WE'VE SURVIVED MWC for another year, and as arrive back in Blighty, here are a few reflections on the behemoth tech event.
Firstly, you'll note that the show is now called MWC 2019 Barcelona (catchy!) - it originally stood for Mobile World Congress, but the acronym is now so inaccurate, it was decided this year to ditch it.
The days when technology was 'mobile' and 'not mobile' are long gone, and MWC now covers everything from telecoms infrastructure, IoT devices, and even laptops, reflecting the convergence of the tech sectors various products (but thankfully, very few booth babes, at last).
Of course, the biggest convergence of them all this year was the folding phone, which turns into a tablet. The ruddy things were everywhere and nowhere - it felt like almost every vendor there was showing off their concept for the bendy screen.
Yet, to date, it's only Royole that have anything ready for the market. Huawei and of course Samsung had them, but only in theory - they were all either prototypes or statements of intent, mostly with no market date.
Similarly, 5G, the big theme of the show, was largely a nod and a wink. A trial 5G network was available at the show, used amongst other things, to beam the eternally cringe-inducing Mobile World Live TV channel around Barcelona.
Everyone had their own arrangement of words like "Innovation" "Tomorrow's" "Generation" "Fastest" and "performing" as a slogan - but nobody could explain exactly how 5G is going to play out because, at this stage, we just don't know.
'Vapourware' was very much the order of the show. We actually heard someone being interviewed this week who, when asked what his company does, declared proudly that it "disrupted markets by leveraging vertical synergies".
No, us neither.
The other big problem is Barcelona itself. It's a beautiful, welcoming city but as the show has grown, so has opposition to it. Protestors supporting Catalan independence, protestors supporting Uber drivers, and even protestors claiming 5G will kill us all, caused disruption.
The Metro drivers were out on strike (again) and as we've previously mentioned, Barcelona has banned ride-hailing apps, so getting around was a nightmare. The city's alternative taxi apps quite often involved high fares and regular cancellations between ordering and the cab arriving.
Known for organised pickpocket gangs operating during the event, MWC still insisted on people carrying passports around for the duration, whilst simultaneously Catalan police warned not to carry valuables.
For the first time, this year, BREEZ, an optional facial recognition entry system was in operation to keep the queues down. It worked, but was it any faster? In our experience, if anything, it took a little longer. Paper 1 - Tech 0.
It's not just the main conference that hosts events anymore with many launches and press conferences held offsite, meaning delegates having to zip about the city with all the speed the congestion could muster.
In short - MWC has got too big, and by dropping the "Mobile" element it's only going to get bigger - there's still more space at that convention centre to fill.
But what's most worrying of all is that, like CES in Vegas, it has become a hotbed for "jam tomorrow" - if one company announces something, everyone announces their version, even if it's nowhere near ready.
As a result, it's very difficult for us to tell you what products are actually going to make it to your consumer mitts. We hope all of them, but we're finding it increasingly difficult to say with certainty what will happen next - except it'll be "5G foldables for the fastest next-generation experience delivering synergies across all our channels".
And that's just a little bit sad. μ
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