The device launches you didn’t hear about at MWC

Mobile World Congress usually has a few extravagant marketing forays to launch flagship devices and 2020 was  going to be no different… except that the event didn’t happen.

Jamie Davies

February 27, 2020

4 Min Read
The device launches you didn’t hear about at MWC

Mobile World Congress usually has a few extravagant marketing forays to launch flagship devices and 2020 was  going to be no different… except that the event didn’t happen.

For some, this might have come as a relief, we’ve all seen the less than spectacular launches, but for others this is a nightmare come true. At Omdia’s substitute event, Principal Analyst for devices Wayne Lam gave us a breakdown of what you could have expected at the Barcelona bonanza.

First and foremost, no-one should have expected anything from Apple. The iGiant never makes as much as a ripple at the Catalan celebration, saving itself for a Cupertino cornucopia in the Autumn, though that might be under threat. Rumours have emerged over the impact of the coronavirus on the 5G flagship launch, a potentially worrying development should 5G want to explode this year.

While the fortunes of the industry should not be fixed on the performance of one company, Apple has a tendency to act as an industry catalyst. The cult like following it commands as the farmer supreme of brand cultivation should not be underappreciated. This is an iconic brand and any impact on its 5G launch could have a measured detrimental effect on the success of the connectivity craze in 2020.

That said, outside the Apple crop, Lam pointed towards the semiconductor industry as another major catalyst for 5G performance and success. In the Qualcomm offices, the third generation of 5G products have recently been announced and should be featured in devices towards 2020-end. Most importantly, new product launches in this field are boasting of integrated chipsets, allowing for more affordable devices. MediaTek and Samsung are also pushing forward in this segment, providing much needed competition.

Another area to keep an eye on is the development of storage components. 5G opens up a massive data pipe for the digital economy, and while it is important for the modem to be up to scratch, the rest of the components also have to be on a level playing field. Lam suggested this is a field which is currently maturing.

That said, with the progression of the semiconductor segment comes the potential for device manufacturers to crack the mainstream market. 2019 and 2020 has already seen the launch of numerous devices, though these are largely for the rich and famous. Mere peasants are not allowed into the unaffordable 5G club just yet, though this could change over the coming months.

Interestingly enough, Lam commented that OPPO believed it would be taking centre stage with its Find X2 5G. The company went big on advertising, splashing the brand everywhere including in the Barcelona arrivals lounge. This was a brand which was hoping to test the status quo, moving up from challenger to rival with an aggressive marketing campaign, but coronavirus put an end to that. However, this is a device which is worth keeping an eye-on for the future.

The Samsung Galaxy S20 Series is another interesting launch as it now sets the standard. Although the smaller device is not compatible with mmWave airwaves, all of the handsets in this series feature 5G antennas. This is a series which sets the bar high; if you haven’t got 5G, are you tier one?

On the Huawei stand, visitors would have been offered a few interesting surprises. Firstly, an improved foldable device, the Mate Xs, but also the Honor View 30 Pro. The Honor View 30 Pro is a very interesting product, as while it features the same Kirin 990 5G chipset as more upper-market devices, the price point would have been in the $500 range. This is a device which had the potential to open 5G up to the masses.

That said, Lam highlighted that he had been testing a Huawei device over the last few days and the absence of Google services was a considerable inhibitor. Lam question whether this device could be successful outside of China.

Elsewhere across the show, Sony were going to make a splash in an attempt to overturn its mobile woes, TCL were offering another affordable device, HCL were once again poised to lean on the nostalgia associated with the Nokia brand, Xiaomi were going to push their promising position again, while Realme were also posturing towards making a surprise move into the 5G market.

This years MWC was set to be a very busy time for the devices segment potentially creating a springboard for mass market penetration, but alas no. Small, regionalised events will have to act as a substitute, as there is little other option, though the impact on 5G progress remains to be seen.

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