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MWC 2019: Foldable smartphones, 5G smartphones, AI and everything else to expect

There will be foldable smartphone and 5G smartphone but the key question will be availability and how much will it cost?

  • Published: February 23, 2019 11:47 AM IST
MWC 2019 lead

Image Credit: Karthekayan Iyer


With Samsung having unveiled the new Galaxy S10 series and its first foldable smartphone in San Francisco, the action now shifts to Mobile World Congress 2019 in Barcelona. Popularly referred to as MWC, the annual gathering for mobile manufacturers, wireless carriers and technology innovators, is being held from February 25 to February 28. In the past, MWC has been the stage for launch of newest mobile devices but this year, the larger focus will be on the future of mobile telephony.

The platform built by GSMA in Barcelona will define what kind of devices you will use in the near future and most importantly, the kind of networks they will connect to, once they become commercially available. 5G will be at the heart of every major conversation. Once, there was a case that every man and his dog wanted to own a smartphone and in the interim future, every man and his dog would love to have a 5G smartphone. While semiconductor manufacturers, modem makers and telecom operators will push 5G agenda, mobile makers will try to convince why you should be part of the first wave and buy their 5G devices. Here is a look at 5G, 5G-enabled devices, foldable smartphones and everything else we expect to see at MWC 2019.

5G will be everywhere, not just on your phone

Everywhere you turn, there will be a sign of 5G or some kind of branding to sell you on the next generation of mobile telephony. At its Unpacked event held on February 20, Samsung launched the first commercial 5G smartphone in the form of Samsung Galaxy S10 5G. At MWC, smartphone makers such as Huawei, LG, OnePlus are all expected to unveil or show some kind of 5G device.

Qualcomm is in the driver’s seat when it comes to 5G and just days ahead of its MWC keynote, the company unveiled Snapdragon X55 5G Modem. The new modem-to-antenna solution that supports all major spectrum types and bands. If a smartphone maker has to offer a 5G smartphone now then they have no other option but to go to Qualcomm for its modem solution. In fact, Qualcomm is so ahead of its rivals in terms of technology and throughput speeds offered that it is pushing OEMs to be the first and not a distant second in the growth phase.

The promise of 5G is something that both consumers and the industry has been expecting for quite some time now. With 5G, consumers will finally experience gigabit download speeds and experience low latency making streaming videos and watching virtual reality content a smooth affair. With 5G, any and every device will be able to communicate with each other. Just think of your car communicating with the smart electric meter in your household and that in turn, sending command to your refrigerator, which in turn turns on or off the smart LED lights in your living room. 5G promises that very future and it is going to be an exciting one nonetheless.

Apart from Qualcomm, both Intel and MediaTek are vying for some market share with their modem business while Huawei is expected to puts Balong 5000 modem to some good use at the show. Verizon and AT&T in the US, British Telecom and EE in the UK and Europe, SK Telecom and LG Uplus in South Korea and China Mobile in Mainland China could push 5G to consumers but countries like Canada and India are expected to miss out on first wave. Two things that are likely to be discussed in silence is the proposed ban on Huawei by the US and its allies and use of fake 5G logo by US telcos.

Time to upgrade your smartphone

People go to MWC with varied expectations and one of the primary expectations is to see shiny, new flagship smartphones. This year is not expected to disappoint, even with Samsung holding its own event weeks ahead of GSMA’s flagship event. With Samsung calling out, the onus is on Huawei, LG, Oppo, Xiaomi and Nokia to make the most out of the momentum. Oppo will be the first to show its vision for mobile imaging and it will be followed by Xiaomi, LG and Nokia. Here is what these tech companies are expected to introduce this year.

