MWC 2012 preview: what the experts think
MWC is almost upon us. The skies of Barcelona are set to be clouded with planes carrying technology journalism’s finest, all with one thing on their brains: mobile phones. Every manufacturer will be there, showing off a selection of phones they plan to release for the year.
One of the most important elements of MWC is that it sets the trend for smartphone technology. Take last year’s for example, which was all about dual-core phones and OLED screens. These have continued to permeate the smartphone landscape all year round.
So what about MWC 2012? What does Barcelona have in store for us this year? Well until we actually are on the ground there, mobile phones in front of us, we just can’t be sure. What we can do however is roundup a selection of the most informed and educated guesses possible. So without further ado, here is what the experts think we will be seeing at MWC this year.
At this year's MWC you can expect vendors to be concentrating on delivering "experiences", not just smartphones and tablets. In the past couple of years it has been a race to the bottom and only Samsung and manufacturers catering for the low-to-mid-range markets appear to have been able to sustain it.
HTC is rumoured to be going back to basics, looking to deliver improved featuresets and services instead of bigger and more powerful devices and. like its rivals, will incorporate new quad-core processors into its products.
Given that many companies have shown their hand before the expo starts, I believe device makers are more inclined to show us what their devices can do rather than thrust a spec-sheet in our hands.
This year's MWC may be remembered for what didn't happen: Samsung, for instance, has said its flagship handset, the Galaxy S III will be announced separately and BlackBerry has hinted its big developments may come later than next week. And tablets may be thin on the ground because Apple's newest model is expected to be announced in the next few days. But I have high hopes for sparkling revelations from Sony Mobile, as we must learn to call it, Nokia and HTC.
HTC's industrial design and software innovations are consistently strong so if the company builds on that, its press conference will be a must-see. Nokia has made a great return to form with the Lumia 800 so its next announcements will be crucial. And Sony Mobile needs to start doing all the things Sony Ericsson didn't (like a fully-fledged PlayStation phone, say). Most importantly, what can top last year's Android badges and the excitement they generated?
1) Windows 8, of course, and all sorts of ferreting around to get more details on whether Office is coming to the iPad or not. This latter may annoy Microsoft a bit.
2) More rumouring about Nokia and Microsoft, some reassuring noises from Nokia about sales, and more doomy predictions about the Finnish company. But if nothing else, Nokia is a survivor.
3) Intel Atom-based phones. More a curio at present than a real threat to ARM.
4) Quad-core LTE smartphones on which you can fry eggs. Not that they come with a skillet, but just that they chew ferociously through batteries.
5) Handwringing from mobile carriers seeing SMS revenue - which really is the golden goose - being slaughtered by BBM, iMessage, WhatsApp and the like.
6) Footsore grumpiness from attendees who have had to walk miles or wait for hours for taxis because of the transport strike.
7) No proper discussion at all of Spain's economic problems where youth unemployment is huge and the economy is tanking. Why think sad thoughts when there's shiny stuff to look at?
8) No sign of Meego. Remember Meego?
I expect this year's MWC to be as much about services as it is about new devices: so whether it's NFC payments being pushed by networks or Google emphasising the general power of Android, it's set to be a slightly different tone from previous years. But there will be new phones, for instance Intel's Android devices, and exciting social news too as software and hardware integrate more closely than ever.
There'll be two big trends in Barcelona in 2012. The first is convergence. Rather than people needing to pack hundreds of gadgets into their bags, we'll see services and products launch that combine many things into one. A great example is Ubuntu for Android -- which lets your smartphone become a computer, merely by plugging it into a dock. The second trend will be automotive. The major car manufacturers want to get in on the hype around the app ecosystem, and I reckon we'll see some announcements that involve using phones and tablet computers in your car.
MWC looks like it'll be dominated by quad-core phones with HD screens this year. Don't be surprised if some of them squeeze in NFC either.
Stuart Miles, Founder and CEO
With many of the phones already leaked or announced I don't expect there to be many surprises at this year's show. That won't stop manufacturers boasting about their latest devices having even faster processors, even bigger screens and how their connected eco-system is the best to help you join up the dots.
Chris Hall, Editor
The theme of WMC 2012 will be thinner and lighter. In many cases the launched devices will look and feel like incremental updates rather than anything really new. There will be new hardware, so we'll see variation in component suppliers, like Nvidia and Intel moving into Qualcomm's traditional space, but the end result won't feel remarkably different. With Android falling between the Gingerbread and Ice Cream Sandwich lines, I'm expecting Microsoft to deliver the most surprises.
Ian Morris, Reviews editor
This seems like a year where handset manufacturers are considering how and when they announce their new handsets. Samsung has decided not to launch its new high-end handset at the show. LG seems to have pre-announced everything and HTC will be trying to convince everyone it is still relevant.
It's also quite unlikely that we'll see much new from Motorola, especially considering it already has quite a crop of high-end phones on the market, or coming soon. Perhaps Nokia is going to rock everyone's world. Or perhaps not. It makes you wonder if MWC really has a future at all.
Paul Lamkin, Contributing editor
MWC 2012 will signal the start of the core-wars with mobile devices. Like the megapixel flaunting period that digital cameras experienced in their early boom, smartphone and tablet manufacturers will flex their power muscles by boasting about the number of cores that their devices come packing. So expect quad-core to be a recurring theme of the Barcelona expo and expect battery life to play second fiddle. Also, if it's not at least 720p HD - it's not coming in.
Hunter Skipworth, Contributing editor
This year is going to be all about power. Manufacturers are going to be competing for attention via processor clock speeds and camera resolutions, not so much the design of their phones. That said, there could be a few surprises coming from the underdogs. Nokia in particular proved it knew how to make a desirable piece of kit with the Lumia, so it's going to be one to watch. We mustn't forget BlackBerry either: they aren't top of the smartphone table right now, but a drastic OS rethink and some new pieces of hardware could put them back on form, although we doubt it.
It wouldn't be a proper discussion without you, our readers, involved. So let us know in the comments what your expectations of MWC are. Do you want faster processors? Better battery? Or is design your thing? Perhaps a super camera is what has you excited? Whatever it is, keep us posted below.
Fancy finding out a bit more about MWC 2012? Check out our story hub for the event here.