x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 27 July 2017

Big mobile phones to dominate MWC in Barcelona

The largest trade show in the telecoms sector is this year expected to have a heavy slant on 'phablets'.

People are seen next to an entrance of the Mobile World Congress, in Barcelona. REUTERS / Albert Gea
People are seen next to an entrance of the Mobile World Congress, in Barcelona. REUTERS / Albert Gea

For years mobile phones have been getting smaller and sleeker - so much so that they are virtually unrecognisable from the bricks of the 1980s.

But as 70,000 telecoms executives descend on Barcelona for this week's Mobile World Congress (MWC), one trend is expected to become clear: big phones are back.

The largest trade show in the telecoms sector is this year expected to have a heavy slant on "phablets" - mobile devices that are part smartphone, part tablet.

Sony, Huawei and HTC are all rumoured to be launching their own phablets at MWC this year, in an attempt to stay competitive in the cut-throat mobile market.

They follow Samsung, which has led the way in the phablet market with devices such as the Note 2.

"There is a big trend toward phablets, we will see more of them this year," said Ziad Matar, the senior director and head of Middle East and Central Asia at Qualcomm.

Phablets typically have large tablet-style screens, but can still be held to the ear to make a phone call.

"The assumption is that these devices have appeared owing to the emergence of mobile broadband … where the larger screen offers a better user experience for these faster services," said David McQueen, the principal analyst at Informa Telecoms and Media.

Super-fast long-term evolution (LTE) mobile internet connections, also branded as 4G, is another technology expected to be high on the agenda at the MWC this year.

By the end of last year there were 62 million LTE subscriptions, with analysts expecting 633 million subscriptions by the end of 2016.

"4G will account for just 1.9 per cent of global mobile connections by end-2013 … It is only by end-2017 that 4G will exceed 10 per cent of global connections," said Dario Talmesio, the principal analyst at Informa.

With better connectivity, machine-to-machine technology will also attract attention in what is thought to be a US$1 trillion (Dh3.67tn) industry. Monetisation of digital services as well as data and subscription charges are also expected to be key talking points among the MWC delegates.

Despite the big names on show at MWC this year, Google, Microsoft and BlackBerry have all decided to forgo exhibiting, opting instead to host their own events to make key announcements.

However, other companies said attending MWC is worthwhile, especially to showcase new products.

Taiwan's HTC said it had purposely announced its new flagship smartphone, the HTC One, before the Barcelona event - but still plans to put the product on show at MWC.

"We chose to announce the HTC One before the Mobile World Congress this year. Because what we want to do [there] is to get the product into people's hands," said Jon French, the vice president of HTC in the Middle East and Africa.

"I think there's going to be a huge amount of innovation and a huge number of announcements, as always. I think the smartphone world is probably one of the most competitive and most dynamic in the world right now."

 

thamid@thenational.ae