The season of new smartphone announcements is here once again. 2018’s second big consumer technology event (after January’s CES 2018) – the Mobile World Congress (MWC) – will take place at the Fira Gran Via and Fira Montjuïc (Barcelona, Spain) from February 26 to March 1. Touted as the largest mobile industry event in the calendar, last year’s edition of MWC had witnessed the presence of more than 108000 attendees (6% more than the 2016 visitor stats). MWC 2018 is expected to be even bigger, and there is an exciting lineup of new devices awaiting us at the event. We will here round up the most important expectations from MWC 2018:
The successor of LG V30
The response to the much-hyped LG G6 – launched at MWC 2016 – has been lukewarm at best. Contrary to previous speculations, the company will not be announcing the latest version of its flagship smartphone (LG G7) at this year’s event. Instead, the spotlight will be on the LG V30+α, powered by strong artificial intelligence (AI) features (according to reports from The Korea Herald). Many feel that the arrival of the LG V30 somewhat affected the sales of the G6 – and it makes complete sense to space out the arrival of the V30+α and the G7. The first look of the former will be displayed at MWC 2018, while the latter will probably be announced in April.
Note: In a bid to extend the device retention rates, LG is also planning to ditch its annual device release plans.
More on AI from Google
On a high after the excellent performance of the Pixel 2 handset (its number of activations worldwide was more than that of iPhone X during the Christmas holiday period), Google will be on hand to showcase more capabilities of the Google Assistant in particular, and AI technologies in general. At CES 2018 too, the tech giant had done the same – with headphones and smart displays (both working with Google Assistant) being displayed. The Android pin badges given out by Google at last year’s MWC had generated quite a bit of buzz, and the company is geared to give a thrust to Google Assistant this time around.
Comeback of Samsung at MWC
After a year’s break, Samsung is back at the MWC – and at a special ‘Unpacked’ event, the much anticipated Galaxy S9 and S9 Plus will be debuted. Powered by the Snapdragon 845 processor (by Qualcomm), the phones will feature subtle changes from the S8 design – with the repositioning of the fingerprint sensor being the high point. The biggest takeaway from the new bezelless phones, will be, however, the improved camera features. The S9 Plus is more than likely to have dual lens camera (at par with the Note 8), while the S9 will probably keep a single-lens camera. Samsung had announced a series of camera improvements in January, and it remains to be seen how these are implemented in the company’s new flagship handsets. There is an outside chance of a new Galaxy X being launched as well. Wearables, however, will probably not be launched at the MWC.
Note: Galaxy S8, launched at Samsung’s very own event in New York, registered impressive sales last year. The company will be looking to replicate its success and going a step forward with S9.
A Surface Phone from Microsoft? –
Microsoft’s first attempt at entering the smartphone market – with the Windows 10 Mobile – was nothing to write home about. The sales were well and truly disappointing, and many had termed its performance to be even worse than the shocking Windows Phone 8.1. The company is not giving up though – and at the MWC 2018, there is some chance (albeit lowly) of a new ‘Surface Phone’ being announced. Given the slew of new smartphones set to launch alongside it, and the already fierce mobile OS ecosystem – the Surface Phone (if it arrives) will face plenty of challenges. Let’s just put it this way – if a new Microsoft Surface Phone comes and flops, that might just be the end of the road for the line of Windows Phones. Surface Phone will be foldable, and if it can be nearly as successful as the Surface Notebook series – that will be a big #win for Microsoft.
The Mi 7 will be a no-show
In the midst of all the buzz about the latest flagship devices from Apple and Google and Samsung, Xiaomi has been very consistent with the quality and performance of its recent handsets. The Mi 6, launched in April 2017, has done well – and many had expected that the company will use the MWC platform this year to launch its successor, the Mi 7. That is, however, not going to happen – and according to early reports, it will be arriving not before April (along with a Mi 7 Plus phablet model). Xiaomi will, however, have something new to showcase at the MWC 2018 – in the form of Mi Mix 2S (an upgraded version of the Mi Mix 2, launched last September). It will also be using the powerful Snapdragon 845 processor – and should become at least as popular as the previous version.
Note: Xiaomi Mi 6 was sold out from online portals in a matter of seconds. The company can rest easy with the knowledge that there is strong demand for its phones.
Multiple new phone models from Alcatel
The OneTouch Android handsets from Alcatel (particularly targeted to the budget buyers) have been a reasonable success. The company has as many as 3 new smartphones – Alcatel 3v, Alcatel 5 and Alcatel 1x – in the pipeline (all showcased at CES 2018), and these will be making their formal debuts at this year’s MWC. While not much is known about the specifications of the 5 and the 1x, Alcatel 3v will have 2GB RAM and an impressive full-HD+ display (6”). All the three handsets will, of course, have 18:9 displays – and will be priced at competitive levels. Alcatel might also spring a surprise by naming a couple more new devices at the MWC platform as well.
