Last week, we were at Mobile World Congress 2015 in Barcelona and we would like to share with you the highlights and the key takeaways of this year’s show for both our individual mobile developers and our enterprise customers. We walked more than 12 miles (20 km) every day to scour the every corner of the exhibition to see how our community can benefit from what the industry has to offer.
Unlike previous years, phones were not the main hype this year, actually there was not something specific to be hyped about, but there were new developments in all parts of the mobile landscape. Let’s see them in different categories:
Android Phones and Tablets
- The biggest announcement was the Samsung’s flagship Galaxy S6. Even though the hardware specs and the design is much more impressive than its previous iterations, the main focus was the Galaxy S6 Edge.
- Edges look stunning and they may be useful, but as a feature that is likely to appear only on a couple of high end phones, time will tell how many third party apps will be developed for Samsung Edge. Please drop us a message if you are interested in having Samsung Edge support in Smartface.
- LG unveiled the next generation of its curved phone, the LG G Flex 2. The device keeps its signature features with high-end hardware.
- HTC announced the next generation HTC One M9 and there was almost nothing else in the HTC booth. The hardware is impressive but there are only major impressive improvements in design. It should be specifically noted that HTC no longer uses the “ultrapixel” camera in this model and instead uses a regular 20MP camera.
Asus showcased the successor of its highly popular Zenfone, the Zenfone 2. Carrying a 64-bit Intel CPU with high-end hardware, it is expected to be popular with a good price point below handsets with similar specs. (Thanks to Intel subsidies.) We would like to remind that Smartface supports Intel architecture natively and you can develop both ARM and Intel compatible apps without any performance problems.
- Sony did not announce a flagship this year; instead, they released the sleek and high performance Xperia Z4 tablet and the M4 Aqua phone for those who want an inexpensive, durable and waterproof phone.
- Chinese manufacturers are also becoming more than just private label producers. ZTE, Huawei, Xiaomi, Hisense, Gionee all had high-end phones with competitive specs and design. Similarly, we see players from other countries such as Alcatel or Vestel battling to earn a name in the market.
- For smaller Chinese manufacturers, this year’s trend was “getting inspiration” from iPhone 6. Most phones either looked like an iPhone 6 or had a generic design that is indistinguishable from one another.
Wearables and gadgets
Wearables are commonplace this year and with a bit of exaggeration, it is even possible to say that there were as many wearables on display as phones. Most of the wearables were Smartwatches running on Google Wear platform. Device design and the materials were the main differentiation point between these watches, but they look more “wearable” compared to their first generation counterparts. In our opinion, there is still time for smartwatches to be matured, so unless you opt-in for inexpensive alternatives like the classic Pebble, it’s better to wait for the next generation of smartwatches. Below are some notable ones from the current generation along with other interesting wearables:
- LG Watch Urbane LTE and LG Watch Urbane LTE: LG had two watches on display, former one being an Android Wear smartwatch, resembling a standard watch in design and the latter one was a webOS smartwatch with LTE connectivity, so it is possible to use it for phone calls with any need to connect to a phone. However, it was excessively big for most wrists.
- Huawei Watch: With its design and customizability, this smartwatch stands among the crowd and at this price point, it is compared to Apple Watch. Huawei also had TalkBand as a more affordable wearable.
MediaTek 361 GPS shoe: This “wearable” allows you to track your kid’s location and it is charged wirelessly with a pad. Use of such a gadget may be a bit controversial but nonetheless, it is an innovative and more useful wearable among the loads and loads of watches.
- Sony SmartEyeGlass Attach: Instead of full glasses, this is a device to be attached any glasses, mainly marketed to be used during sports activities. There is still time for this to be a consumer product, but considering the fact that Google Glass was pulled back, Sony’s Glass may get some more attention.
HTC RE Vive: Even virtual reality is not a novel thing any more and there was already Oculus Rifts and Galaxy Gear VRs (which is also an Oculus) around for various demonstrations. Now, HTC joins the bandwagon with Vive. Developed with cooperation with Valve, it shows promise and initial receptions are highly positive.
Firefox OS now runs on a wide range of phones starting from a $25 phone to a high-end “transparent” phone from LG. Moreover, it is expanding its reach to TVs and wearables. Basically, the OS itself is one big web browser, all apps being web apps. The main problem is that most of them are just mobile websites, so the performance burden lies on the network, not on the device itself. This approach may work well in emerging markets with inexpensive phones, but it is doubtful if Firefox phones can compete with iOS and Android in mature markets.
