Mobile World Congress isn’t for every phone maker. Hyped-up standalone product events from big players like Apple and Samsung have discouraged many companies from using annual trade shows as a venue for product announcements. Still, a few struggling OEMs could use the boost a high-profile MWC turn can provide, and more will show off products just to parse out the sheer volume of devices they’ll be launching during the coming year.
“For a while everyone was announcing at the big events so everyone was drowning in noise,” said Recon Analytics’ Roger Entner. “Now everybody does their own and so I think nowadays [MWC is] actually a great opportunity to launch something.”
Nokia and BlackBerry could all really use a successful MWC but if rumors shape up, Samsung might steal the show.
Barcelona will be big for Nokia Solutions and Networks, with a focus on LTE-Advanced technology like carrier aggregation and enhanced inter-cell interference coordination. But following Nokia’s so-so fourth quarter—the last before Microsoft snaps up its device business for $7.4 billion—the Finnish phonemaker might like to see off its storied handsets with a rousing MWC. Nokia sent out cryptic invites for a Feb. 24 press event, asking guests to “Meet us under the tree.” There are rumors that Nokia will unveil “Normandy,” the Android-based Asha device. But with Windows Phone showing some life—IDC pointed to 156 percent annual growth in global market share for the OS—Nokia may just show up with its increasingly sustaining bread and butter.
Samsung has invited press to a Feb. 23 Tizen event in Barcelona where it will preview upcoming devices for the fledgling OS and offer an update on Tizen’s development. There are also rumors that Samsung will unveil a “lite” version of its Galaxy Note 3. Samsung’s crown jewel, the upcoming “Galaxy S5,” was figured for another elaborate, theatrical standalone event like the bizarre stage show, Unpacked 4, that last year pulled back the curtain on the S4. But now Samsung has sent out the invitation for Unpacked 5 Episode 1, Feb. 24 in Barcelona. The event’s name suggests it could be the launch pad for the S5 and, if that’s true, that’s bad news for any other phone maker hoping to be heard at MWC.
If any OEM in the entire universe needs to show up to MWC, it’s BlackBerry. The legendary Canadian manufacturer practically imploded last year, parting ways with CEO Thorsten Heins and more top executives, cutting more jobs and losing a staggering $1 billion in a quarter. But BlackBerry did get a new CEO in John Chen, known for his turnaround of software company Sybase, and a new manufacturing partner in Foxconn, the workforce behind Apple’s iPhone. If Foxconn is to be believed, then BlackBerry is intending to launch a new entry-level touchscreen phone aimed at emerging markets like Indonesia, a move that could begin a gradual turnaround in the consumer space for BlackBerry.