Day two at #MWC16 was spent looking at the future. One of the most exciting parts of this conference is the ability to experience the latest innovations in mobile and connected devices, in order to get an idea of what our connected world might look like in the next 12-24 months, and beyond. Interestingly, this year the focus wasn’t so much on mobile handset innovation, whilst there were a number of new handsets shown, but on the incremental advancements of existing forms, such as increased speed, slicker designs, etc. It is more a case of evolution rather than revolution, with a few exceptions of course.
The geek in me was a big fan of the Cat’s S60 thermal camera phone. With a built-in thermal image camera, that can be used to check temperatures, find hot and cold spots and even detect the body heat of trapped individuals, you can see how the phone could appeal to construction workers, electricians and even emergency teams. Cat are clearly going after a certain demographic who want a rugged work phone that can take a battering in their work environment. Subsequently they have evolved the range to include features that aid their audience in their day to day work tasks, (and can’t simply be downloaded as an app). It’s the very definition of a ‘work phone’. In general, hardware manufacturers haven’t really focused on an enterprise audience outside of office workers, instead showcasing a device’s general speed, look and feel – then relying on consumers to download apps and accessories to personalise the device for both their work and casual needs. It’s a bold move from Cat and it’ll be interesting to see how it’s received by their intended audience.
In addition, LG showcased the G5: a modular smartphone where you can swap out hardware components to personalise your device with the elements which matter the most to you. For example, if you normally enjoy having a powerful camera (which uses more battery life) but are going out for the night, you can simply swap out the higher powered camera and plug in the more powerful battery. Modular smartphones are a trend that is expected to gather pace over the next few years, with a number of leading handset manufacturers predicted to launch their own offerings to the market. It’s great to see some of these devices launch to see just how big the consumer appetite for hardware personalisation is.
What was incredibly clear this year was the expected appetite for VR. Many, many stands were showing off VR units including HTC and Samsung, who were among a number of hardware manufacturers that had invested significantly in showcasing their VR capabilities – drawing in long queues of attendees wanting to try out the latest VR experiences. However, what was interesting to me was the number of hardware manufacturers who were displaying products designed to enhance the physical VR experience. For example, there were full body unit that you could strap into and spin on a 360° axis, literally turning and holding you upside down. These physical extensions, designed to enhance the virtual experience, are perhaps an insight for things to come.
VR’s not-so-hyped-about-cousin, 360° video, was also shown love by manufacturers such as Samsung and, a very different looking, Nokia who demoed cameras designed to both broaden the ease of recording 360° video (mass-market), and enhance the image quality of 360° video (professional market). I expect 360° video to grow significantly this year as more brands get excited by it, in addition to its ease of distribution to an audience at scale, compared to VR, through publishers with 360° ad formats such as Facebook and YouTube.
IoTThere was also a huge focus on the IoT with companies such as Asics, Ford, Visa, Audi, AT&T and ZTE showing multiple connected home, cars and even, bike and football concepts. Expect cars that will automatically pay for your parking ticket, as well as park themselves, footballs that will tell you the best place to strike them to score, shoes which will notify you of ways to correct your foot positioning to get a better tennis serve, lights that will automatically dim if you put a romantic movie on your connected TV, cars that you start with an app rather than keys and which will wake you up if they notice your eyes beginning to close and bikes that will notify city officials where the worse condition roads are.
Finally, Sony showed off the Xperia Ear, a new generation of Bluetooth headset that also acts as a virtual personal assistant enabling you to book trips, send messages, check your schedule and be given reminders, all without checking your phone. Rumour is it’s voiced by Scarlet Johannsen, although this looks high likely to be untrue…
Stay tuned for what we uncover during Day 3 of the Mobile World Congress.