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Mobile World Congress is alive and kicking: a look at the tech announcements

By Anthony Stonehewer, Head of growth

Make Honey


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March 10, 2023 | 7 min read

This year’s Mobile World Congress wrapped last week in Barcelona. Anthony Stonehewer of Make Honey, who was there on the ground, says that grumbles about the show’s irrelevance have been overstated.

A hall at the Mobile World Congress expo

Is Mobile World Congress still a relevant event? Yes, says Make Honey's Anthony Stonehewer / Image courtesy of Mobile World Congress

For the “world’s largest and most influential connectivity event”, the noise leading up to Mobile World Congress (MWC) 2023 felt subdued. Lots of announcements and new product releases were kept quiet, naturally, but there was apprehension at just how much would be announced at the event.

All understandable, perhaps, when you consider that the likes of Samsung are increasingly opting to announce and launch new products at standalone events like Galaxy Unpacked, (and Nokia announced the G22 entry-level smartphone before MWC). But it begs the question: does MWC still have the pull that it did a few years ago?

Having attended myself, I can assure readers that MWC is alive and kicking, and certainly over the Covid slump. This year, attendance jumped 45% versus 2022, and investment from brands on the exhibition floor was clear to see. Huawei invested particularly heavily, practically taking an entire hall to itself, with a check-in area that only Heathrow airport could rival (although it did so with backlash from some quarters, amid suggestions that it used handouts to “track” visitors).

5G and beyond: MWC’s tech announcements

There was no need for pre-event skepticism, as new product announcements and innovations felt significant.

MWC is the perfect show for 5G, and how to harness the power and capabilities of 5G was a clear thread throughout the four days. That was needed, as 5G hasn’t yet been quite as successful as everyone expected. Private networking, access servers, even smart 5G diamond mining, and much more made up the bulk of conversation and innovation across the show floor and speaker sessions.

Only time will tell, but it certainly felt like MWC could prove a sliding doors moment for 5G and present a launchpad for 5G’s power and capabilities to be realized (despite 6G already generating whispers on the show floor).

From a product perspective, there was an abundance of new devices announced. HONOR launched its Magic 5 Series, including a foldable smartphone. TCL announced a range of devices, OPPO did likewise with its innovative Find N2 Flip, a vertically folding smartphone that was its flagship announcement. Huawei unveiled its smartwatch, the GT Cyber, which includes a detachable watch face. Nokia announced a rebrand and a move towards a greater focus on its B2B business. Xiaomi, Motorola, OnePlus, and many others also launched new products. All of them made noise, landing great coverage and awareness.

The future of trade shows?

So, where does the value lie as a marketer? Should we take the Samsung Galaxy Unpacked approach, or leverage tentpole events like MWC?

Samsung undoubtedly made less noise than its competitors at MWC, but then one could argue that its job was done through Galaxy Unpacked: it made its statement and created fanfare a month early, using MWC as an opportunity for consumers to get hands-on with their products. But with the world’s media present at MWC and everyone watching, Samsung didn’t come away with as much talkability as others.

MWC felt like an important place to be. CES was the same earlier this year. There is still huge value in brands holding their announcements for these events, and creating big marketing moments. Yes, there’s a lot of noise across the show but if your products truly differentiate and innovate, you will stand out from the crowd. IFA, which takes place in September, traditionally has fewer announcements and product innovations but smart marketers should look to use IFA as an opportunity to continue generating momentum and noise for their brands.

The technology and connectivity world feels alive. It will be interesting to see if that impetus remains for IFA later this year.

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Make Honey is an award-winning communications agency that creates impact for brands. Our clients cut through the media maelstrom and secure sales through PR, content...

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