Five future-looking trends from Mobile World Congress 2015

by: on 09 March 2015

Liam Pook from Essence tracks what development from MWC mean for 12ahead trends Frictionless commerce and LifeOS

  • To quote a CNET editor we bumped into: “3G drove internet browsing, 4G is driving content consumption… but 5G will be the backbone of the ‘internet of things”.
  • Liam Pook, EMEA mobile director, Essence

  • Find out more about 12ahead's trends Frictionless Commerce and LifeOS and what they mean for your mobile strategy

Landing at Barcelona Airport on the opening day of Mobile World Congress (MWC), it was impossible not to overhear the discussions between mobile folk on the planned 'big reveals' this week by the world's biggest mobile brands. What can we expect from the Samsung Galaxy S6? Who will be leading the way in connected cars and homes? Will we finally see devices with vastly improved battery life? With 4 days to explore what’s on offer, I had ample time to make my way round the 8 halls. Here are my ‘5 future-looking trends’ from this year’s MWC...

Connected homes and cities are a not-too-distant reality

I was fortunate to spend some time with Peel and Qualcomm - both of which are investing heavily in ‘the internet of things’. Controlling your heating, lighting, music, television and kettle (!) via a mobile device will soon become the norm, which could have a huge impact on improving efficiency in the home (saving energy and time). On a grander scale, Qualcomm is investing in technology that will enable cities to become ‘smart’. Imagine a fire hydrant that’s connected to an internet-enabled city network, which informs the local government whenever there’s a fault with the water-delivery system. All of this requires a super-fast and reliable mobile network, which is exactly where 5G comes in. To quote a CNET editor we bumped into: “3G drove internet browsing, 4G is driving content consumption… but 5G will be the backbone of the ‘internet of things”.

‘Wearable World Congress’

Never has MWC leaned so far towards wearables - you could even argue they should change the name of the event. Whether it’s a new smart-watch from LG or a fitness tracker from Fitbit, all the major manufacturers seemed to have invested heavily in building their wearable product line. On smart-watches, the same issues and barriers remain: how do you create a smart-watch that’s both functional and aesthetically pleasing (that appeals to the mass consumer)? Despite their attempts to create a stylish smart-watch, I wasn’t completely sold by the key players. I’m sure, though, that it won’t be long until they crack it. In a similar vein, HTC demo’d their new virtual reality headset - ‘Vive’ - which has the ability to map the area around you, creating a hyper-real experience. Again, possibly one for the early adopters, but don’t be surprised if VR starts popping up in more living rooms over the next few years.

VISA pushing mobile payments forward

The seemingly eternal and annoying question of ‘when will we reach the year of mobile’ banded between digital marketers has now been replaced by ‘when can I finally capitalise on mobile payments?’ I was relieved to see that VISA had been busy investing in a white-label technology that can be picked up by retailers and payment firms and integrated with their own offering - a direct (and arguably more accessible) competitor to Apple Pay. For example VW integrated mobile payments (and beacons) as part of their car dash, enabling drivers to pay at parking meters without leaving their car (transacting via the dash).

Samsung Galaxy S6 - does it deliver against the hype?

Although I couldn’t physically get my hands on the new Samsung Galaxy S6, I did get the opportunity to see both the S6 and S6 Edge in action. The 16MP rear camera delivers stunning images (helped of course by industry-leading optical image stabilisation tech) and the new design is both practical and aesthetically pleasing. I’m intrigued to see how the public will react, but equally curious about the impact new devices such as the S6/S6 Edge will have on innovation in mobile creativity. Can we unlock new features to drive up ad engagement? What impact will this have on rendering ads on mobile? How quickly will media suppliers react? As mobile tech improves, it’s critical the ad industry keeps up and delivers compelling experiences in line with user expectations.

Still no news on improved battery life...

I was disappointed to find out that none of the major manufacturers has cracked the long-standing issue of smartphone battery life; what could end up becoming a huge differentiator in the industry, it seems the technology to extend battery life on smartphones is yet to materialise. We did, however, overhear one attendee name-drop a company - Store Dot - who claim they can re-charge your phone in a mere 30 seconds. Although a short-term solution, the need for improved battery life on smartphones is critical if mobile payments, connected homes and wearables are to achieve mass adoption.

The best of the rest...

Aside from the main take-outs above, it was great to see a mock-up of Google’s modular phone* - Project Ara (in partnership with Yezz) - a potential threat to the traditional manufacturers, awesome eye scanner technology from Fujitsu (allowing you to authorise mobile payments securely) and news that Polaroid is launching its own smartphone (a hefty investment in an already highly competitive marketplace). I’ll be excited to see a few of these become a reality over the next 12 months.

By Liam Pook, EMEA mobile director, Essence