He went. He saw. And while he did not have any Caesar-like intentions of conquering Barcelona, our editor Raju PP spent a good deal of time in the section of the Catalan city that hosted the 2017 edition of the Mobile World Congress. After almost five days of demos, hands-on sessions and interviews, he returned jet-lagged to India. Only to fall into the clutches of Editorial Mentor Nimish Dubey, who proceeded to grill him about MWC 2017 – what he saw, what stood out, what did not, and much more.
Q. First things first, what was your impression of MWC 2017? As an overall event.
A relatively underwhelming event as compared to previous years. As a ‘tech’ journalist, I got to see very few notable hardware. Nokia’s comeback helped a bit, but Samsung’s decision not to showcase the Galaxy S8 probably took its toll. For ‘telecom’ journalists, there was a lot of focus on 5G and related technologies, though.
Q. Yes, we have seen your hits and misses of the event, but if you had to focus on the highlight of MWC 2017 as far as you were concerned, what would it be?
The change in focus from wearables to VR. For the last couple of years, every other stall at MWC used to showcase its latest wearable or an IoT product. Some of them were still around (like the Huawei Watch 2), but only a handful. Instead, there were a lot more startups showcasing their latest offering in VR and AR. Even the biggies like HTC and Samsung were focussing on Vive and Galaxy Gear respectively. Clearly, the industry thinks VR/AR is the next big thing in tech.
Q. Follow through: what do you think was your biggest disappointment?
Can I say the absence of Galaxy S8? In the lead up to the show, it was clear that Samsung isn’t going to announce their next flagship smartphone at the MWC like they’ve done in the recent past. But that dampened the whole thing for many of us.
Q. The big question: which company do you think made the most of the event and which do you think missed a good chance?
Nokia, of course. They timed their comeback announcement pretty well. With Samsung backing off, they got all the eyeballs they were looking for. And they brought in the nostalgia factor with Nokia 3310. Although I was personally hoping that they would at least tease the flagship (Nokia 8?), but they played it safe with mid-rangers. As for who missed a good chance, I’d think it’s Xiaomi. They were here last year and were also at the CES this year, but for some inexplicable reasons, decided to give MWC 2017 a miss. In fact, they had quite a big announcement on February 28 back in China for their Surge S1 in-house SoC. Alongside Mi 5c and Redmi 4X, it could have been a great opportunity for Xiaomi to break some good news.
Q, Yes, MWC was mostly about the bigger names but there always are some newcomers who stir things up. Any players you think we should be keeping an eye out for?
Honestly, it’s tough to cover such a big event alone. Unfortunately, Sayan had to miss out and I couldn’t cover the event as extensively as I’d have liked. From whatever I saw, Neura looked pretty exciting with their technology for IoT applications. They help IoT devices to learn from user behavior to contextualize and personalize how permissions and privacy work. Then there was Astrivis which is a mobile 3D scanning app that can scan anything and build a model within 10 to 15 seconds.
Q. Did you spot any trends in particular? I know you were a bit disappointed with the lack of mainstream applications for VR, but all in all, where would you rank this MWC with its predecessors?
As I mentioned earlier, the trend is the shift in focus from Wearables/IoT to VR/AR. There were a lot many companies showcasing their VR/AR applications and devices, but not vastly different from each other, and pretty much what we have been seeing for a long time now. Personally, for me, this was the least exciting MWC in the last 5 years.
Q. The MWC is supposed to be about the latest cutting edge technology but this time there was a lot of nostalgia – Nokia brought back the 3310 and BlackBerry brought back the QWERTY on the KeyOne. What was your take in this regard?
I feel this is a sign of things to come. Expect others like Sony and Moto to play that game next. With smartphone design getting stagnated, OEMs will probably try to play the nostalgia game to bring variety.
Q. You have been a regular visitor to MWC – I think you have missed just once in the past five years. How have you seen the event change?
It hasn’t changed much. I wish it did, though!
Q. A lot of people are saying that with many players giving MWC a miss, the event is not as important as it once was. What do you think? And what advice would you give aspiring bloggers – attend it or give it a miss?
That’s not quite true. MWC is still great for companies to sign deals and go for tie-ups. It’s great for visitors to get to see the latest and greatest in mobile tech, all at one place. So, no issues with relevancy as such. It can definitely get better for media, though. As for the second part of the question, I believe every tech blogger should attend it at least once, just for the experience sake, if not anything else. But you aren’t really missing out on much if you aren’t attending.
Q. Continuing on the advice to aspiring bloggers, what would you ask them to keep in mind if they are planning a trip to MWC?
- Plan ahead and plan well.
- Make sure you have the invite for the press briefings. More often than not, walk-in registrations won’t be allowed.
- There will be a hell of a lot of meeting requests, so make sure you accept the right ones as per your coverage area. Do consider the time required to walk from one end of the venue to the other when you are scheduling your meetings.
- Do consider attending third-party showcase events like Showstoppers and Pepcom Mobile Focus, as they can be a nice platform to discover lesser known companies and startups.
- Not everyone is going to MWC for ‘exclusives’, so understand that and look to gauge focus areas of companies by talking to product personnel at the booth (PR people are good with straight faces!) They will be of great use for your future stories.
Q. All right, final question: if there was anything you wanted to change about MWC, what would it be?
The host city! It’s been almost 10 years in Barcelona. Can we move to some other city, pretty please?