The interesting, strange and downright obvious of Mobile World Congress 2011

A bumper year at Mobile World Congress, with over 60,000 people geeking out over the latest phones and butchering the Spanish language ordering tapas and cerveza.

Raam Thakrar, CEO of Touchnote, the multi-award-winning London based start-up that lets you send physical postcards via your mobile phone, was out in Barcelona. Here’s his behind-the-scenes round-up of the interesting, strange and downright obvious of from this year’s show:

The interesting

– Google and the Android platform certainly saw the most attention at the show – it seems it is quickly becoming the centre of the MWC universe.
– Manufacturers are working really hard to pull in customers – and the hardware constraints are bringing out some real creativity. Ranging from 3D to dual core, from wooden to the obvious OS choice, the sheer number of handsets launched at MWC was impressive. And that’s without including all the tablets and in-car devices that were revealed.
– It was notable that manufacturers were trying to segment their audiences with individual handsets designed with a very specific audience in mind. Sony Ericsson’s Xperia Play is a potentially very lucrative example of this.
– NFC was also seen as a great (and long-awaited) step for the industry. Some real additional revenue to be generated from mobile, it’s nice to discover a “new” channel. It’ll be exciting when mobile developers actually get to tap into this.
– This year’s show also demonstrated that apps are now a major part of the value chain – and potentially highly lucrative

The strange

– Really, why is the whole world is jumping into tablets at exactly the same time? Isn’t that like different expeditions trying to reach the South Pole at the same time? Err, wait…
– How is it that MWC really can’t manage to get working WiFi for everyone! Why is it that hard to get right? Ah, the irony that we in the industry can’t afford our own roaming charges.
– Was there really a protest outside the venue on day 1 saying that all mobile phones should be banned?

The downright obvious

– Operators were not a central part of the conversation
– Much as we’re all really excited about Facebook-focused phones, how much will this really be a differentiator?
– Nokia-soft really was the big talking point, and everyone had an opinion. General consensus was that this was a great deal for Microsoft. Interestingly, there was surprisingly little discussion on the impact of the deal on the eco-system, more on the emotional choice of the OS.
– We don’t really talk feature phones any more – sad, but it’s just not as sexy as the skinniest or sleekest model


MWC is good and predictable. You kind of know how your week will go before you arrive. There are few real announcements at the event itself. But if you work the event, it really is the epicentre of the mobile world for those few days.

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