We’re a month out from the biggest show in mobile each year, and as the preparations for the party that is Mobile World Congress 2018 are underway, it’s time to take a look at what we might expect to see.
LG unlikely to announce a new flagship
At the outset, it looks like there could be some names missing from the line-up. The biggest name not to be doing something huge is LG. After having two flashy shows in 2016 and 2017, it appears that LG is opting for a different approach this year. Instead of announcing an anticipated LG G7, instead we’re led to believe that LG might not be announcing very much at all. This is on the back of news that the LG G7 was shelved at the behest of LG’s senior management … and one can only conclude that it either wasn’t up to scratch, or it simply didn’t offer enough “wow” to turn around LG Mobile’s more than 10 consecutive quarterly losses.
What are we likely to see? A revamped LG V30+ is what’s rumoured, and it’s hard to get too excited about that. The LG V30+ is already a great platform, but it’s last year’s platform, and a bit of spit and polish does not a big splash into 2018 make.
LG is likely to run a press show mid afternoon on Sunday 25 February. They usually use Barcelona’s Sant Jordi Club for the event .. but with less fanfare than a new flagship phone, one wonders if they might use something a little less fancy.
Samsung will most likely launch theirs, though
Despite rumours that Samsung might “go early” and launch their next instalment of the Galaxy S series in January, perhaps even at CES, nothing much eventuated beyond a Bixby-enabled refrigerator (and who doesn’t want one of those…). It seems like, after a year off, Samsung will be back with an all-singing all-dancing show at MWC 2018, to announce the Galaxy S9 range.
Already we’ve seen more leaks than you can shake a stick at – and this is pretty common for Samsung’s top-shelf products. It builds the hype, and gets news-readers interested, and most importantly, it builds customer demand. Not that it really needs to; Samsung is the world’s top smartphone manufacturer, and there’s little doubt in my mind that the Galaxy S9 range will exceed all sales expectations, and probably will drub past year sales results too.
Samsung didn’t make much of a show at MWC 2017, opting to delay the launch of the Galaxy S8 to restore consumer confidence after the Galaxy Note 7 issues. In 2016, though, they had a spectacular event at CCIB in north-eastern Barcelona, where some 4,000 people witnessed the launch of the Galaxy S7. Mark Zuckerberg even made a cameo. It seems most likely that Samsung will be looking to make a big return to MWC, and thus a big, flashy event seems quite likely. Expect something on the evening of February 25, which will be just before dawn on Monday morning our time.
Alcatel, ZTE and Lenovo’s Motorola will be there, too
Alcatel’s stand at MWC is always interesting, because of their bright, colourful and clever phones produced for the more affordable end of the market. At MWC last year they announced a swathe of phones, some of which made it here and others did not, but all of them were a capable demonstration that you don’t need to make top-tier flagships to remain competitive. There’s far more to the market than the thin sliver at the top.
What will Alcatel show this year? A new line of phones with edge-to-edge displays is rumoured, but beyond that, who knows. Rumour suggests they’ll hold a press conference on Saturday night or Sunday afternoon ahead of the conference starting Monday.
ZTE will most likely repeat their large-form booth that they’ve had at MWC for a couple of years, but relatively less is known about what they’ll actually be announcing. With the end of manufacturing for the exceptionally capable ZTE Axon 7, rumours persist that ZTE will announce a replacement, and we’ve seen some interesting dual-screen speculation, but it’s pretty light on. ZTE will be one to watch, especially for the enthusiasts who’ve cottoned on to their high-value, low-cost model.
Nokia, too, are likely to announce something, though exactly what remains to be seen. They made a big splash last year with the announcement of a handful of phones, and as we’ve seen in reviews published throughout 2017, Nokia makes a compellingly-strong Android phone. Like others in this segment, they’re eminently affordable, quite powerful, and well designed. Though the 3310 3G captured the most attention at MWC 2017, we think it’s their Android phones that will take the focus this year.
Last, but not least, is Lenovo’s Motorola. They had a big show in 2017, announcing a range of handsets alongside other Lenovo-branded tablets, and that momentum looks ready to carry into 2018 as well, with rumours of a range of phones already leaked. While Moto will undoubtedly be at the show, exactly what phones will be announced remains speculative. Almost certainly it’ll be something, but the full range? Probably not. Keep an eye out for updated Lenovo product offerings as well … one of the few brand-name manufacturers of Android tablets which aren’t truly awful.
Huawei might, or might not, launch it’s next P-series flagship
Huawei is the wildcard at MWC 2018, because while it has launched phones there in the last couple of years, it hasn’t always been so. Last year’s P10 was announced at a packed-out press event at Montjuic Castle, and the lines of people clamouring to get hands-on with the device afterward is something I won’t soon forget. In a press-event that included the ever-quirky Richard Yu, and some mind-numbing commentary from someone from Pantone with incredible shoes, Huawei announced a swathe of phones as well as some very-desirable wearables.
In 2016, though, Huawei launched elsewhere. The P9 was launched April in London, and arrived in Australia a couple of months later. The P8 was also launched in London, in April, and arrived in Australia a few months later.
In 2018, Huawei is widely expected to launch the next instalment of the P-series, just no one really knows what it’ll be called. There’s some speculation that Huawei will skip the P11 label and jump to P20 instead and, I must admit, P20 has a much better ring to it.
Will the P20 launch at MWC? Rumours suggest it might, but I have a sneaking suspicion that it may not. It’s too early for press invites just yet – and we haven’t received any for any other brands, either – so it’s a bit of speculation at this point.
But on that …
Why would brands eschew MWC 2018 to launch a phone?
One word. Samsung.
MWC 2017 was incredible for one very obvious factor; Samsung was nowhere to be seen. While they maintained an enormous booth on the show floor, packed full of .. well .. already-announced technology from 2016, as well as a few new tablets, they were hardly the headline act. In fact, most of the mentions of Samsung relating to MWC 2017 were immediately preceded by “Where is…”
Because Samsung weren’t announcing a mobile, literally everyone else did. In some respects, MWC 2017 was bigger because Samsung wasn’t there. We saw new phones (that I can remember) from Blackberry, LG, Huawei, Motorola, Alcatel, ZTE, Nokia, and Oppo. In fact, there were probably more. It almost felt like brands were clamouring to fill the vacuum, seizing upon the opportunity to announce a phone and actually have the media — and customers — pay attention.
At MWC 2018, though, the reverse may prove to be true. With the juggernaut of Samsung, you can easily see how most of the attention will focus on the new Galaxy S9 even if — as rumoured — it doesn’t have anything that’s really super exciting about it. This may mean that other brands might choose to launch elsewhere, at a different time, so as to avoid being lost amongst the Samsung news.
It’s a smart strategy .. and it worked well for Samsung last year. Launching outside the MWC news cycle, and well after it, meant that Samsung literally had the platform all to itself, and that’s something brands may wish for themselves in 2018. Far from their disappointing MWC hurting their marketing, if anything, it helped.
As we get closer to MWC 2018, the leaks and rumours will only intensify, and we’ll do our best to cover them all and wrap them up ahead of the show.