Conformity, nostalgia and 5G at the Mobile World Congress

“A SEA of sameness.” A veteran of the Mobile World Congress (MWC), Ben Wood of CCS Insight, a consultancy, was not expecting much from the mobile industry’s main trade show this week in Barcelona. As one product launch followed another, it was easy to lose track. Whether it was LG, Huawei or Wiko, they all showed off yet more black rectangles with slightly varying specifications.

Another reminder of the smartphone business’s maturity was that the most talked-about new device was the Nokia 3310 feature phone (pictured), an updated version of a phone first made 17 years ago. With limited internet connectivity, it appeals partly as a “digital detox”, said Arto Nummela, chief executive of HMD Global, a Finnish startup with ex-Nokia executives which licenses the brand.

The mobile industry is far from done in terms of genuinely new products. But the action has moved to parts of the business that do not lend themselves to splashy events and massive crowds (the tent erected by Huawei, a Chinese maker of all sorts of telecoms gear, to launch its new P10 smartphone was huge, but hundreds were still left waiting outside). Most innovation in…Continue reading

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