Recently I was fortunate enough to get the opportunity to travel to Barcelona as an exhibitor at the 4YFN (four years from now) and MWC (Mobile World Congress) trade shows as part of my real job. I was unfortunate enough to have to do it. Don’t get me wrong it was interesting to see the trade shows and there was some incredibly interesting tech on display; but working 8am to 8pm trying to lure people over to your booth to give them the same 2 minute pitch you’ve given everyone else in a sea of other people doing the exact same thing, made me feel filthy to the core.
To introduce what these trade shows are; MWC is a huge event where all of the big players in the mobile industry (and Nokia) come together to see who can spend the most money on outrageous displays and demos. In addition anyone who is anyone in the tech world can be found somewhere with a booth showing off their latest useless piece of tech; what’s that? A potato peeler that connects wirelessly to my WiFi to adjust the lighting in the kitchen when i’m peeling potatoes.. And it’s only £299! I’ll take 5!
In comparison 4YFN is the busker playing outside Wembley Stadium during an Ed Sheeran gig. 4YFN is focused on start ups who are either looking for investment, partners or exposure. These can range from up and running small companies to the people that are too crazy for Dragons Den.
Given that the cost of getting into the place was over £800 just to walk around and booths could cost way more than that; it was surprising how many people had astonishingly shit ideas. I joke with my wifi potato peeler creation, but at least it’s semi original. There were multiple companies whose entire schtick seemed to be ‘we can make apps’ or ‘do you need a website?’ I mean really? Why pay so much money to come to a trade show to advertise something I get cold calls from India about every 15 minutes.
This article will be another filthy listicle, listing out the first 5 of my 10 takeaways from MWC and 4YFN; Bon Appetite!
10 – The Samsung S9 Is Really Boring
The announcement of the Samsung S9 was the big news from MWC 2018. I was sceptical as soon as I saw the first few news articles hailing the enduring 3mm headphone jack as one of the prime features; I mean I get it, with the Pixel 2 / iPhone 8 & 10 and latest Motorolla phones all ditching it, it’s worth pointing out that Samsung is bucking that particular trend by keeping theres, but if the headline statement about your flagship £700+ phone is that it has something all previous phones dating back 5+ years have featured then you’ve done something horribly wrong.
Samsung’s main actual highlight for the S9 was the camera, with the tagline ‘The worlds first camera that’s also a smartphone’ being thrown about all over the place. Now, I don’t know about you, but the camera on my last 3 smart phones has been just fine. How good do we need smartphone cameras to be? Because no matter how close to the professional ones they get; if I hire a photographer for my daughters wedding and he pulls out his Samsung S20 and starts snap chatting her special day; he’s going to get some interesting photos of the inside of his own arse.
Phone cameras already do everything we need them to do! You can take obnoxious selfies with the click of a button, instagram pictures of your food that literally nobody gives a shit about and take a thousand pictures of yourself with shitty super imposed dog ears and tongue until the battery dies (about 5 minutes after you started). The only thing you can’t do with a phone camera is take a decent long range shot, and that is still the same in the Samsung S9, because it doesn’t have a proper lens and why doesn’t it have a proper optical lens with decent zoom. And why doesn’t it have a proper optical lens? Because it’s a fucking smart phone that’s also a camera!
9 – Buzzword Soup
Dear God, I felt like I was in a comedy sketch when I first walked around the 4YFN booths scoping out the competition. Below I’ll write four actual tagline’s to companies I saw at the event, you tell me which one I made up;
- At ‘X’ we change the world through technology, that’s the reason we’re.
- Development, prototyping and manufacturing of future proof hardware.
- Innovative holistic solutions for 5G problems.
- We connect people and knowledge.
If you guessed number 3, then you are correct… And no I didn’t make a typo on number 1, that is the exact wording of their booth stand. I guess someone didn’t check the character limit.
There were several hundred booths across the conference hall. Walking through the aisles I think I understood what about 20% of the companies actually did for a living from reading their name and tagline. I get it, it’s a tag line, not a novel, but if you’re not a well known company, make it obvious what you do and stop using words like ‘bleeding edge’ and ‘evolution’ to describe your app that makes people sound more like cats.
