A Round-Up of All the Important News from the Show
This is the second of our reports from Mobile World Congress 2013 in Barcelona.
Divided into seven research areas, it contains a brief summary of the show’s notable announcements, followed by initial comment by our team of analysts.
ZTE unveils updated Grand Memo 5.7-inch “phablet”
Ben Wood: This joins several other large-screen devices at the show. Notable for using the Qualcomm Snapdragon 600, but it is unlikely to ship until the very end of 2Q13 or the second half of 2013. The improved quality first seen at CES with the Grand S continues as the battle between emerging Chinese players intensifies.
NEC showcases Medias W folding phone/tablet prototype
Ben Wood: One of the more interesting devices at the show and a refreshing change from the numerous touch-screen mono-blocs. It features two 4.3-inch touch-screen phones that are hinged together. When opened, they combine to form a 5.6-inch tablet. It also features some extremely clever user interface elements. CCS Insight will feature this device in one of its videos from the show.
Caterpillar unveils Cat B15 ruggedized Android phone
Ben Wood: Caterpillar is one of several rugged phones on show at Mobile World Congress. Its brand allows it to appeal to industries such as construction but also consumers who want a rugged phone. Price is critical as this is often a secondary purchase for weekend adventurers and therefore sold through SIM-free channels, typically online.
Huawei unveils Ascend G526
Ben Wood: A mid-tier LTE phone being shown on the Huawei stand. There is a clear trend emerging for lower-cost LTE-capable devices such as LG’s Optimus F5 and F7 as well as Samsung’s Galaxy Express. The pace of price erosion on LTE is surprising. We predict a broader portfolio of LTE devices than previously expected will be available for operators’ line-ups in 4Q13.
Telefonica demonstrates seamless 4G-Wi-Fi handover
Kester Mann: The announcement reflects operator consensus that Wi-Fi is becoming an increasingly important complement to cellular technology. This demonstration shows that customers will be able to move between 4G and Wi-Fi technologies without losing coverage. It may enable Telefonica to introduce a new range of multimedia services.
ST-Ericsson and Ericsson demo first HD VoLTE connection between LTE FDD and TD-LTE
Kester Mann: This move represents the latest milestone in China Mobile’s deployment of TD-LTE, a principal focus of the operator at the show. The powerful combination of the leading infrastructure provider and the world’s largest mobile operator should give considerable impetus to the global ambitions both companies hold for the technology.
Qtel rebrands as Ooredoo
Kester Mann: The move brings all the operations within Qtel under one brand. It is another step in its ambition to become a globally recognised mobile operator. We would not be surprised if it is used as a springboard to more acquisitions in the region. It should ensure cost savings in areas such as marketing and deployment of services, mirroring the strategy adopted by other carriers that operate across regions. Ooredoo means “I want” in Arabic.
ZTE and Imagination Technologies announce VoLTE on commercial handsets in US
Kester Mann: Operators in the South Korea and the US are leading the charge towards VoLTE. The service significantly improves voice quality and reduces latency as carriers cut ties with legacy networks. VoLTE provides an opportunity to differentiate against third-party communications providers, a subject that has been hotly debated among operators at Mobile World Congress.
Media and Apps
Exent announces GameTanium for TV
Paolo Pescatore: Once commercially available, this solution will give Exent an opportunity to strengthen its position among operators. Mobile phone owners are now starting to demand access to content and services on multiple screens. Being able to play games on the big screen will enhance the user experience — a factor that is assuming greater importance than mere hardware.
Mobile Money and NFC
Next-generation Samsung phones to feature Visa payWave
Digantam Gurung: Visa payWave technology will be embedded on the secure element of the next iteration of Samsung’s Galaxy S range. The partnership will provide a big boost for NFC mobile payments, which continues to face challenges in deployment and raising consumer awareness. We expect a big marketing campaign by Visa and Samsung similar to that seen at the London Olympics. Visa needs to extend payWave onto lower-priced devices to target the mass market. The secure element approach and a focus on financial institutions could conflict with operators’ preference for SIM-based methods.
MasterCard and VimpelCom to offer mobile money in 18 countries
Digantam Gurung: This is an opportunity for MasterCard to target the “under banked” population typically more prevalent in emerging markets including those covered by VimpelCom. Such customers are more likely to be encouraged to transfer money through with their current operator than register with a new bank. MasterCard’s expansion into emerging markets will depend heavily on how these types of operator partnerships develop.
TomTom and Telmap announce partnership
Martin Garner: TomTom continues its maps licensing push and will provide map data to the Intel-owned Telmap. For Telmap it rounds out the range of map content partners, helping the company to differentiate on the range of local information it provides.
Huawei unveils its first range of vehicle telematic products
Martin Garner: Huawei announced connection modules for 3G and LTE, a 3G Wi-Fi hot spot, and an on-board diagnostics module which sends data about the car to the maker or insurance company, and enables users to take control of some functions remotely. This is a timely move by Huawei as the connected car market starts to come to life in a big way and is targeted by its rivals.
LG acquires webOS from HP for use in smart TVs
Geoff Blaber: This follows an existing relationship between the two companies for the use of webOS, but is nonetheless still a surprise in the long-running saga of webOS. The acquisition reflects a growing need for capable operating systems for TVs. Consumers expect to see the same apps and upgrades that they get on phones and tablets. The move bears similarities to Samsung’s probable ambitions for Tizen as a multi-screen platform. However, LG faces a huge task in readying an underinvested asset for prime time and reigniting developer interest.
Sony Mobile renews partnership with Telefonica, hints at Firefox OS phone
Geoff Blaber: This is an example of how to solve the “chicken and egg” problem that plagues new software platforms. By making a clear leading commitment to Firefox OS, Telefonica is grabbing the interest of manufacturers seeking an alternative to Android. However, this is unlikely to prompt a significant change to Sony’s Android-based strategy any time soon.
Aptina announces 1080p and 4K mobile sensors
Geoff Blaber: Although near-term consumer interest will be limited, the timing could intercept perfectly with the start of broader consumer adoption of 4K TVs in 2014.
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