What we expect from MWC 2024


In a small For one week (February 26-29), around 85,000 attendees will travel to the Fira de Barcelona for the Mobile World Congress 2024. Over the past few years, the show has arguably become the most important mobile event in the world. ‘year. Phone makers, telecommunications companies and various other technology providers, journalists and analysts are converging to discuss what the next year has in store for the industry.

Like any other major in-person event, the past few years have been difficult for MWC. In 2019, the show attracted 109,000 visitors – not quite the CES numbers (which reached ~175,000 that same year), but still an impressive turnout for what is ultimately a much more focused show. COVID hit the show hard for a few years (join the club).

After numerous major vendor withdrawals and weeks of angst, the GSM Association (GMA) canceled the 2020 event. A significantly scaled-down version of the event took place the following year, with a strict cap on attendance. 2022 saw the start of a rebound to 60,000 participants, while last year it reached 88,500. Organizers expect a similar figure for this year’s event. The number is still considerably lower than the show height, but the MWC is still considered a large show.

It’s a little more difficult to judge the show’s current level of importance to the industry, however. This is largely due to certain macroeconomic trends that have impacted almost every tech industry trade show. Even before the pandemic, large vendors had begun migrating to their own standalone events, so as not to get lost in the noise. COVID has only accelerated the trend as businesses have been forced to figure out live event streaming.

Some of the biggest names in the industry no longer have a major presence. Take Samsung, which has made a habit of announcing its new flagships during the formerly slow weeks between CES and MWC. As we head into this year’s event, I’d like to tell you that, like CES, some fascinating small startups have been rushing to fill this void, but that’s not really the case. At least it’s nowhere near what we saw at the Vegas event.

There’s a pretty decent startup presence at MWC, although it takes the form of its own sister event. 4FYN (that’s Four Years From Now) is celebrating its tenth year of existence in 2024. Hopefully this will result in an exciting screening. The event is organized by the same organization in the same venue. I’ve come to think of it as the Mobile World Congress equivalent of CES’s Eureka Park: a big, cacophonous room full of startups. Honestly, there are the worst ways to spend an afternoon at work.

For companies participating in the show and pitch-offs, it is an opportunity to gain an audience with the large and engaged MWC audience. For us, this is an opportunity to look at small businesses that might otherwise have gone unnoticed. The event is not reserved for European startups, but they tend to dominate for reasons of proximity. It’s much easier to get to Spain than to cross an ocean and a continent or two to end up in the pit of despair that is Las Vegas, Nevada.

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Some of the trends that I think will dominate the conversation include the continued focus on health-focused wearable devices, including new form factors like the smart ring. Masks worn on the head have always had a certain presence in the salon. This seems to be one of the biggest shows for HTC Vive, for example. Following the launch of Apple’s Vision Pro and Qualcomm’s commitment to AR and VR, I expect to talk a lot about it once the show begins.

MWC is also a fun show for concept devices. This is where Lenovo/Motorola shine. In fact, the more I think about it, the more convinced I am that Lenovo is having the most fun among the world’s leading consumer electronics manufacturers. Expect everything to bend and/or slide. Some will be pure concepts, but Lenovo isn’t afraid to release some truly deliciously weird stuff. There is even a “transparent laptop” currently rumored for the event.

Speaking of rumors, Nothing’s mid-range 2a handset is set to release on March 5 (although apparently limited here in the US). Carl Pei’s former company, OnePlus, will also be there. Last year’s show allowed the company to build on its own line of concept devices. This year, the OnePlus Watch 2 is rumored to be about to be released.

More generally, expect AI everywhere at MWC, but be prepared to look past the BS (don’t worry, we’re here to help). Samsung has broken the “generative AI smartphone seal with the Galaxy S24 line”, and now it will be released in full form with applications ranging from useful to ridiculous. I am cautiously optimistic about the proliferation of AI devices in the mold of Human Pin and Rabbit R1. As with CES, I expect robots to get a chance to shine at the event, although this time around they’ll mostly come from European companies. There is also the problem of this Xiaomi car.

It is above all a major meeting for telecoms, and yes, conversations about 6G have already started. However, remember, before the inevitable flood, we are still very early in development. No standards have been agreed and it will probably be around four years before we see compatible devices. However, advanced 5.5G/5G technology is a reality pushed in particular by Chinese companies. Expect to hear a lot about this – and other things – from Huawei, which has spent the last few years slowly finding its way back after losing access to Google and Qualcomm products.

Wi-Fi is also very real and likely to have a big presence at this year’s show, succeeding Wi-Fi 6E as the latest wireless standard. TechCrunch will also be live and present at MWC.


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