Mobile World Congress (MWC) 2018 – Day 0 Highlights

Mobile World Congress is the world’s largest exhibition for the mobile industry, organized by the GSMA and held in the Mobile World Capital Barcelona. This year the event kicked-off on 26th February and our analysts are present at the event to meet with tech companies and analyze the latest developments in the world of technology.

There have been quite a series of announcements in the run-up to the event mainly focusing on mobile devices. Some quick insights from the announcements are:

Samsung introduced its Galaxy S9 and S9 Plus

Samsung launched its flagships, Galaxy S9 and S9 Plus, with a focus on visual applications for social media. The camera was the main highlight of this event. The S9 and S9 Plus come with a 12MP Rear and 8MP front camera. The S9 Plus, however, also features a dual rear camera. This is the first time the company has introduced adjustable aperture in a smartphone which can be switched between f1.5 and f2.4. Samsung also introduced new camera capabilities including a personalized AR emoji, portrait mode, super slow motion, foreign language translator. In addition, the company also introduced a slow-motion video function which is 32 times slower than traditional video.

The S9 and S9 Plus have 5.8” and 6.2” screens respectively, with slightly slimmer bezels compared to the S8 series. The flagships are available in 64GB and 256GB internal storage variants and users can increase storage by adding a MicroSD card, with up to 400GB variants being supported. The S9 comes with 4GB RAM, while S9 Plus comes with 6GB RAM.

The phone’s overall design is near identical to its predecessor – the S8 series. Regarding processor, Samsung is using the Qualcomm 845 SoC for US and other selected markets and Exynos for other regions including Europe. Taking feedback from the S8 users, Samsung has moved the fingerprint sensor underneath the camera to make it more accessible.

Samsung’s new flagships will be available for sale from March 16, but users can pre-order beginning on March 2nd. The S9 and S9 Plus are priced at US$ 720 and US$ 840 with various trade-in options. Samsung has also launched its own ‘trade-in and save’ worldwide program to push upgrades.  There were rumors of Samsung matching Apple’s $1000 price point.  S9 and S9 Plus sales would help having a cushion below Apple pricing and it will give other Android OEMs less of an opening to exploit.

 

Nokia Mobile announced five new phones

Nokia unveiled five new devices at the eventNokia 8 Sirocco, Nokia 7 Plus, Nokia 1, Nokia 8810 and Nokia 6 (2018). Each has a unique design that should help differentiate them from the current bulk of Android devices.

  • Nokia 8 Sirocco: It is the revamped version of the Nokia 8 flagship model which has a 5.5-inch display, Qualcomm 835 processor and 6GB of RAM. It has dual rear cameras (12 MP + 13 MP), wireless charging and runs on Android 8.0 Oreo. This is targeted at the premium segment with a price of US$ 923 (EUR 749) and available in early April.
  • Nokia 7 Plus: It is an Android One phone which has an 18:9 screen ratio and a full HD 6-inch screen equipped with the Qualcomm 660 mobile processing platform. It also has dual rear cameras (12 MP + 13 MP), which could prove to be effective low-light shooters. The 7 Plus runs on Android 8.0 Oreo. This phone is priced at US$ 492 (EUR 399) and available in early April.
  • Nokia 1: This Android Go (Oreo Edition) smartphone has a 4.5-inch display, 5 MP rear camera and 2 MP front-facing camera. It is priced at US$ 85 and is available in early April.
  • Nokia 8810: This 4G LTE connectivity phone comes with preloaded apps including Google Assistant, Google Maps, Facebook and is powered by KaiOS. This feature phone should bring up memories for some of us due to its sliding form factor, almost absent in the current crop of phones. The phone, priced at US$ 97 (EUR 79), will be available by May 2018 in two color options – classic black and banana yellow. The phone is expected to resonate well among Nokia loyalists. Since Nokia’s comeback, the firm has been doing well across key markets in the feature phone category.
  • Nokia 6 (2018): It has a 5.5-inch full HD display, Qualcomm Snapdragon 630 processor, 4 GB of RAM, fingerprint sensor, 16 MP rear and 8 MP front-facing camera. It claims to have 60% better performance than the original Nokia 6. It is an Android One smartphone priced at US$ 344 (EUR 279) and will be available from in April.

Nokia HMD aims to target the mass market with affordable devices. Key partnerships by Nokia HMD with Google could help to push Android experiences for the mass market. With this new partnership, all Google services will be available on new Nokia devices as well as all the latest Android updates. This is a significant step to populate each price tier with feature driven, value for money devices after the successful relaunch of the Nokia brand.

Alcatel announces 1, 3 and 5 Series smartphones along with two new tablets

Alcatel has launched smartphones at various price points, targeting the budget to the mid-premium category.

