Your guide to the top stories from Barcelona
Welcome to the first in a series of articles from MWC 2022, taking place in Barcelona from 28 February to 3 March.
Today’s highlights cover announcements made on Sunday, the day before the show officially opens.
Huawei Unveils MatePad Paper E-Ink Tablet
Huawei is continuing efforts to expand its range of connected devices and create new business opportunities following the sharp decline of its smartphone business. Amid a flurry of announcements, we believe the 10.3-inch MatePad Paper is the most interesting product it has unveiled at MWC.
The MatePad Paper joins rivals such as the well-established reMarkable devices and TCL’s Nxtpaper tablets. This type of product is popular thanks to extremely long battery life, ultrathin designs and easy-to-read e-ink displays that are said to be less fatiguing than traditional LCD screens owing to their low blue-light emissions and flicker-free performance.
Unfortunately for Huawei and other companies now launching tablets, the boom in demand for this product category at the height of the pandemic has waned. It is also unclear how appealing these new e-ink products will be to consumers compared with traditional tablets. And the use of Huawei’s proprietary HarmonyOS 2 operating system will be another barrier to adoption that will need to be overcome.
Huawei also announced two new laptops at MWC: the MateBook E, its first two-in-one Windows 11 product, and the MateBook X Pro.
Oppo Announces New Find X5 Smartphones
Hot on the heels of the innovative Oppo Find N folding phone, the Find X5 and Find X5 Pro form the company’s flagship range for 2022, and are being showcased at MWC. The Find X5 devices are designed to go head-to-head with Samsung’s Galaxy S22 smartphones and will be important products for Oppo as it seeks to increase its share of markets in Western Europe.
The Find X5 Pro offers an eye-catching halo product, particularly the ceramic white variant. The company now needs to step up its marketing activities to boost consumer awareness of its brand and products. It will be hoping to build on the progress it has made with its Find X3 devices, which has helped it secure slots with leading operators and retailers.
Like rival smartphone-makers, Oppo has focussed on design, camera capabilities, battery life and fast charging with the Find X5 phones. Its partnership with Hasselblad for the Find X5 and X5 Pro, which was originally established with sister company OnePlus, should help the company flex its imaging muscles in the face of fearsome competition in camera performance from Apple and Samsung.
Samsung Reveals Galaxy Book2 Pro Line-Up
Samsung’s efforts in notebooks continue with the introduction of the Galaxy Book2 Pro 360 two-in-one PC and the Galaxy Book2 Pro laptop. Both run Microsoft Windows 11 and are offered in 13.3-inch and 15.6-inch variants.
Samsung has been forging closer links with Intel, and with Microsoft. With the latter it has been working hard to improve synergies between Windows and its Android-powered smartphones to compete with Apple’s highly integrated ecosystem of devices. The Link to Windows capability is the best example of this, offering a more seamless experience between Samsung PCs and smartphones.
Samsung is also producing a range of Samsung applications on the PC that mirror those on its Galaxy smartphones, providing a more familiar experience for users. An S Pen, like those supplied with some Samsung Android phones and tablets, is included with the Galaxy Book2 Pro 360.
The Galaxy Book2 Pro is available with built-in 5G support. It confirms our view that always-connected PCs are going to be a hot topic at MWC, with Samsung leading the charge, but several other brands expanding their presence in this space. We also believe that established PC manufacturers like HP may announce partnerships with operators the during the event.
The big question is whether there is a big enough addressable market to sustain all the companies targeting this segment. Furthermore, it remains to be seen how readily corporate customers will be prepared to adopt products from companies that are primarily viewed as consumer brands.
TCL Showcases More Foldable Concepts
As we predicted, activities in foldable and rollable devices as a source of smartphone innovation are showing no signs of abating.
TCL once again showcased several prototype devices. The Fold ‘n Roll, which incorporates a folding display with a rollable element that extends the screen further once opened, is an advance on the rollable concept devices shown previously by LG and Oppo.
The TCL 360° Ultra Flex can be opened out to provide a “mini tablet” experience. The screen folds inward and outward. Folded outward, the display can wrap around the outside of the device, like Huawei’s Mate X, which proved unsuccessful in part because its outside flexible display is vulnerable to damage. But unlike Huawei’s device, TCL’s design can also be folded to place the screen on the inside, which TCL believes will offer better protection and make the device more durable.
TCL also showcased the Surround Display concept, which has a flexible display that wraps around from the device’s inside to its front surface. TCL claims this could be advantageous as it offers a single display and associated components, rather than two screens — an internal flexible one and a fixed one on the outside of the device when closed.
These prototypes are not destined to become commercial products any time soon, but demonstrate “the art of the possible” and explore how to overcome challenges such as keeping dirt out of moving parts and avoiding scratches, particularly on rollable displays.
The most interesting dimension to TCL’s work with foldables is its desire to democratize the technology. Its Chicago prototype phone, which was unveiled toward the end of 2021 but not made into a commercial product, hinted at this direction. It was rumoured that a commercial version would come with a significantly lower price than rival foldables; we believe TCL may be planning to launch a similar product in 2022.
In our view, foldable phones could witness a price war like that seen recently in the 5G segment, where prices have dropped rapidly, mostly thanks to the efforts of Chinese manufacturers.
Deutsche Telekom Teams Up with RTL for 5G Video Production
Unveiled during Deutsche Telekom’s pre-MWC press conference, the service is being trialled in the operator’s Bonn laboratories, in collaboration with broadcaster RTL and Ericsson. It takes advantage of network slicing to support a vision that dedicated bandwidth will enable journalists to broadcast high-quality TV-ready videos with just a smartphone.
The tie-up builds on an existing partnership between Deutsche Telekom and RTL, with the broadcaster’s programmes already available on the operator’s Magenta TV platform. The concept will be demonstrated on Deutsche Telekom’s stand at MWC in Hall 3 (stand 3M31).
Deutsche Telekom Works with GenCell Energy for Carbon-Free Power
The news that mobile sites in Germany will be powered by carbon-free energy is likely to be the first of many eco-friendly announcements by telecom operators at this year’s MWC.
GenCell Energy will provide a hydrogen-based backup power solution following successful tests at its Tel Aviv facilities. Deutsche Telekom, which says it has already switched to entirely renewable electricity for its global production, expects to be carbon neutral by 2025 in terms of its own direct emissions (scope 1 and 2). By 2040, it expects the same for its supply chain and distribution channels (scope 3).
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