big widescreen with a polished, rehearsed and coordinated event. Huawei executives on stage launching the P10, P10 Plus and the Watch 2s. We heard all about the devices, the specs and the cameras. We even heard a bizarre, philosophical explanation of the device colours. More on the actual P10 device here on Coolsmartphone.com in separate articles. To summarise our fiorst impressions: the P10 is a worthy successor to the P9. It’s an iteration on the P9 with better Leica cameras, a new Leica selfie camera, a bigger battery and better processor. Lovely to hold and use, EMUI 5.1 is tightly optimised with the new hardware, and is a good sign of even more solid products and updates from Huawei in the months to come.
Leigh and I covered this event together. You can see our posts here on Coolsmartphone.com. Our impression is that Huawei knocked it out of the oval (that’s a civilised ballpark to our U.S. friends). All-in-all, it was very strong product launch from Huawei. There were some monologues that drew out a bit, but that were in keeping with the message being delivered. Huawei patted itself on the back, deservedly, for the P9, and launched their new products in style. They are also hosting a photography and art exposition here in Barcelona during MWC. This is a partnership between Huawei, Leica and Saatchi: we’ll be covering that for you here on Coolsmartphone.com too, so check back later in the week.
Lenovo had an event for the launch of the G5, G5 plus and additions to the Moto Mod ecosystem. I was otherwise engaged so Leigh covered this.
My impression is that Lenovorola has had a solid launch for key products in their product portfolio. The Moto G range is their bread and butter, so they are iterating solidly and both will surely sell well in their key markets during the next year. Disappointed I didn’t finish the last sentence with another bakery related pun? Here you go: the Moto G range will sell like hot cakes.
Nokia is back, after what is unarguably a “change” [ed: we probably mean transformation and possible rebirth] that the Nokia feature phone and smartphone business went through. When I say they went through “change” they actually ended up passing through Microsoft. The brand is back and now has a series of Android smartphones globally, and the new 3310.
Nokia is as much the Nokia of old as Blackberry is to the new Blackberry: HMD global is the new parent company who licensed the brand, and who will be developing and releasing the new products. The new Nokia is off to a good start and we welcome the return of the 3310. The new Android devices, which cover the mid-range of the smartphone market are interesting and we will be covering them further here on Coolsmartphone.com.
As with the Lenovo(rola) event, we were otherwise engaged, so have covered it via live stream and will be visiting their stand in the coming days. All round optimistic views are expressed here at Coolsmartphone.
Samsung is in a bad place. The fallout from the incendiary Note 7s is hitting hard. The brand may have been badly damaged by the issue, but they are now fighting to bounce back and it’s not just here at MWC: last night their adverts during the Academy Awards were all about telling the world that they are working on making customer safety a top priority.
This is how the Samsung Press Conference on Sunday night started: a massive mea culpa from the Chief Marketing Officer. It was a dark start, and things got worse for a while. We were then subjected to some blue sky product thinking about 5G products for the infrastructure, networks and consumers. Samsung even through up a senior executive from Verizon on stage to give us some corporate canned content about 5G.
I have to point out that by this point I was very disappointed: 5G isn’t an agreed standard. At the earliest, we’ll see it ratified later this year and it is likely to be a different beast to how Samsung (and Verizon) see it. This “5G canned content” was obviously just a filler, a distraction. I expect better from Samsung, especially at MWC.
Samsung’s event got worse in the first segment: the CMO’s mea culpa was interrupted by Greenpeace protestors, and throughout there was audible chattering and murmurs in the crowd. Journalists, bloggers and partners attending weren’t listening properly because the Press Conference was bad: the message was not interesting and delivered badly.
Samsung then moved on to announcing the launch of the Galaxy Tab S3 and the Samsung GalaxyBook.
The Samsung Galaxy Tab S3 is their latest high end Android tablet. Two shiny pieces of glass sandwich a high end tablet, which supports S Pen. Speaking of S Pen, Samsung have partnered with Staedler to make pencils for the Galaxy Tab S3. Arguably they now have a better pencil for their tablet than Apple has with their Pencil. The Galaxy Tab S3 comes with a standard S Pen, which has been improved again this year, in the box. Bear in mind, that there is no slot to store the new S Pen in the tablet itself. There is also a pogo keyboard accessory available for the Galaxy Tab S3.
The Samsung Galaxy Book is a Windows 10 2-in-1 machine with high-end specs, and Microsoft’s blessing. S Pen support is on this device too, as well as punchy processor options and plenty of RAM. It’s a device for road warriors and people who work. Samsung made a point of telling us that the Samsung Galaxy Book comes with an S Pen and a pogo keyboard in the box. So expect the price to be high. Speaking of price: Samsung didn’t tell us what the pricing will be. We’ve reached out for clarification.
This second segment, the launch of the two tablets, was good and bad. It was good because there were more women on stage for the announcement than men: a breath of fresh air in the industry. Not only that, but at one point two women were on stage at once talking about the new products and didn’t talk about men. Thanks to Florence Ion for pointing out that the Samsung Press Conference passes the Bechdel test.The second segment was bad because we were getting mixed signals: Samsung executives started out telling us that the majority of tablet use happens in the home. They then went on to launch two tablet products aimed at travellers. Are they focusing entirely on the traveller segment or the global market? We are still confused. I hope to be able to speak to someone from Samsung to clarify these issues in the next few days.
The second segment was bad because we were getting mixed signals: Samsung executives started out telling us that the majority of tablet use happens in the home. They then went on to launch two tablet products aimed at travellers. Are they focusing entirely on the traveller segment or the global market? We are still confused. I hope to be able to speak to someone from Samsung to clarify these issues in the next few days.
Overall I was disappointed with the Samsung event. I understand this is a bad time for the Korean chaebol, but this isn’t the way to show your partners and tech press you are bouncing back. This is hopefully the lowest point for Samsung, their ‘bottom of the trough’. This doesn’t take away from the fact that my perception of Samsung has been affected, and there was nothing exciting about the products launched here at MWC 2017 in Barcelona.
Hopefully, their upcoming announcement in New York City on March 29th will restore some hope and trust in the company’s products, but here at MWC 2017, we have bad vibes about Samsung.
There you have it: the mostly good and some bad impressions we’ve had at the Pre-MWC events here in Barcelona. We’ll be doing more coverage over the next couple of days so keep an eye on Coolsmartphone.com and our Twitter feed. You know where we live.