It’s just dumb glass
Hardware continues to be evolutionary, rather than revolutionary, and the big excitement is around the services that can be accessed on the device, rather than the device itself..
Samsung’s S7 is a definite evolution of the S6, with waterproofing being the main improvement.
LG appears to have picked up where Google left off with Project Ara, by releasing the LG G5, a revolutionary modular design allowing the bottom of the phone to be removed, and additional modules to be added. For example, adding a professional camera attachment, allowing manual focus and zooming, or an audio unit, designed in conjunction with Bang & Olufsen.
Other handsets from HTC, Huawei, ZTE are not about to make a big splash in western markets, but will undoubtedly be big in Asia.
- Virtual Reality
Virtual Reality was big at MWC 2016, with lots of demos available, and companies taking two different approaches.
At the high end ($599 – $799) are Oculus Rift and HTC with their Vive headset. Both of these need to be tethered to a very high spec computer for processing capacity, and allow users to interact with their surroundings.
At the opposite end is Samsung’s Gear VR (free with pre-orders of the Galaxy S7, and featuring Mark Zuckerberg at the launch) and LG’s 360 VR headset. These use the phone to process the image, but don’t allow for user engagement with the environment.
Both Samsung and LG also launched 360 cameras, enabling users to create, and share, their own 360 content. This may provide the impetus needed to take 360 video mainstream.
- The Connected Car
The caveat with Connected Cars is that the time from design to market for cars (typically 4 years) is too long for the connected world, where the time to market is much shorter, making connected cars obsolete before they even launch.
This year saw companies taking a modular approach, with Qualcomm showing a dashboard with what amounts to a removable hard drive for system updates. Of course, this is something that Tesla have already mastered with their over the air software updates.
Visa showed a prototype with Honda, which enabled mobile payments at petrol stations or drive-in fast food restaurants.
- The Internet of Things
The Internet of Things was everywhere with seemingly everything connected to everything. Whilst some use cases are starting to take off, there’s still a long way to go for some. LG’s Rolling Bot being a case in point. Billed as a rolling camera that you can use to entertain your pets, it doubles as a home surveillance camera.
IoT was also evident in the connected cities displays, showing how sensors can be used to monitor everything from the weather to traffic conditions, and the data used to optimise the efficient running of civic infrastructure.
Consumer uses for IoT focussed on the Smart Home. With so many competing ecosystems coming to market, consumers will have to be careful that all of their IoT devices are able to talk to each other.
The surprise at MWC 2016 was the amount of companies showing mobile payment solutions. Both Visa and Mastercard were showing wearables with contactless payments enabled that allow users to pay by tapping their sunglasses or gloves on a terminal.
Mastercard went a stage further showing the use of face recognition technology to authorise payments, whilst Visa took a different direction whereby a user can wave their hand over a scanner for authentication.
TransferTo were showing the impact that mobile payments will have on the 2 billion people who don’t have a bank account. Mpesa is already the world’s most popular m-payments solution replacing a lot of cash transactions in Kenya.