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MWC Barcelona. All the highlights from the 2017 edition


A whistle-stop tour of the world's meeting place for the mobile industry

Last week, more than 100,00 attendees from all around the world flooded the halls of the annual Mobile World Conference in Barcelona.

This event, hosted by the GSM Association (the trade body that represents the interests of the global mobile industry) showcased the latest tech from 2,300 companies across the nine floors and eleven outdoor spaces of the expo.

Stated as being the world's meeting place for the mobile industry, MWC 2017 proved to be a little less focused on actual mobile phones. Yet, all the key players were there (minus Apple of course, who are far too cool for this kind of thing and always prefer to host their own launch sermons) to show off their upcoming phones, and the show also featured lots of buzz surrounding 5G, wearables and the Internet of Things.

With so much to cover, lets just delve right in shall we? Here are some of the highlights from this year's Mobile World Conference.

One big nostalgia trip for mobiles

One thing was abundantly clear at MWC, the way to a quick and easy buck is to borrow ideas from the past. There's no doubt about it, nostalgia is a powerful thing - it works for Hollywood (do we need more remakes?) - but what if a relying on nostalgia simply means that you've run out of ideas? Still, some of the biggest mobile announcements were steeped in misty-eyed sentimentality.

Nokia, or at least the company that owns the Nokia brand, reminded the world about the upcoming reimagining of the iconic 3310, an ugly, and comparatively useless phone that promises a month of battery life and an updated version of Snake (yay?) at the cost of all apps and a touchscreen. Nokia also announced other, more modern, smartphones such as the Nokia 6, the 5 and the 3, but they were all overshadowed by the 3310.

Even so, news quickly broke that the 3310 is faithful to the old 2G 900 MHz and 1800 MHz frequencies which have already been turned off across much of the world, including in the US and Canada. Literally dozens of tears were shed...

The BlackBerry KeyOne is another old-school revival that features all the signature BlackBerry characteristics such as a physical keyboard and the BlackBerry Hub, but, again, with much lower specs than most flagship devices, is this thing actually going to sell?

Finally, do you remember Motorola? Well, Lenovo, the company in charge of the ancient brand, unveiled the Moto G5 and G5 Plus.

There was no full announcement from Samsung this year (possible related to how awful their 2016 was?), but they did tease a new product due for release this year.

All hail 5G!

5G is getting all sorts of attention recently, and whether or not the excitement is justified remains to be seen. However, it didn't stop companies talking about the potential of the tech at MWC, and with live tests rolling out in the coming months, and with the potential for 5G to unlock connectivity in other tech trends such as driverless cars and virtual reality, 5G is something to keep an eye on.

Wearables and NFC

Another big theme of the show was wearable tech. Huawei showed off their Watch 2 smart watch that the company claims can run for 25 days straight on a single charge, and comes equipped with a heart-rate monitor, GPS and an NFC chip for digital payments.

Near field communication (NFC) technology grabbed further attention via NXP and their NCx3320 chip. This device can be fitted to a car's door handle to make it possible to unlock your vehicle from a mobile app.

Samsung also revealed an update to their Gear VR headset which now features a controller (imaginatively named "Controller"). This allows players to interact with digital environments in a way similar to what's already been done with the Oculus Rift and the HTC Vive.

Honorable mentions and other bits

Here's a little selection of other note-worthy announcements from the show.

Samsonite has an IoT tagging system for luggage that lets users track their bags whilst flying. And continuing the theme of alleviating travel anxiety, SkyGuru is an app that uses weather and GPS information to offer real-time explanations of those unexpected bumps, knocks and drops during flights.

Protestors took to the stage during the Samsung presentation to ask the question what is happening with the 4.3 million Galaxy Note 7 batteries that were recalled.

Netflix CEO Reed Hastings was there to talk about all things streaming, and made a claim to improve download speeds, stating: "We want to make buffering a relic like the dial tone".

And finally, the idea of smart cities came up once or twice at MWC. AT&T, in partnership with Current are making camera-equipped lampposts that can be used to gather statistical information regarding pedestrian traffic and movement to improve city planning. Also, Intel and Harman have built a device that is capable of 'listening' out for potential burst water pipes in order to alert authorities.

If one thing can be taken away from this year's show, it is that the MWC is no longer just about mobile phones - far from it. The sheer range of services and tech on display covered all bases from the Internet of Things, to VR and smart cities.

The key theme, if any, was one of general connectivity, and of an imagined future where devices and services remain in constant contact with one another for an arguably better and more immersive social experience.

Oh, and of course, with the Nokia 3310, we have concrete proof that that will be a future which still loves a gimmick.

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