All the news from MWC 2018

Alex Kidman 24 February 2018 NEWS


From 5G to the Galaxy S9 and plenty more besides, here's the latest news from Mobile World Congress 2018.


The latest news from MWC 2018


While the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas generates headlines around everything from televisions to autonomous vehicles, Barcelona's Mobile World Congress event is the hub for everything happening in the mobile world, with numerous smartphone launches expected, as well as significant updates around the future of 5G networks.

MWC is held annually in Barcelona, with MWC 2018 set to officially run from 26 February 2018 through to 1 March 2018, although press launches usually happen on the weekend prior.

We're already seeing rumours and early announcements start to leak through. Here's what we expect to see by vendor at the big show.


Samsung

Samsung has long used MWC as the staging ground for launching its flagship Galaxy S range of handsets, although the issues surrounding the Note 7 meant that 2017 was the rare exception, with the Korean technology giant instead opting to launch the Samsung Galaxy Book and Samsung Galaxy Tab S3 instead.

Still, this year we're primed for the launch of the Samsung Galaxy S9 and Samsung Galaxy S9+, with Samsung confirming plans to launch the new range in February, coinciding neatly with MWC timing.

Samsung has played its S9 cards pretty close, although there's more than a few features that are essentially confirmed. Expect a mix of either the Qualcomm Snapdragon 845 or Samsung's own Exynos 9810 SoC. In Australia, expect to see the latter within Samsung's Galaxy S9 and Galaxy S9+ when they do launch here.

A leak just before MWC 2018 pretty much confirmed everything below, although Samsung (understandably) hasn't confirmed that the details are accurate.

Other rumoured features include possible under-glass fingerprint sensors, possible modular accessories and dual cameras with the distinct possibility of 1,000fps slow motion, similar to the functionality already found in Sony's Xperia XZ Premium, announced back at MWC 2017.

In terms of designs, there have been numerous leaks that strongly push towards the same "infinity edge" display as used in the Galaxy S8 and Galaxy S8+, so the new phones are most likely going to look a lot like the old ones.

Samsung has released a number of teaser trailers a week out from the show, and while they don't show much about the form of the new handsets, they do hint towards the improved cameras and inclusion of an Animoji-style FaceID feature:

Samsung is also widely tipped to release a new version of its DeX dock for the new Galaxy S9. Where the previous version was a mostly-vertical dock, the new DeX will apparently work with the phone laid flat so that its display can act as a large mouse touchpad for the onscreen display.

It's also possible that Samsung may continue to tease its "Galaxy X" line of foldable smartphones that it's suggested will launch in 2018, although it's much less likely we'll get a real feel for when those handsets might hit the market at MWC 2018.
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LG

LG's fortunes at MWC have been mixed in recent years, from the rather clunky launch of the modular LG G5 back at MWC 2016 through to its essentially unopposed launch of the solid LG G6 last year.

As for what LG's planning this year? Usually LG is as leaky as they come when it relates to phone announcements, up to and including its own pre-announcements, but this year, reports suggest that what would otherwise be presumed to be the LG G7 might not make its stage debut in Barcelona.

Some reports suggest that LG has scrapped its initial G7 designs entirely and gone back to the drawing board, although whether this means that we're months away from a new LG flagship, or simply that existing rumours (which largely suggested a simple specs update) are now irrelevant remains to be seen.

For now, the excellent LG V30, sold as the LG V30+ in Australia remains LG's flagship device.

LG has now confirmed that it will launch a 2018 model of the LG V30 with added AI for image and voice recognition at MWC 2018, as well as new K-series mid-range handsets. Stay tuned for any further details on LG's MWC plans.

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Sony

Sony was notably first off the bench to announce a Snapdragon 835-based handset at MWC 2017 in the form of the Sony Xperia XZ Premium, even though Samsung's deal with Qualcomm meant that it then had to wait a wee while before bringing the actual handset to market.

