What to Expect at Mobile World Congress (MWC) 2017

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BlackBerry Mercury

The biggest mobile industry trade show of the year, Mobile World Congress (MWC) 2017, is coming from February 27 to March 2 this year. It’ll be full of new phones as usual, but that’s only the beginning: tablets and networks have played big roles in previous years, and we should expect a lot of AR, VR, and voice interfaces this year as well.

MWC is the kind of show where a lot of things lock in about two weeks before the event; we don’t even know what the keynote speeches will be. We’ll update this story as we learn more about what’s coming at MWC, but here’s what we expect so far.

LG vs. Samsung

With the Samsung Galaxy S8’s official launch rumored for April 18, the biggest phone at the show is likely to be the LG G6. LG will ditch the G5’s modular form and its “friends” in exchange for a sleeker, more “usable” look, according to current rumors. LG’s traditional slot is Sunday afternoon, so expect a press conference on February 26.

Samsung won’t take this lying down, so there are rumors that the company will do some sort of buzzy, early S8 reveal that falls short of a full launch, in part to take the wind out of LG’s sails. The company also has a huge booth, and needs to fill it with something.

Without the S8, Samsung is going to have to fall back on tablets. It hasn’t updated the Galaxy Tab S series in more than a year, and its pen-enabled Note android tablets appear to have died of old age. Bringing the pen back on an Android Nougat tablet would keep the Note dream alive even though the Note 7 was recalled.

The Return of BlackBerry and Nokia

Two old-school names will return to MWC in a big way. MWC will be where TCL introduces the BlackBerry “Mercury,” its new keyboarded Android phone which looks to have a much brighter potential future than BlackBerry’s 2015 Priv handset did. Hopefully, BlackBerry’s John Chen will give one of his annual updates on his business as well.

Meanwhile, Nokia’s back, and it’s going to be absolutely huge at MWC. The company is teasing a press conference for Sunday, February 26. While most Americans think of Nokia as a long-ago irrelevancy, it has a frothing level of fandom remaining in Europe, and that’s where the show is. HMD, the Finnish company that owns the Nokia name, just launched its first phone in China, and expect more of a lineup at MWC.

Android Wear’s Second Act

Google typically has a big, whimsical presence at MWC, with a Willy Wonka-like booth full of snacks and games. MWC lines up pretty neatly with Google’s promise to finally deliver Android Wear 2.0 early this year, and the show could see the first official Android Wear 2.0 upgrades and watches.

Something Involving Mobile Content

The highest profile keynote speakers at the show so far are all in the entertainment industry: the CEOs of AT&T Entertainment (aka Time Warner), Netflix, and Turner. What could these guys possibly be talking about? Well, they could engage in dull back-patting, or they could be talking about a broader international rollout of streaming services.

5G Face-Off

Prominent carrier CEOs aren’t on the MWC list yet, but they’ll be there, and infrastructure will play a big role at the show. Ericsson and Huawei, two major infrastructure vendors, have booths the size of small towns, and AT&T is sponsoring a smart cities area. I’m thinking that AT&T, Verizon or Sprint execs will make a late appearance at the show to put firmer dates on their planned 5G rollouts.

… And More

Huawei, Lenovo, Sony, ZTE, Nubia, WIKO, HTC, Gionee and others all have significantly sized booths at the show, and they’re going to have to show something off. Huawei is promising a big event starting February 26. HTC’s doing a big announcement on January 12, and may devote its booth to that product, possibly called the HTC U Ultra. As for the rest, we’ll see. Huawei just launched the Mate 9, and tends to do its P-series phones a little later in the year in China. ZTE might bring a smartwatch. We’ll keep you updated as we see more reliable information in the weeks to come.

(Why?)

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