  • Alcatel 5 Series is the most expensive among all its new launches which comes with a US$ 370 (EUR 300) price tag. It offers a 5.7-inch screen, 1440 x 720 display, octa-core MediaTek processor, face recognition feature, has a single camera and runs on Android Nougat.
  • Alcatel 3 series offers three similar looking phones – 3, 3X and 3V, with similar specs, but with variations in screen size and resolution. Apart from these, Alcatel has also launched a new 1 Series phone – the 1X. The ‘Android Go’ edition smartphone is priced at US$ 123 (EUR 100) and is available with single or dual SIM options.
  • In addition to smartphones, Alcatel also unveiled 1T 7 and 1T 10 tablets. Both tablets offer similar specifications but different screen sizes – 7 inches and 10.1 inches, respectively. Both tablets will run on Android Oreo and offer two modes – Eye Care Mode and Kids Mode.

Alcatel’s refreshed portfolio brings in much-needed features to the affordable smartphone segment. With Android Go, it looks like in 2018, Alcatel’s focus is to get back its lost share in the entry-level segment first by attacking the major global operators. In the case of tablets, it doesn’t offer support for 802.11ac Wi-Fi, which is being counted as a major down-side.

Vivo showcased a new concept called Apex

The Verge

This time Vivo has added a few new features to the smartphone like an in-display fingerprint reader and a new “Screen SoundCasting Technology” which removes the speakers and uses the display to produce vibrations (sound). This similar to what Sony showcased in its TVs during CES 2017, which can produce sound from the screen. Further, Vivo has hidden the selfie cam at the top of the phone. This camera pops out when you switch to the front camera. By combining all these features, a near bezel-less display with higher screen to body ratio is possible. Although it is a concept, this shows the R&D efforts of Chinese players in redefining their products to gain a competitive edge against major OEMs. Moreover, having their own R&D would allow these players to expand in other regions outside Asia, particularly Europe and USA.

LG introduced V30S ThinQ with new integrated AI

LG launches V30S ThinQ, which is an upgrade from its earlier flagship model V30. However, there is no change in design. It is more of a software update with the implementation of AI capabilities.

V30S ThinQ has an AI-powered camera for better image processing under low light and auto color correction to make images more vibrant. The additional QLens functionality offers visual shopping options using its camera. This new device will be available in various colors for customers.

We have seen many companies following the strategy to launch versions with incremental upgrades in the past, but this strategy backfires sometimes. Customers, who bought the earlier version, may feel left out. However, with a software update which can then be pushed to earlier version devices, this may help the device to compete with all the other latest flagship models with AI capabilities.

Blackberry aims for 3% of Global Market Share

Android Headlines

Blackberry announced at MWC, that the company is aiming to expand its market share in the premium segment this year. Although it is a challenging task for the company, taking notes from Nokia HMD’s brand revival strategy, it does seem possible. The company should focus on key markets for premium segment smartphones. Just two brands (Apple and Samsung) own more than 90% of premium segment smartphone sales globally. This presents an opportunity for a brand like Blackberry to capture some of the share with a well-designed smartphone. Blackberry will have to first focus on key markets such as the US, Europe, Japan and Korea.

Qualcomm focusing on IoT

The company introduced Snapdragon 820E embedded platform and expanded its embedded computing portfolio to address the needs of the highly diverse consumer, enterprise, and industrial embedded device categories. The Snapdragon 820E is designed to offer superior performance, low power consumption, and integrated connectivity with an extended lifecycle of 10 years. Qualcomm also introduced DragonBoard 820c development board, which is based on the Qualcomm Snapdragon 820E embedded platform.

Qualcomm is scheduled to showcase some of its latest developments in the automotive sector, including a concept car featuring 5G and Gigabit LTE use cases, next-generation cluster and infotainment configurations, and cellular-V2X enhancements.

Qualcomm is emphasizing IoT chip security with constant developments in its TPM (Trust Platform Module). The company has developed multiple layers of authentication, attestation and software integrity checks to strengthen the overall trust of the platform.

Qualcomm acknowledged that IoT verticals and applications are fragmented, thus its business model is to scale up and go after broad applications. Hence, scaling, marketing, and distribution channels will be the focus area for Qualcomm’s IoT business model.  To compete against unsophisticated and inexpensive IoT sensors, Qualcomm is offering a complete service with support of up to 10 to 20 years.  The company’s solution will support onboarding, install and update apps, unlock hardware features (eg enable GPS functionality 5 years in), send security patches/updates, and include all associated enhancements during life cycle.Qualcomm is hoping this higher quality of service (and, of course, more expensive) will have a better ROI than simply lighting up cheaper sensors with limited flexibility or capabilities.

Other Announcements
Intel formed partnership with NTT DoCoMo for 2020 Tokyo Olympics

Intel announced a partnership with NTT DoCoMo to provide 5G for the 2020 Olympic games. Intel believes its end-to-end play from computing to networking to device to cloud is an advantage to capture value in the 5G Era. The move is to leverage industrial uses cases of 5G. Some of the potential applications include 8K 360 VR, smart cities, autonomous vehicles and using AI to improve athletic training plans.