In 2018, it's expected that Sony will follow up that handset with what may be called the Sony Xperia XZ Pro, or possibly the Xperia XZ2.

Early leaks suggest that the Xperia XZ Pro/Xperia XZ2 will feature a 5.7 inch bezel-free OLED display running on Qualcomm's Snapdragon 845 processor with 6GB of RAM and dual cameras at the rear, marking the first time Sony's gone down the dual camera path.

It's also been rumoured that the Xperia XZ Pro will feature a more rounded design than Sony's traditional "Omnibalance" designs, something that even Sony itself is teasing:

Sony's official MWC 2018 launch isn't until early Monday morning (Barcelona time) on 26 February, so we'll know all of its phone and device plans then. Stay tuned.
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Huawei

Huawei tends to roll out impressive launches at MWC, with the 2017 event seeing the launch of the fashion-forward Huawei P10 and Huawei P10 Plus handsets. With the Huawei Mate 10 and Mate 10 Pro already well and truly on the market, it's most likely that we'll see successor devices to that range announced at MWC 2018. There's some speculation that Huawei may ramp up the branding for its new smaller flagships, skipping all the way to the Huawei P20, but this is far from confirmed.

What's rumoured for the new P-series Huawei phones is a big step up in camera smarts, with a possible triple-lens array at the rear and a hefty 24MP front selfie-camera. Huawei has talked up the possibilities for the Neural Processing Unit found in the Mate 10, and at the very least we'd expect to see the same capabilities, and indeed the same Kirin 970 CPU ported across to the P-series in 2018.

It was rumoured that Huawei would avoid the MWC media circus, and the focus on the Samsung S9 specifically to instead hold its own P20 launch at another time, and Huawei has now done so, indicating that the P20 series will instead launch in Paris on 27 March, a month after MWC.

So what will Huawei show off at MWC, if anything? It's possible that it could use MWC to show off the latest iteration of its Huawei Watch wearable range, or possibly launch new tablet products or 2-in-1 laptops.

Huawei also has significant presence in the networking business as the rollout of 5G nears, so it may well have new infrastructure and hardware to announce at MWC 2018.
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Nokia

The reborn Nokia caused shockwaves at MWC 2017 in the most unusual way, by dint of relaunching the iconic Nokia 3310 as a simple feature phone, alongside the more budget-centric but standard Nokia 3, Nokia 5 and Nokia 6. It later followed up with the more premium Nokia 8, and more recently announced a refresh for the Nokia 6 in China that we'll probably see go global at MWC 2018. Likewise, if you're feeling retro, there's a 4G version of the Nokia 3310 already available in China that may get a wider release at MWC 2018, although we do already have the Nokia 3310 3G here in Australia.

Where the real excitement for Nokia is more likely to lie will be in the reveal of what's being pegged as the "Nokia 9", an all-new flagship set to take on the big players in the premium space.

It's also expected to announce a mid-range phone, the Nokia 7+, with a possible Android One variant in tow. A budget Nokia 1 handset is also widely tipped to make its debut at MWC 2018.

The refreshed Nokia has largely focused on providing value handsets rather than flagships that truly impressed, with the "bothie" concept on the Nokia 8 ultimately feeling a little underwhelming, but it's not to be discounted. We'll cover everything that Nokia has to announce at MWC 2018.

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HTC

Taiwan's HTC had an interesting 2017, launching the first flagship of the year in the HTC U Ultra, providing what ended up being the blueprint (more or less) for the Google Pixel 2 with the HTC U11, and of course selling off a quantity of its intellectual property and more than a few phone engineers to Google along the way.

It does have a few announced handsets for 2018, most notably the HTC U11 Eyes, an HTC U11 variant with twin front selfie cameras that is currently set for the Chinese market only that could appear at MWC.

However, HTC's release schedule can often be quite different to that of its rivals so it's feasible, although unlikely that it could just trot out the HTC U12 at MWC. Early rumours suggest, however, that it will follow Huawei and LG in not launching a new device at MWC.

