Mobile World Congress is big, really big. 80000 people and 8 huge halls – plus many off site parties and events.
It’s changed and grown over the years – this post reflects on those changes – and 2014 saw it join Cannes, CES and SXSW as a place for brands and agencies to go learn what’s happening in Tech. Advertising has been the slightly poor relation in previous years, but its now clearly centre stage as the money ramps up – and the business models focus on ad revenue as the key monitisation.
Our 4Ps of Mobile Framework is now virtually vintage, but we still find it a good way to sort through the mélange of news, views, announcements and trends across mobile and social. So for Mobile Word Congress it’s the perfect tool.
Starting with the Devices at the centre of everything; MWC has always been about devices – we can remember seeing the DoCoMO stand covered in the next seasons new phones, many brightly coloured or patterned depending on which fashion company they had partnered with that year.
Whilst Google and Apple don’t show up, Samsung does and this year chose to announce significant new devices. The Galaxy S5 is the latest weapon in the war between Apple and Samsung for high end customers – those paying $500+ for a phone – often through a pricy monthly contract.
The screen on the S5 is a little bigger at 5.1 inches (the iPhone 5 is 4 inches) and has fingerprint scanner for locking the phone and authenticating PayPal transactions. We’re told people were trying out the devices, locking them with their fingerprints then wandering off, leaving them useless for anyone else. Oh, and it’s now waterproof.
Its an iteration of the hugely successful S4 and not that exciting; supporting our view that smartphones are now like the TV market – it’s very hard to stand out with hardware. Just as it’s hard to differentiate an LG from a Samsung in the TV department at John Lewis, it’s now hard to differentiate a Samsung from a HTC etc in the phone section. Everyone makes the bezels as small as possible so their screens are as big as possible, and the only opportunity for ‘design’ is the rear. To be fair an iPhone remains instantly recognizable – it will be interesting to see what the iPhone 6 does to standout.
Sony launched nicely designed tablets and smartphones, like just about everything else using Android.
Even Nokia announced a new phone that uses Android – sort of. They have chosen to use a forked version (like Amazon does) that means Google isn’t baked in, which must please their new owners Microsoft. They use their own Nokia appstore (it is relatively easy for developers to teak their android apps so they will work on these devices) and a range of MS products like Skype and Outlook. The interface is similar to the tiles that Windows Phone uses.
They are cheap, but are they cheap enough? Many OEMs see the low end market as the opportunity to go after and MWC was full of Chinese companies with good Android smartphones wholesaling at around $40. Firefox announced their own phone on their own OS that would sell for $25 – general view is that Android will probably get there first.
Wearables fit into Devices too and just like CES, everyone seems to have one on their stand. Samsung announced 3 new ones and their GearFit got lots of attention. With a curved screen and a heart rate sensor and we think it could trump the Nike Fuelband etc. But it is still most useful when paired with a phone, so again wearables peripherals.
Whilst Google didn’t show up they did steal some headlines with a leak that they are developing a Nexus watch, to be announced in June. Along with the Apple entry into this space that everyone expects, we think people will wait and see. Watches are so much of a statement we don’t think many will spend money on a Samsung etc that could look very dated against an Apple or Google device.
One other interesting fact about wearable – Ben Evans tweeted he had seen just one person Google Glass; when you have 80k mobile people it’s odd that more people aren’t wearing them. Maybe even the evangelists aren’t that convinced?
We have long argued that social and mobile are essentially the same thing, and having Mark Zuckerberg keynote at MWC proves this. Of course he talked about WhatsApp and made the point that their reach is complimentary to FB and a key part of internet.org, which he focused on. This is the project to get the rest of the world on the internet and Zuck sees that providing free messaging, search etc is crucial for the worlds poor.
His plea for operators to allow this free access for Internet.org – and this basket of free services designed for everyone – rests on persuading them that this acts as a gateway drug or onramp to get people using data, that they will pay for.
Well worth watching the keynote video
Location now seems like hygiene in mobile – its there and most people are finding ways to use it – but there is a long way to go. One of the first Addictive Ideas we hawked around the industry when we started was the idea of using mobile to validate credit card transactions abroad. When travelling we all get used to cards being declined because the UK fraud people decide it’s unusual you are in Seoul or San Francisco. But whilst I may not take a while to know if my card is missing or has been cloned, I know when my phone has gone almost instantly.
So we approached banks, credit cards, their agencies and anyone we could think of. Zero interest. But now Mastercard are launching a similar solution. It’s all about timing.
The Foursquare deal with Microsoft is seeing its first fruit with Cortana – the Micorsoft answer to Siri. The core use of Foursquare appears to be on the wane – of the 80k people at MWC just 2600 checked in.
Whilst QR codes are no longer fashionable, no one has told the Chinese who use them in lots of smart ways. WeChat enable people to follow someone by scanning their personal QR code and invite people to a group chat with one.
But all the energy in physical is now around beacons and Apple have announced their specs for iBeacons, as they look at impose their usual command and control on the space. Whilst at this stage they are regulating the hardware we suspect there will be some restrictions on how the service is used. Apple doesn’t want its customers to start getting spam everytime they come close to a Beacon and we think some best practice will be forthcoming.
And unsurprisingly the Internet of Things clichés were at MWC – what’s more Physical than connecting your toothbrush to your smartphone?
Continuing the emerging markets focus, new research showed that there are 219 mobile money services in emerging markets – with 13 now having more than a million users.
Coming back closer to home Greggs now has a mobile loyalty scheme where food lovers can pay using their mobile. With Eat taking a slightly different approach working with Pouch from Weve, people are going to get more familiar with using their mobile in stores and this should drive more mobile transactions.
Read the rest of this weeks Mobile Fix here;