Mobile World Congress 2011: 5 Things We Learnt About The Future

Now that the dust has settled and everyone has returned to Asia and Scandinavia with their red lanyards no doubt still swinging round their necks it’s a good time to look back, take stock and reflect on the big takeaways from Mobile World Congress 2011:

  1. Phones don’t have features, operating systems do
    If you were bored within an hour of looking round the conference I’m sure you weren’t alone. The phones were almost all the same i.e. iPhone clones with a full-span touchscreen and between one and five physical ‘home’ buttons at the base of the unit’s front, with of course the obligatory volume buttons on the right-hand side, data, audio and power ports. It’s actually a massive relief that software interface design has been taken from the hands of those who have seldom mastered it and been put in the hands of Google, whose Android platform was ubiquitous at this years #MWC11.There were a few nice original touches such as a few phones with HDMI-out like LG’s fast-as-hell Optimus 2X which outputs games, videos and screen mirroring in full HD.LG also captured a lot of the column inches last week with their Optimus 3D phone which boasts a glasses-free 3D screen and a dual-lens camera which shoots 3D video which can be viewed and shared on YouTube (which is now 3D compatible). They also have a tablet which sports the 3D camera and I think I was the first person ever to publicly upload 3D footage on it (#geekwin):
  2. Which ‘cloud’ your stuff is in really matters
    I really started to feel that this year a lot of us have started living out of the cloud as opposed to our hard drives. Maybe it’s just me but all my documents and files for both work and personal use are in my Dropbox, which via apps makes all my stuff accessible on any device (and even their website). My collaborative documents with various clients/colleagues are on Google Docs, my email and calendars are in Google and Apple’s servers, my music projects are all synced through Gobbler, the list goes on and on and what matters now when choosing a phone is how easily I can get to all that stuff sat on servers somewhere in California. With Google being an increasingly big player in the cloud storage space (with rumours of more stuff coming) and being the developer of what is now the biggest mobile operating system it can only mean good things for Android and the phones who run the OS.
  3. Mobile internet and voice quality is about to get a big upgrade
    4G is already being rolled out in major US cities by Sprint and has been tested in the UK by O2. Your average consumer can expect to start enjoying home broadband speeds on their mobile as early as next year which will open the door to previously home-only activities such as IP voice/video calls (via Skype etc), multiplayer gaming, hi-def content streaming and file-sharing.
    Orange also confirmed the rumour that they’re about to trial HD voice calls in the UK, which will give calls the audio quality of music mp3s. Great news for those who are regularly kept on hold I guess.
  4. Tablet computers are here to stay
    “iFad” I heard you scream when Jobs unveiled the device that’s ‘just a big iPhone’ back in January 2010. Well, taking a look round the stands at Mobile World Congress this year put the clear message out that there is a big demand for touchscreen devices between five and ten inches big and everyone from Blackberry to LG wants in on this burgeoning market. As with the phones they started to all merge into the same Android device after a while though the differences in size, weight and speed were more noticeable with the pads. Here are a couple of key players compared with my iPad:Samsung’s Galaxy Tab 10.1 with Android Honeycomb was noticeably light and very portable. Ran Android beautifully.
    LG’s Optimus Pad sacrificed width for a more portable feel without the loss of screen real estate when playing widescreen media. Also felt very fast, responsive and of course has that 3D camera.Confused by the middle ground between phone and netbook? Samsung’s Galaxy Wifi 5.0 will really blow your mind:

    There it is next to my iPhone 4. Samsung have filled yet another gap we didn’t know existed with this phone-less bit of hardware that runs Android 2.2 and puzzled many people who wondered whether it was a big media player or small tablet. You decide.Ultimately, if – and only if – these tablets are released with a much lower price tag than the iPad they may gain ground with the masses, particularly with heavy Google users such as myself and many of my fellow iPad-carriers. Android has matured into a serious contender to Apple’s crown and it’ll be interesting to see how Apple parry the blow on 2nd March 2011 with the big iPad 2 announcement.
  5. Google are pretty serious about this stuff
    I think I’ve used the G-word in this post enough times for us to realise that Google aren’t just speculatively throwing their hat into the ring on this one, they aim to completely take over mobile, kinda like they completely took over Mobile World Congress 2011 with an amazing stand.
    This stand had… a slide which made you a free physical photo of your trip down it, a smoothy bar, free drinks upstairs, a chilled seating area, an ‘Androidify Yourself’ free sticker-making station, free collectible pin-badges, free collectible Android figurines and loads more stuff. I mean it was totally mental, like so much more big and fun than any other stand, but not only that, they reached out to all corners of the event with an Android welcoming you to most other stands too.The Androids were giving out green sweets and collectible pin badges which @alicam did a fine job of collecting.

All in all it was a fun(ish) and interesting conference. I learned a lot about mobile and got to see Barcelona too, which is a great city despite my vegetarianism eliciting the kind of face I imagine people would make if you asked to see intimate photos of their wife.

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