Next week, Mobile World Congress returns to Barcelona, two years after the COVID-19 pandemic forced the cancellation of the world’s largest mobile phone trade show, and a year after the show took place without many of the largest exhibitors in attendance. . Not everyone will return to this year’s personal event (Sony, Lenovo and some media, including The edge are not present), but it almost feels like the show is back on full blast.
But it is also an event that will show exactly how much the smartphone industry has changed in recent years. As it stands, all of the show’s biggest hardware announcements seem likely to come from Chinese brands like Oppo, Honor, TCL, Xiaomi sub-brand Poco, and Huawei, rather than brands from Europe, America, or even another Asian country. such as South Korea.
For example, Honor plans to announce the Magic 4 series at the show, the first launch of a Western flagship smartphone since its split with former parent company Huawei. While the company released the mid-range Honor 50 globally last year, the Magic 4 is rumored to use Qualcomm’s flagship Snapdragon 8 Gen 1 processor, making it a direct (and likely affordable) competitor to Samsung’s Galaxy S22 or the OnePlus 10. .
Meanwhile, Oppo has said it plans to announce “several high-end flagship products” in addition to augmented reality and 5G “R&D performance” at this year’s MWC. The company just announced its latest flagship smartphone, the Find X5 Pro, last Thursday, but still plans to use this year’s show to make important announcements.
Or what about TCL, which says it will unveil more entries in its 30-series smartphones after announcing its first two entries, the 30 XE 5G and 30 V5G, at CES earlier this year. Or Poco, the Xiaomi sub-brand that plans to announce the Poco X4 Pro 5G and Poco M4 Pro at an event on February 28. Oppo spin-off Realme promises the “the world’s fastest charging technology for smartphonesat this year’s show, which for those who keep up should be faster than the 125W UltraDart tech it announced a few years ago.
In contrast, major phone brands outside of China have rarely shown much interest in using MWC for major consumer-facing announcements. Google has never launched a smartphone at MWC, and Apple takes the show about as seriously as any other major show, ie “not very”. But even Samsung, which used MWC to announce its flagship Galaxy S smartphone in 2018, seems to be focusing its MWC launches this year on a modest laptop. Only HMD, the Finland-based company that now produces Nokia-branded smartphones, has routinely timed its key product announcements with the Barcelona trade show.
MWC’s increasing focus on Chinese companies doesn’t mean it’s losing relevance, as these phones are more popular with customers around the world than ever. As of last year, IDC reported that three of the five most popular smartphone brands worldwide – Xiaomi, Oppo and Vivo – are headquartered in China, with the number one and two occupied by Samsung and Apple. It’s a similar situation especially in Europe, where Counterpoint Research reports that seven of the ten most popular smartphone brands are headquartered in China.
Instead, I think the trend is an interesting representation of who has the most to gain from timing a big announcement to coincide with a busy stock market. It’s not companies like Samsung and Apple that have such a global physical presence that they can organize major launches apart from major trade shows. But for a company like Honor or TCL, a show like MWC seems like an invaluable way to get a lot of press in one place to show off your wares.
The news surrounding MWC 2022 will almost certainly be dominated by Chinese tech brands, who are doing everything they can to keep the buzz around Europe’s biggest mobile show alive. But the more you look at it, it starts to look like good logistics.