Every year, one of the most futuristic events in the world takes place in one of the oldest cities in Europe. The Mobile World Congress (MWC) in Barcelona is a massive display of how far modern tech has come.
As of Sunday, over 2,000 exhibitors and more than 94,000 attendees will descend upon the Spanish city of Barcelona, to attend the global mobile industry's most important week for launches, deal-making and agenda-setting.
The Mobile World Congress is probably the only event in a position to count both 5G and a G5 among its headlines. But indeed, as this year's MWC theme goes, mobile is everything - and those are only two topics among a couple that industry observers and casual mobile aficionados alike would consider highlights.
Chief among them is the unveiling of the newest from Samsung's Galaxy line, the S7 and its curved screen edition, the S7 Edge. The launch is slated for February 21, a day before the MWC's doors officially open.
Samsungs's teaser for the event alludes heavily tovirtual reality
- fueling widespread speculation that a free VR headset will be thrown in for those who preorder.
Not to be outdone, LG is also unboxing its G5 on the same day, ahead of Samsung. One of the features LG has already announced is a touch-sensitive case, allowing users to answer or drop calls, and check notifications without having to flip open the front flap.
Reports that the new LG handset will have not one, but two camera lenses on the back of the phone have also been making their rounds.
Presence, but with unknown presents
As par for the course, fellow smartphone heavyweights HTC and Sony are going to make their own appearances at the MWC this year. But what exactly they're going to show is less than clear. Some are anticipating the next HTC flagship phone - the One M10 - to be revealed, while industry buzz puts the launch date only in April. And no one seems to be counting on a surprise smartphone presentation from Sony.
Chinese mobile manufacturers Huawei and Xiaomi are also expected to make a strong showing at the MWC. Industry watchers and fans are waiting to see the Huawei P9 smartphone flagship. Not much is known yet of the Xiaomi Mi5 - many are betting on dual sim support - but it will supposedly be previewed on the 24th of February.
But the MWC is really not just about new phones. It's also the event where directions are set for the increasingly intertwined mobile and tech sectors, where innovations are presented and the future speculated on.
A virtual reality check
As smartphone innovations slow down to a trickle, virtual reality has captured the imagination of those looking for the mobile sector's next big thing. And augmented reality is settling into its place in the virtual sun too. This excitement around VR and AR will fill the air at the MWC too, where they are expected to headline events and dominate conversations - especially around monetizing VR content, and generating advertising revenue.
And there's much to watch out for in this space beyond the MWC - in the next few months, virtual reality headsets from Oculus, Sony and HTC go on sale.
Much ado about the Internet of Things
Beyond the devices traditionally associated with connectivity, talk of theInternet of Things
has become as ubiquitous as the objects themselves that are becoming a part of it.
Wearables like smart watches and fitness trackers are only a fraction of the story. The transport, health, and finance sectors are all moving towards all-encompassing connectivity.
Case in point - carmaker Ford has been coming to the MWC for years. This time around, CEO Mark Fields is set to give a keynote talk on connectivity.
The American automotive giant is also expected to unveil a new SUV with new network capabilities, highlighting just how much traditional manufacturing has moved into digitization or the other way around, if Google's driverless car is to be taken as an example.
And where there's a discussion on the Internet of Things, there's discourse surrounding the kinds of highways bridging the connected objects of tomorrow. The push from today's mobile network technology into 5G is ongoing, and companies are angling for the best positioning. This year's MWC will be peppered with 5G demos, and key industry players like Intel will be talking about how they're going to get the next generation of cellular tech off the ground.
No one knows exactly what the future holds, but Barcelona's Mobile World Congress gives a solid picture - not just of how it may look like, but how, necessarily, it is always in the making.