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Oppo

Chinese manufacturer Oppo used its 2017 MWC appearance not to launch a phone, but instead the technology behind 5x optical zoom lenses, which it promised it would incorporate into future phones.

2017 saw Oppo release a number of phones, including its flagship Oppo R11 handset, but none of them had a 5x optical zoom. It's already got the Oppo R11s waiting in the wings in terms of flagships, so beyond (hopefully!) realising a handset with that 5x optical zoom, and most likely a ColorOS refresh to bring its handsets even further in line with its iOS-mimicking position, it's tricky to say precisely what Oppo will announce this year.

However, with its rapid growth outside its home Chinese market, it's unlikely to stay quiet.

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Motorola

Motorola's positioning in the budget to mid-range space has only solidified in recent years, and from what's already rumoured for MWC 2018, it might just be the phone manufacturer that launches the largest number of individual models.

Specifically, it's expected that we'll see updates to the Motorola Moto E, Moto G, Moto X and Moto Z lines at MWC 2018. While the E, G and X lines play in the budget to mid-range spaces, the Moto Z is Motorola's flagship line, and it's been rather a while since we've seen a "fresh" Moto Z handset to play with.

Motorola's key pitch for the Moto Z line lies in the "Moto Mods" that you can modify them with, such as the recently reviewed Gamepad Mod.

There have been some pretty wild rumours around possible Moto Mods for MWC 2018, up to and including a mod designed to switch the Moto Z line from 4G to 5G. That's a touch fanciful for a 2018 launch given the ongoing testing of 5G networks worldwide, but there's still plenty of scope in the Mods concept for Motorola to innovate.
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BlackBerry

Like Nokia, BlackBerry came roaring back into focus at MWC 2017 in the form of the BlackBerry KEYone handset. We saw both that device and the updated BlackBerry KEYone Black Edition here in Australia, but not the full touchscreen BlackBerry Motion handset.

BlackBerry has stated that it will release "at least two" phones in 2018, but it hasn't said much more beyond that, which leaves its precise status at MWC 2018 rather up in the air. With the BlackBerry hardware licence currently sitting with TCL (owners of the Alcatel phone brand), it's also a question of whether the current hardware and software plans coincide in time for the big show. We'll have to wait and see.

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Alcatel

TCL's other phone brand is Alcatel, and that's a brand that very much plays in the affordable space, with even its "flagship" phones typically selling in the market for under $500.

At CES 2018, Alcatel had phones to show off in the form of the Alcatel 1, Alcatel 3 and Alcatel 5 handsets, but it was cagey with specific details, beyond the fact that all of its future phone lines will feature 18:9 aspect ratio displays. Alcatel representatives did indicate that it will hold a full launch of its new handset ranges at MWC 2018.
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5G

Mobile World Congress isn't just about mobile handsets, but everything that relates to the mobile ecosystem, which means that everyone from mobile payments providers to network infrastructure companies are present, meeting and announcing at a feverish rate. That's because one of the key features of MWC 2018 is likely to be the emergence of 5G networks and standards, even though actual devices are more likely to start being shown off at MWC 2019.

From a local perspective, Telstra's committed to trials around the Gold Coast at the same time as the Commonwealth Games are taking part (although it's not an event sponsor) and it will also be heavily involved in meetings to finalise 5G standards worldwide. Don't expect rivals Optus or Vodafone to stay quiet on the 5G front either, and it's even feasible that TPG, set to start building its own Australian mobile network in 2018 may have something to say on the future of 5G as well.

We probably won't see any live 5G networks anywhere in the world in 2018, but MWC 2018 should give plenty of information about what those networks are likely to look like in 2019 and beyond.

With Optus having announced its own plans to go live with 5G in 2019, and Telstra and Vodafone expected to follow suit, it's quite likely that the Australian telco providers will have a lot to say at MWC 2018.

We'll be reporting live from MWC 2018 in Barcelona, so stay tuned for all the news from the world's biggest Mobile conference.

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