MWC Part 2: The Dawn of 5G

Foldable smartphones may have taken the spotlight at the 2019 MWC in Barcelona, but the more realistic jump in technology for smartphones is 5G. Operators around the world are getting ready to introduce 5G and naturally, OEMs have introduced 5G versions of their flagship devices. From high-end devices to the cheapest 5G device yet, Barcelona witnessed it all. Here is a quick look at some of the 5G device launches.

LG

At the 2019 MWC in Barcelona, LG simultaneously unveiled the G and V series phones for the first time. The LG V50 and ThinQ 5G and the LG G8 ThinQ, both offer a significant upgrade over the previous versions. As 5G remains the key theme of MWC 19, LG has done a good job of not missing the bus by unveiling the 5G version of the V50.

With 5G set to offer a better device experience, LG has focused on areas that impact content consumption like audio and video. LG G8 ThinQ supports Master Quality Authenticated (MQA) technology, allowing compressed high-resolution audio streaming without compromising sound quality.  It is also the world’s first smartphone with advanced palm vein authentication using a combination of the ToF (Time of Flight) Z Camera and infrared sensors.

LG has decided to give a unique twist to dual screen phones in the form of an accessory. Moto Mods’ moderate success has already led to user awareness about the idea of an accessory which serves as an additional differentiating factor. LG V50ThinQ 5G dual screen comes with a couple of use cases including multi-tasking and gaming. In fact, gaming can be a good segment which LG can leverage while other use cases continue to develop. The gaming mode looks particularly interesting as it gives total control for gamers and amplifies the experience. Although the uptake will depend on the cost, even a high single-digit attach rate can serve as an additional opportunity for LG to sell more displays. LG is yet to announce the prices.

LG has added a bunch of other features focusing on the touchless experience but in the preview, some of these features didn’t work smoothly. Since it was a preview of the devices, LG has time to work on those.

The main challenge for LG is to market these features. This was a key pain point for its flagships in the past. It is highly dependent on the United States and LATAM region but to drive volumes LG can use the new V and G series as market entry products in countries where it doesn’t have a major presence and its consumer electronics division overshadows its smartphones.

Xiaomi

Xiaomi unveiled the cheapest 5G smartphone yet with the launch of Mi Mix 3 5G. The Mi Mix 3 5G has a Snapdragon X50 5G modem providing downlink speeds of up to 2 Gbps and is powered by a Snapdragon 855 processor

It also has a dual-camera setup both in the front and back. The camera setup includes a 12 megapixel (MP) wide-angle sensor and a 12MP telephoto lens on the rear as well as 24MP and 2MP selfie shooters. Xiaomi’s Mi Mix 3 5G is a bezel-less phone as the company has opted for a slider to house its front cameras. The phone’s slide camera feature is different from that of the Vivo and the punch-hole display to house the front cameras in the new range of Samsung Galaxy S10. The phone has a 3,800 mAh battery.

The Mi Mix 3 5G starts at €599 for the 6GB/64GB version and will be available from May through Mi.com and retailers across Europe. Additionally, Xiaomi has also partnered with operators including 3, Orange, Sunrise, Telefonica, and Vodafone to expand its reach in Europe.

Xiaomi surprised everyone with aggressive pricing of its Mi Mix 3 5G version. Other OEMs, especially Chinese OEMs, looking for expansion in Europe will find it tough to get a 5G premium on their first 5G devices. Xiaomi will also be looking to leverage its Mi Mix 3 5G to enter operator portfolios in developed European markets where it has already gained mind share.

Apart from this, Xiaomi also launched Mi 9, which was a good upgrade over its previous Mi 8. It is the first triple camera device within Xiaomi’s portfolio. The camera set up includes a 48MP main lens and an ultra-wide 16MP lens with a 12MP telephoto lens with 2x optical zoom

In short Xiaomi’s latest portfolio is indicative of the company’s desire for Europe expansion with higher average selling price (ASP) devices. But for countries like Spain and smaller western and eastern European countries, we estimate that bulk of its shipments will be driven by its sub-US$200 portfolio.