- Tizen’s offering and approach is also very similar to Firefox, but just with a single phone launched by Samsung and a couple of wearables, gaining traction in the mobile space will be even more difficult than Firefox OS. It is unlikely that we see a Tizen Edge anytime soon.
- Ubuntu and Jolla were also present at MWC. Both are Linux-based OSes trying to compete in mobile space and they aim to cover the points like security and stability where Android may fall a bit short, but unless they are fully compatible with Android and/or desktop apps, they will have a hard time convincing developers to develop Qt-based apps just for these platforms.
- Microsoft’s focus was mainly on Windows 10 use cases and Lumia phones. We saw Windows 10 in action, but they were very secretive about the cross-architecture development opportunities in Windows 10. We need to wait until Microsoft’s own event to get a developer’s glimpse at Windows 10.
- Until now, Internet of Things was mostly a buzzword just with a couple of smart appliances that can connect to the internet, but this year there were many practical applications of it in both consumer and enterprise settings. As network providers emphasize, it is more about the “internet” of things, not the “things themselves.
- Google is planning to provide its own mobile network, but it is not certain if it is just an experiment or a trial for something much bigger.
- Yo! also showed that it’s more than a simple messaging app. They have an ambition to bring a new way of connecting to places where internet connectivity is limited, especially in developing countries.
- Intel is pushing from all fronts to establish a strong presence in the mobile space. With products in cloud computing, security and mobile network hardware, Intel is trying to be at everywhere. The most important part for the consumers is that new mobile chipsets were announced: x3, x5 and x7, which are also SOC (system on chip); therefore, Intel aims to cover all mobile functionalities with less cost as well as to create an ecosystem. In the second half of the year, we will see Intel hardware on more phones, including low-end devices.
- 4G is something commonplace now; technology and hardware providers are fully capable about it.
5G is slowly emerging from Korea and Japan. There are no established standards yet, but if it can deliver the speeds promised, the way we consume content in mobile would significantly change. It will be even more critical for Internet of Things, especially in cases where network latency cannot be tolerated such as self-driving cars or wearable-assisted medical operations.
As we see from the sheer size of the booths of enterprise solution providers such as IBM, Oracle or Airwatch, enterprise mobility is getting more and more importance. Below are some general and some company-specific highlights:
- Mobile payments: Competition in mobile payments are getting hotter. Samsung and Google are now in play with new announcements regarding mobile payments. They are now competing more seriously with Apple Pay. It is highly likely that mobile payments will finally be commonplace this year, but due to the dependency on hardware, its volume may still be limited.
- Mobile advertising: It is not just plain advertising anymore, it is “publishing” with “publisher networks” and “monetization platforms”. Both in terms of technical issues and content, mobile advertising landscape is much more mature and offers sophisticated solutions for different usage scenarios. With the upcoming plug-in support in Smartface, you will soon have the opportunity to use any publishing SDK you want for monetizing your apps.
- Internet of things and wearables: IoT and M2M (machine-to-machine) were ambiguous concepts for enterprises until recently, but now, enterprises are expected to take advantage of the latest technology for better control over processes with increased productivity. We advise enterprises to include IoT in their enterprise mobility strategies.
SAP: After many acquisitions, SAP finally streamlined its mobile offering to SAP Mobile Platform. This platform is much more open to community and provides flexibility to integrate mobile apps easily with SAP backends. SAP is much more mobile oriented now and catching up fast, but their own solution in terms of mobile frontend is not native, whereas Smartface supports developing native apps integrated with SAP. You don’t need separate mobile application development platforms in your company for different enterprise solutions.
- Airwatch: There are many players in the mobile device management (MDM) space and Airwatch is trying to be one step ahead of the competition with advanced management features and a solution ecosystem. Airwatch’s efforts are impressive, but with competition from the likes of Samsung and Intel who have the advantage of being built-in to the hardware as well as with the inclination of enterprises to mobile application management (MAM) instead of MDM, things will not be easy for Airwatch.
- We are happy to have had the chance to see the strange and cute LG AKA phones with “personalities”, as we are not very hopeful about their release in the west.
- In an attempt to sugarcoat the Android fragmentation, Android brings back the pin collection frenzy with the slogan “Be together. Not the same.” Even though there is no need to worry about Android fragmentation with Smartface, we still struggled to collect them all and succeeded to collect 112 of 124 pins 🙂
There are still more to be told, so just send us a tweet @smartface_io if you would like us to cover some more specific stuff from MWC.
See you next year at Barcelona!