MWC Barcelona is a wrap. The biggest theme of the event was the breathless anticipation of the benefits of the 5G networks, which are in early deployment this year. But practically speaking, 5G won’t be relevant to most consumers and companies until at least 2020, and it will take through 2023 to reach widespread network availability in major markets. But you’ll also need 5G-capable smartphones or device modems to take advantage of the new 5G networks. Beyond 5G, there was lots of hype about new smartphones, which can be summarized as the three Fs:
- (Five) 5G hype. The first-generation 5G modems and devices are just that: early devices that will work on whatever 5G network you can find in the next year but don’t have the full benefit of maximum performance or battery life because they’re so early. And the devices will be priced at a premium. Meanwhile, the 5G service prices haven’t been shared yet.
- Foldable tablets, not smartphones. The Huawei and Samsung folding devices are compromise phones meant to expand into small screen tablets. They’re bulkier than today’s premium smartphones and cost twice as much. It would be cheaper to buy two devices. So as launched, they’re status devices for flashy spenders, not a real option for mainstream users or B2B applications. Watch for the rumored Motorola folding phone for a device that will be smaller than today’s phones. That should do better with customers — price is the top purchase criteria for consumers.
- Ph(f)otography — more cameras on your smartphone. HMD/Nokia announced five cameras on one phone, using multicamera tech from Light, which is also working with Xiaomi and Sony. Samsung and others added wide-angle lenses to the existing two-lens approach and second selfie cameras. Camera capability is a top-five selection criteria for customers, so they’ll like these new photo options, but no smartphone maker has a clear advantage.