8 – Motorola have gone insane
Now I didn’t even realise Motorola had been purchased by Lenovo, but one of the more interesting things I saw at the MWC that actually has a practical end user use was the new ‘Moto Mods’. Essentially a Motorola phone with a magnetic connection that allows you to add mods such as a fancy camera or a health scanner that takes your blood pressure and temperature (yes really). Now, of course this is more than a little gimmicky, but come on, at least they’re giving the modular phone a good ol’ try. It actually frustrates me that all anyone could talk about was the Samsung S9 which has about as much innovation as an episode of the Apprentice, when Motorola are sticking Amazon Alexa’s to the back of their phones a few booths over.
You may be thinking, ‘well Farrell, that sounds pretty interesting, but I don’t see how this shows that they’ve gone insane?‘ Well diligent reader, I’ll tell you why!
The purchase cost of the Motorola Z2 Force (the flagship phone to connect with these Moto Mods) is £700. Which ok, seems in keeping with the price range of other flagship devices, though one could argue that with a slightly less powerful brand than Samsung or Sony they may want to aim a little lower.
The main problem here is, without the Moto Mods there really is no unique selling point to the Z2 Force, it’s just a decent phone. So let’s make the assumption that you’re going all in with the modular mobile and you want to get your hands on all of these Moto Mods, here’s what it would set you back:
- Motorola Z2 Force – £700
- Moto Gamepad – £70
- Moto Insta Share Projector – £250
- Moto Hasselblad TrueZoom Camera – £199
- Moto JBL SoundBoost Speaker – £107
- Moto Turbo Power Pack – £55
- Moto Insta Print Polaroid Insta-Share Printer – £120
- Moto Smart Speaker with Amazon Alexa – £120
- Moto Style Shell – £20
- Moto 360 Camera – £270
- Moto Health Clinic – ? (It does exist!)
That’s a total price of – £1911… That’s just shy of £2k for your phone and accessories and that doesn’t include the fucking camper van you’ll need to cart these things around with you.
These are just the mods I remember, there were others like a sliding keyboard and a semi-automatic 9mm (us only).
I love the idea, when I was messing around with them at MWC I found myself thinking, ‘ok this is my next phone’ but it’s just way too damn expensive, nobody in their right mind is going to fork out over £1k for mods that will probably be obsolete in a year and a half.
… I’ll probably still buy one though.
7 – VR Is Everywhere
Regardless of whether your company has anything to do with VR, make sure you have some form of VR demo at your stall. From Google Daydream to HTC Vive there was more VR and AR at the MWC than… fuck it I don’t have a good metaphor, there was a lot!
I am actually a fan of VR, I have used pretty much all of the headsets on the market and own a nice shiny PSVR. I won’t go into too much detail about VR itself here as that feels like the makings of a blog article!
I wonder how disappointed every big MWC exhibitor was when they realised that their entirely unique idea of having a live VR demo to lure people in to their booth had been taken by literally everyone else.
What was really annoying about it all was there didn’t seem to be all that much VR innovation at the event at all. The best VR related product I saw in the entire show was a HP computer that you strap to your back so you can use your headset free of wires; and whilst looking like a fucking ghost buster, but at £3000 with a charge of 90 minutes, it is about as gimmicky as it gets (I still want one).
6 – 5G Is Here!
If the media displayed MWC 2018 as the Samsung S9 release party, the real prevalent theme was 5G. Now if you don’t know anything bout 5G, don’t worry, nobody does.
Essentially it will make your mobile internet much faster. Samsung 5G home routers debuted at the MWC claimed the ability to download 100gb of 4k film in under 4 minutes. Now admittedly that’s very fast, but it’s also very fucking boring. I currently have Virgin fibre 200mbs. Sometimes when I do a speed test on my pc I will be receiving less than half these speeds, yet I can still download games in less than half an hour and stream effortlessly onto 5 different tv’s in one house.
How fast does internet need to get? What is the actual benefit of 5G, who is downloading 100gb of 4k videos in the first place? None of these questions were answered at MWC, instead we were bombarded with tag-lines like ‘5G IS HERE! and ‘On the Bleeding Edge of 5G!’
Nobody comes to a trade show to see someone hypothesis about things getting a bit faster; they come to trade shows to see a robot paint a really shit picture as someone in a separate booth does the strokes attached to an oculus rift.
Be sure to tune in tomorrow for numbers 5 to 1, you won’t want to miss out! Well maybe, depends what you thought of these 5… It’s going to be pretty much more of the same… But please come back.