(Pocket-lint) - If you were looking for a theme for Mobile World Congress, then it's other worldly: MWC 2016 is about virtual reality.

Last year everyone lined up to talk about luxury. There were premium handsets, luxury watches, talk of quality materials, jewellery grade polishing, lessons learnt from watch makers.

In 2016, the biggest launches were set on a plane of VR. We've been saying it's the year of VR and the mobile community agrees. Samsung broadcast its Unpacked event in 360 video, and had Gear VR headsets for the entire audience to lose themselves in. 

LG launched a new handset, but packing a 360 video camera and a new VR headset, there's plenty to distract you from the smartphones. Alcatel launched its new Idol 4, using the packaging as a VR headset and just about every other announcement is set in the context of VR. 

Walking the halls of the Barcelona trade show, VR is creeping into every edifice of this event. HTC's stand gives little space to its muted smartphone refresh, but gives plenty of play space to HTC Vive.

Announcing the price and confirming that the final consumer version of HTC Vive is ready has stirred more passions than many recent smartphone launches.


Samsung has done the same, setting up a VR rollercoaster to herd attendees through the Gear VR experience. Even chipset manufacturers, like Qualcomm, are talking about how Snapdragon 820 will power a great VR experience in your smartphone. 

If you're interested in 5G - also a topic of the show - then the message is that 5G will enable live 360 video streaming through your VR headset. Mark Zuckerberg took to the stage, delivering his Mobile World Congress keynote to say just that, while also (now iconically) walking into Samsung's Unpacked event while the audience with distracted wearing VR headsets.

While virtual reality is an exciting evolution of mobile technology, there's a small insurgent movement, gossiping around the show floor, suggesting that VR is just the latest vessel to try to sell smartphones.

Just as 3D TV was "the next big thing" a few years ago, VR is being treated with the same caution by some. LG's launch of a VR camera and headset springs from wanting to make its smartphones fun again, and Samsung's proclivities towards Gear VR may spring from the fact that its 2016 flagships are very closely related to its 2015 offering.

Whatever the future holds for VR, and it's sure to be a busy future in 2016, it's the talk of Mobile World Congress, and it's likely to seep into all aspects of technology this year. Consider yourself warned.

Writing by Chris Hall.