Two new Blackberry phones
The comeback trail of the fallen market-leader Blackberry is set to continue this year. Since giving up its smartphone rights to TCL at the end of 2016, the company has enjoyed some rather surprising success – none bigger than the the KeyOne. Looking to build on it, the company has confirmed the announcement of two new handsets at MWC 2018, with at least one of them being the BB KeyTwo (or will it be named KeyOne 2?). The Black edition of KeyOne enjoyed relatively high sales too – although clouds have remained over how much TCL has benefited from the strong performances of these devices. If the new Blackberry phones are even moderately successful, the company might very well move ahead of Microsoft in this domain.
No smartphones from Huawei, but wearables, maybe?
Huawei is not having a great year till now. After a falling out with AT&T, the company had to put off its original plans to launch the feature-rich Mate 10 Pro at the CES 2018. Huawei has also announced that the new P20 handsets will be released in a separate event in Paris (on March 27). In such a scenario, it seems that the company will probably focus on the Watch 3 (although it might not be announced until Android Wear 3 arrives). Chances of Huawei coming up with upgraded Matebook models – which are already excellent – cannot be ruled out, while there might also be a new tablet. The fact that Huawei is breaking its tradition of refreshing its ‘P’ lineup of phones at this year’s MWC is probably due to more efforts required to expand the US markets.
Note: Till now, Huawei has been conspicuous by its absence in the smart speaker segment. There is a remote chance of the company using the MWC platform to spring up a surprise.
Nokia to launch more phones
For all the nostalgia over the revived Nokia 3310, its features were not particularly great, compared with its price tag. However, the other recent launches have been more than decent – and if the announcement by Juho Sarvikas (the head of HMD Global) is anything to go by, Nokia has ‘awesome’ news stacked up for the upcoming MWC event. Rumours are rife about several new Nokia phones being launched soon – with at least a couple being announced at MWC 2018. The best thing about the releases will be that Nokia will be having a device for every range of customer. The Nokia 1 will be a basic smartphone running on Android Go, the Nokia 9 will have OLED QHD display, the Nokia 4 will be a mid-range handset, while the Nokia 7 Plus will be a simple upgrade over the well-received Nokia 7.
First dual camera phone from Sony
Last year’s MWC was lit up by Sony with the cutting-edge XZs and XZ Premium – both of which received decent responses. Since then, the company has decidedly turned its attentions towards more mid-level phones – with the Xperia XA2 and L2 having been announced last month. At the MWC, Sony has chances to showcase its very first flagship device with dual camera – the Snapdragon 845-powered Xperia XZ Pro. The handset will come with IP68 dust and water-resistance, along with 18 MP and 12 MP cameras, and 6GB RAM (storage 128GB). Over the last few quarters, Sony has steadily fallen behind in the smartphone race – and the XZ series is its chance to make up some lost ground.
Note: The new Sony smartphone might also be named the Xperia XZ1 Premium.
11. Updates do the Moto G line
While the chances of the Moto Z3 making an appearance at MWC 18 are practically nil, Motorola is going to have a strong presence at the event. For the budget users, the company is set to launch three new handsets (at least a couple will be announced) – the Moto G6, the G6 Play and the G6 Plus. The G6 Play is the standout over here, with an impressive 4000 mAh battery – and all the devices will have dual cameras (12 MP/5 MP) and 5.7” display (G6 Plus will have 5.93” screen). Lenovo garnered great reviews for Moto G5/G5 Plus last year – and it will be looking for similar reactions to the upcoming trio of devices.
Note: Another new phone model – the Moto X5 – will also be launched this year (but probably not at the MWC).
12. A new Zenfone is in the offing
The Zenfone 4 was easily one of the best Android phones last year. Its successor, the Asus Zenfone 5, will be showcased at MWC 2018. In an official tweet, the company hinted that it might be starting a brand-new ‘5’ line of smartphones (#BackTo5) – with the latest Zenfone being the first in that series. Asus has plans to break into the list of top seven smartphone manufacturers globally by 2018 Q3 – and a solid performance from Zenfone 5 (which will have bumped up operating efficiency levels) will go a long way towards ensuring that.
While nothing is confirmed till now, we will probably not get to see the HTC U12 at this year’s MWC (the U11+ was released recently). Honor will also be present at the event, but it is unlikely that the company will showcase any new smartphones (in December, it released 2 phones – the 7X and the View 10). All eyes are now on February 25 – the day when we will find out how many of these new handsets are actually announced.
Which of these are you most excited for?