Huawei: Fold it and put 5G

Huawei recently dethroned Apple as the second major smartphone maker in the world and at MWC 2019, it will project itself as a technology leader as well. The Chinese smartphone has already confirmed that the P30 series will arrive on March 26 and at MWC, it is expected to introduce a foldable smartphone instead. It is not clear whether Huawei’s foldable smartphone will rely on dual fold design or adopt a triple fold design, which could trump what Samsung Galaxy Fold. However, we do know that company’s first foldable smartphone will be 5G ready. The company is hosting an event at 2:00PM CET (or 6.30PM IST) on February 24 where it will demonstrate the Balong 5000 5G modem for the first time and send a message that it is no slouch to its American rival.

Oppo: Get closer to your subjects

In the past, Oppo has come to MWC not as a smartphone maker but mostly as a technology company. At MWC 2017, Oppo showcased 5x hybrid optical zoom but did not commercially make it available on a smartphone. At this year’s show, the company is expected to demonstrate 10x hybrid optical zoom technology and actually put it on a functional smartphone. The Chinese company also showed the feature last month in China and is now expected to expand it to global markets. At its event set for 2:00PM CET (or 6.30PM IST) on February 23.

Xiaomi will bring Mi 9 to Europe

At MWC 2019, Xiaomi might expand its Mi 9 flagship smartphone to the European market. The company launched the flagship device on February 20 in China and at RMB 2,999 (around Rs 30,500), making it is among the cheapest smartphones with Qualcomm’s latest mobile platform. It also features triple rear camera setup that has scored 107 on DxOMark ratings, and an in-display fingerprint sensor. The company has been making in-roads into the European market for sometime now and at MWC, it might show prototype version of its Mi MIX 3 with 5G support to win global consumers. The wild card announcement could be the foldable smartphone that the company president teased recently.

Nokia: Forget triple camera, we are going with five

At MWC 2019, HMD Global will finally unveil the Nokia 9 Pureview, the smartphone that is expected to feature five cameras on its back. The smartphone has leaked multiple times in the past few months and the leaks suggest it will be new in terms of imaging and old in terms of hardware. It is expected to be powered only by a Snapdragon 845 coupled with 6GB of RAM and 12GB storage. It is also not likely to feature an in-display fingerprint sensor or 5G to compete with Galaxy S10. But, it could bring Nokia back to contention in the smartphone world.

Alongside Nokia 9, HMD Global might announce the successor to Nokia 8.1 and Nokia 6.1 and both the devices are tipped to feature hole punch display design. Will HMD Global be resurrecting any of its classic phone with new capabilities this year? We don’t have much doubts there.

LG: G-series and V-series launch

At MWC 2019, LG is likely bringing two flagship smartphones. The first will be the G8 ThinQ, which is expected to be a global device with Snapdragon 855 and 4G LTE support. The second could be the V50 ThinQ 5G, the Korean company’s first 5G smartphone for Sprint in the US. LG has somewhat lost in the smartphone race and its MWC announcements could be a last salvo to redeem itself in a packed crowd. Alongside G8 ThinQ and V50 ThinQ 5G, LG will showcase Q60, K50 and K40 smartphones, which were announced early this week.

Sony: Cinema meets Mobile

Sony, like LG, is now confined to a small niche and is successful only in select markets. However, the company is expected to announce new products that could either be fabulous or disastrous. The leaks so far point at Sony launching at least three new phones in a new Xperia 10 series. Two of them are believed to be mid-range while the third one is expected to be a premium flagship. All the three devices are expected to share a common element: a 21:9 display. Sony wants to bring cinema experience to mobile screen with its new Xperia 10 lineup. The key thing to watch would be whether there are enough content to match that aspect ratio and secondly, is the new display technology any better than existing solution.

Watch: Vivo NEX Dual Display Edition First Look

All the others

MWC 2019 will be nothing short of a battleground and every smartphone maker will wee for your eyeballs. There could be announcements from the likes of Alcatel, Nubia, TCL, ZTE, BlackBerry and even HTC. They may not be very much impact but these companies will show how cheaper and accessible smartphones get every passing day.

  • Published Date: February 23, 2019 11:47 AM IST