As in the past 4-5 years I've attended the Mobile World Congress (MWC) in Barcelona. I must say that being a veteran attendee it is starting to get a bit old and also a bit sad to see the show shrinking a bit every year, but still I did manage to see some interesting stuff that are worth mentioning, so here goes:
Missing but yet present: Nokia
Nokia's decision not to present inside MWC was definitely a blow to the GSMA. But still though it didn't pay the $$$ to the GSMA to be inside the show, it had its own side event a few steps away from the Fira (MWC's venue). So still even for those wanting to meet Nokia, coming to Barcelona in that time a year is still worthwhile which of course works in the best interest of MWC. Nokia's strategy was to create a more targeted side invite-only event, which they hoped would be more productive than the buzz and noise inside the show halls. It will be interesting to see if they repeat that strategy next year and if any other big players will follow.
Saddest Hall: Hall 2.1
And very related to Nokia's decision, the show was simply smaller this year both in terms of visitors and in terms of booth space. Last year some halls were already a bit thinner than in previous years, but this time, aside from most halls being less dense, the second floor of hall 2 almost completely disappeared. There were only 2 booths there and the media center and that's it. In the good times it was filled with booths all over. The good news is that I noticed more advertising on the streets, metro stations and next to the Fira, way more than the previous year. So guess we'll have to wait till next year to see if there's a trend here or just a minor setback.
Best Booth Babes: CBOSS
Well, there's really no competition here... The CBOSS girls simply give the best show of MWC year after year... Definitely the show stopper of hall 1 in which you can see quite an audience every time these lovely girls make an appearance. On the other hand, other companies failed to deliver on the oldest trick in the show marketing book and it was kinda dry elsewhere... I can only say MWC still has a lot to learn from the great E3 games show...
Most "out-there" product: Motorola
When I walked into the Motorola area, at first I thought I stepped into Borg territory (Startrek reference...) - It seemed to inhabit half-man half-machine beings... Soon enough I was assimilated and became one of them by wearing Motorola's thingie... And in fact what seems to be science fiction at first is very down to earth. This device includes a tiny screen with a magnifying glass that is placed right in front of your eye (with a flexible arm that can be tilted) and when you look into it you get the experience of a full SVGA screen. It has no keyboard, and is activated by vocal commands and has several useful applications like a media player, an office-like suite etc. The idea here is to give people who need their hands free the ability to interact with a computer - for example in construction sites where you need both hands, but may need to take a look at some drawings from time to time. Pretty neat and useful - the only down side (Other than looking like a cyborg) is that it did give me a headache after a short while.
Yummiest Phone: NTT DoCoMo
One of the things I've noticed is that as handsets technology advances, it is very hard to really thrill in this domain. If a few years back a touch screen or a full qwerty phone was something to write about, today there's basically nothing new - all improvements of the UI and other handset parameters. So, if you can't innovate in the technology department, you can always do that in the style and design department, and this is exactly what several vendors did, and one of those is this really tasty looking NTT DoCoMo phone along with some cookies...
Worst Party Ever: Samsung
And talking about food, I can't forget the special treat some of Samsung's guests got in their party in the first day of the conference: Food poisoning... Yes, unfortunately for me I decided to go to the Samsung party and ate some tapas which tasted a bit weird and proved later on to be truly funky... Anyway, the lesson learned is to be very careful in Barcelona with the food... Samsung - please pick another venue next time... And despite their attempt on my life, I'll be kind and at least mention their Ruggedized phone edition which includes a phone for field purposes (Sand resistant and battery lasting for weeks) and their water-resistant phone shown here. Placing a mobile handset in your aquarium is elegant and it saves the need to buy fish food...
Sweetest Ride: Qualcomm
Another trend you couldn't miss this year was mobile integration with vehicles. It was very difficult to miss due to the cars several of the big companies placed in their booth. The one that caught my eye was Qualcomm's system installed in a luxurious Audi model (Coming to a dealership near you...). It had all you can dream of - a computerized system that includes GPS navigation, media system, speakerphone, internet browser - and all built it - the driver even has very convenient controls for the system near the stick. All communication is done mobile of course, and passengers can also enjoy wireless internet as the system includes a WiFi router... Indeed a sweet ride...
Coolest Demo: BlackBerry
The Blackberry guys had the neatest demo I've seen. To demonstrate their device's gyro, they wrote a controller for a small Lego robot - If you tilted the device forward, the robot drove forward and so on for all directions - that was really neat, and though I don't think that Apple has driven them into the Lego business, it was really a nice way to catch audience and explain about their stuff - so way to go...
Greenest solution: Asimelec
The green trend is all over the world these days, and Asimelec, which is a Spanish association backed by some of the prominent handset vendors and mobile operators has a solution for your old mobile device: recycle it... These guys place recycling bins for mobile phones and disintegrate them into components that can be recycled back into other industries. And with the current rate of devices innovation, they probably have their hands/bins full... Asimelec's booth was also the most original one: It was made wholly out of cardboard... The booth, the chairs, the table - everything...
Worst use of space: A bags shop?
Yes, the picture here is from MWC 2010 and not from a fashion trade show... It seems that they will sell space just about to anyone these days...But seriously this booth which was quite centrally located (Right in the entrance to hall 8) was a bit weird to see considering the surroundings, but still perhaps when you have lots of men away from home that have to come back with some gifts, it might be a pretty good idea... In fact, I bet they are the only booth who actually made instant money in this show...
Best Giveaway: Google
It was a good show for Google - if last year we saw only a few Android prototypes, this year we experienced an explosion of Android based devices from many vendors. But every blessing has its drawbacks and in this case word of the fragmentation in the Android platform was heard from various sources (And we all saw the toll it took on JavaME). But anyway, Google will probably not be remembered in this show (only) for this but rather for the generous giveaway.... Now, we all got used to giveaways in conferences, including branded mints, pens, bags and even sometimes disk-on-keys. But Google really set a new barrier in MWC 2010: Everyone who attended their Android seminar got a Nexus One phone. Yes - EVERYONE. The only catch was that you either had to be pre-registered to the seminar, or stand for an hour-two in the non-registered queue (Which got bigger as the rumor spread...). And BTW - If you saw people with weird pink markings on their hands - it is how Google marked (or indexed?) people so they won't grab more than one device... Unfortunately for me I got the news kinda late, so when I got there it was already closed... So, Google - if your intention was to hand out phones to mobile developers, bloggers and other professionals so they would spread the word - you missed one (Should I give you my mailing address?... :)
Well that's all for this year, I am sure you all had your experiences as well, so if you saw something interesting drop a comment right here.