MWC 2016 booths photo
avatarBy Armen Matosyan

Each year, new products, technologies, and business model innovations are unveiled at the Mobile World Congress. We attended the 2016 Mobile World Congress in Barcelona to see the action firsthand and hear from the biggest names in the tech world. These were our main takeaways from MWC 2016:

Mobile

Barcelona didn’t uncover much new in the way of hardware design. The majority of new phones look the same and are powered by Android, meaning that this year’s software also looks essentially the same.

Devices on the shelf. From MWC 16.Lenovo devices showcased on MWC 2016

However, there were buzzworthy products. The Samsung Galaxy S7 and S7 Edge got the most attention. Both devices are designed to repel dust and water and bring back the long-lasting expandable memory that so endeared fans of the Galaxy S5 series. The S7 Edge costs a few dollars more but comes with a curved screen.

Also worth noting is that more phones are being fitted with more and more features which are designed for more advanced users. This seems to be a signal that mobile usage is getting on an advanced level.

Internet of Things

If our future has a mantra, it will be “everything is connected.” That is embodied by the “internet of things” (IoT), a network of electronically-embedded physical objects that is in its first big expansion phase. Factors trending in its favor are the expanding availability of internet connections and the fact that hardware is becoming less expensive, so more accessible to individuals.

Another huge factor behind IoT growth? Mobile operators are promoting it aggressively. This was on display at MWC 2016, where special sessions were held to provide information about this exciting trend. Plus, we checked out the IoT pavilion and learned about how it is creating new business models in the fields of manufacturing, health, insurance, and finance.

Mobile Payments

Mobile payment systems are getting simpler, faster and more secure, so it’s no surprise that growing numbers of consumers start to swear by them. The world of payments is in the process of transitioning from credit cards to virtual wallets.

We experienced firsthand at MWC 2016 how app developers are making the change by creating their own mobile payment apps. Juggernauts like Android Pay and Apple Pay will continue to grow, but expect market disruption to come from smaller entrepreneurs as well. Plus, Paypal unveiled the PayPal Android mobile app, a service that will allow customers to pay using NFC technology.

Wearables

TAG HEUER Smart WatchTAG Heuer Luxury Smart Watch

Wearables have been buzzed about extensively for the past few years. However, if MWC 2016 is any indication, smartwatch market players want to perfect their devices before they hit the market. One commentator called it “the calm before the storm.” Watch closely for product launches in the second half of 2016.

An interesting trend worth noting is that traditional watch makers are getting into the smart-watch industry and a great example of this is TAG Heuer’s $1500 luxury smartwatch.

Virtual Reality

Virtual Reality (VR) was the most exciting sector at MWC 2016, where we saw a number of new VR software and hardware products. Samsung provided all attendees with one of its Gear VR headsets, allowing us to view the event in VR!

Plus, HTC announced the price ($799) and date of availability for Vive, its upcoming VR headset that will hit stores in April. And of course, Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg was there to discuss the future relationship between social media and virtual reality. (Hint: It’s going to be big!)

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