Verto Analytics At MWC15 – Our Observations on the Week

It was an incredibly busy week at this year’s Mobile World Congress. A record-breaking number of conference attendees (93,000) from within the mobile ecosystem, gathered together in Barcelona to learn what’s new, what trends are emerging, and how the industry regulation, evolution, and competitive landscape is balancing between significant corporate and venture force bases ranging from Silicon Valley to China. Here are a few highlights based on the week we spent there (you can sign up here for more coverage and data).

Telecom and Internet Cannot Be Separated Any More

Looking back at MWC over the past 10 years, one of the very obvious mega trends of MWC 2015, is the emergence of Internet-centric players like Facebook and Google, who are pushing their agenda hard, through keynotes, big stands, sponsorships, and armies of executives making sure that they both seen and heard. Carriers and OEMs dominated MWC in the years when the conference was held in Cannes, however, MWC 2015 saw Google and its Android-related products and platforms (wearables, APIs, operating systems), and Facebook talking about Internet.org as its tool to spread the Internet in emerging countries.

These two giants also saw active participation in panel discussions from the incumbent carriers. However, major device (Samsung, LG, HTC) and semiconductor companies (Intel, Qualcomm) were not silent either.

It’s a Fine Balance of Co-operation and Competition

MWC 2015 again reflected the balance between co-operation and competition. A good example this year was the Internet.org related keynote delivered by Facebook CEO and founder, Mark Zuckerberg, with support from carriers around him. It was evident that Facebook has been active in convincing carriers about the model around Internet.org, and we met several Facebook executives staffing new products related to this program. Simultaneously, the same carriers announced the new carrier-led alliance to bring authentication and identification related services to mobile (Mobile Connect), which obviously competes head-on with the interests of Google and Facebook who want to dominate in that area. Collaboration and competition go hand-in-hand, and judging from the announcements and discussions we’re sure the talks in the boardrooms have been as intense as the stakes are high. The partnerships and collaborations that take flight in the next few years will play a role in which companies will reap the profits in the convergence of the Internet and Telecom worlds over the course of the next decade.

Device Trends

In terms of product releases, there was no scarcity of device announcements at MWC. We saw all kinds of devices, from the usual suspects of smartphones and tablets, to augmented reality and wearables. Based on our discussions, the industry believes there is still growth in smartphones and tablets. Our data indicates this, too. The smartphone and tablet categories are both still growing, although they face saturation in developed markets like the U.S. Likewise, the industry is betting on new device categories like wearables, which in the U.S. grew almost 100% annually during 2014 in terms of the installed base as our data indicates in the chart below:

Platform Wars Continue

One of the clear themes of MWC 2015 was the discussion around platforms, connectivity, and standards. Is it the Android platform that will dominate in smart homes? How should wearables connect with your other devices? What standards or platforms are needed for payments? Needless to say, the discussion was partial, as Apple is to have their own event on March 9, with their own announcements. This didn’t mean Apple was not present; their people were certainly following with interest what Samsung, HTC, Microsoft, and carriers were discussing at MWC 2015.

Emergence of Adtech Was Visible

The maturity of the mobile medium is also taking some leaps ahead. Hall 8.1 was full of app companies, app analytics and attribution tool providers, and ad networks. Many apps are describing themselves more as publishers today, and are interested in not only showing what content and services they have on the shelf, but how they can monetize. Ad networks, exchanges, and other ad tech platform players have been busy in driving innovation regarding audience acquisition and premium mobile advertising. None of these players were in a strong role ten years ago at MWC.

Key Announcements

There were lots of interesting news and press releases going out during the week. Our team compiled a list of some of the key headlines:

  • Many carriers back GSMA’s Mobile Connect program
  • The most anticipated device launch took place on Sunday when Samsung launched Galaxy S6 and S6 edge
  • Google talked about its plans to start operating a U.S. MVNO and Android Pay
  • Nokia going into adtech and marketing automation? They launched a predictive marketing solution for operators
  • Huawei unveiled multiple new wearables and is focused in the U.S. on smartphones
  • HTC is still very active in smartphones – they announced One M9 smartphone and Grip fitness band
  • Telefonica boasted about speeds of 375 Mbps on commercial LTE-Advanced network
  • Firefox OS is going ahead: Mozilla, KDDI, LG U+, Telefonica and Verizon Wireless are collaborating
  • B2B market is important – Google announces Android for Work 
  • Microsoft continues actively with Lumia range of smartphones: Lumia 640 and Lumia 640XL
  • Global SIM card going ahead? Operators, manufacturers and SIM makers collaborate
  • Jolla announces Sailfish OS 2.0 – they have had their ups and downs but still active with new launches and SW evolution
  • Nokia Here features new features and data visualizations – cornerstone of new Nokia
  • Xiaomi active in releasing new smart home devices: air purifier, smart hubs, etc.
  • RIM talked up its new Leap smartphone
  • More co-operation: BlackBerry and Samsung with product integration
  • IBM and Apple: New apps from the partnership

Verto Data and Tapas – a New MWC Tradition

We kicked off the week with our VIP event called Verto Data & Tapas 2015, where we invited industry people with different backgrounds, to discuss, network, and explore fresh data from our inaugural Device Ecosystems report, which has received a great reception. The evening was great. We enjoyed good food, cava, and great company. Thanks to the Verto team for making that evening happen; we’re sure the tradition will continue at MWC 16 next February 22-25!

Device Ecosystems 2014 report

Would you like to read our exclusive new Device Ecosystems report? Please sign up here and we’ll happily send you a free copy.

It was a great, sunny week in Barcelona and we’re already looking forward to MWC 2016!