MWC 2017, the biggest and most talked-about mobile industry trade show, took place in Barcelona, Spain from Feb 27 to Mar 2.
Strategy Analytics had a large team of analysts spanning smartphones, drones, robots, tablets, wearables, smart home, and connected cars in attendance. In addition to having hosted invitation-only client presentationsin Barcelona,we will of course be hosting a post MWC Webinar on Monday, March 6 (register).
See our daily blog entries from the event below:
Pre-show expectations: (here)
Day 1 – smartphones: new handsets launched by Huawei, LG, Nokia (HMD), and others (here)
Day 2 – smartphones continued: Sony & Jolla licensing partnership, BlackBerry, TCL-Alcatel, ZTE, and others (here)
Day 3 – drones, robots, and 5G: new enterprise drone from DJI, Huawei’s wireless charging and augmented GPS concept for drones, PAL robotics’ premium tier robots (here)
Day 4 – Display innovation & AR technology: bezels getting thinner although foldable displays are still a bit in the future; AR enabled will become the trend in high-end smartphones (here)
As for smartphones, Nokia (HMD) made a splash with the comeback of its brand, launching three new smartphone models as well as a remake of the classic best-selling feature phone, the Nokia 3310, one of which was already launched earlier in China, however. Other new launches were from the usual suspects, though Samsung chose not to launch its new flagship, the Galaxy S8, at the show, instead focusing on new tablet models.
Apple, which has never paid much attention to MWC or any other trade shows for that matter, was earlier rumored to be present this time, though it did not appear in the directory. The company had entered into a partnership with SAP with the goal of aiding developers in building enterprise-grade apps for iOS. SAP had a booth at MWC and gave some more details on the partnership on Monday. The primary themes were “Retail Made Simple with iOS” and “Enterprise Apps Made Simple with iOS”. The focus of the partnership will be on creating a toolset for developers called the SAP Cloud Platform SDK for iOS. The tools will use Swift, a programming language developed by Apple, to present app developers and UX designers with a pre-built set of UI components and provide easy access to iPhone features.
On the artificial intelligence (AI) front, the competition seems to be heating up between Amazon’s Alexa and the Google Assistant, with both digital assistants finding their way into many more devices in the near future. Alexa, which most famously powers Amazon’s connected Echo speakers, was featured prominently across various smart home application areas already at CES 2017, with an impressive number of Echo compatible devices and accessories being showcased. Echo and Alexa are backed by a large and growing developer community.
Google, despite currently having a “brighter” and more capable assistant than Amazon, has been somewhat late to the ecosystem game, choosing to initially constrain its assistant only to its own Pixel devices. This has caused some early-moving device vendors like Huawei to opt for Amazon, bringing Alexa to devices such as the Huawei Mate 9. More recently, as part of Sunday’s announcements at MWC, Lenovo announced it is partnering with Amazon integrate Alexa to a range of Motorola branded smartphones, starting with a modular add-on, “Alexa Mod”, for the Moto Z handset.
Also on Sunday, Google announced that it would be rolling out Google Assistant to Android smartphones running standard, unforked versions of Android 7.0 (Nougat) and Android 6.0 (Marshmallow) with Google Play services. Newly announced devices such as the LG G6 will also come with Google Assistant out of the box, though only with support for English and German for the time being. Interestingly, Korean is not supported even though the G6 launches first in South Korea on March 9th, in LG’s home market. The freshly announced smartphones from the reborn handset brand Nokia, the Nokia 3, the Nokia 5, and the Nokia 6, also come with Google Assistant. With the respective wholesale prices of those devices set at US$115, US$160, and US$250 respectively, particularly the Nokia 3 will be one of the most affordable devices yet to ship with Google Assistant. So, clearly Google is upping its game in the digital assistant space after letting its competitors get a head start.
Besides smartphones, sure enough, AI was also featured in a number of robots. While most current models support only fairly basic voice interaction and have limited learning capabilities, some manufacturers such as the Shenzhen based Leju Robot intend to launch home assistant robots that integrate Google Assistant. Leju’s almost toy-like Aelos robot was showcased at MWC 2017, relying mostly on remote control but also supporting some voice interaction functionalities.
In the field of retail automation, Samsung SDS also unveiled Nexshop Training at MWC 2017, an AI based chatbot for training retail personnel. It is a virtual assistant for the purpose of helping teach retail personnel how to manage customers and retail space. It responds to voice and text questions such as "What are the new features for the upcoming tablet PC" or "What promotions will be available next week". This helps retail staff to prepare for upcoming products and campaigns. Other related solutions showcased included Nexshop Sales that allows store managers to check stock, sales, and consumer purchase history using their smartphones, and Nexshop Marketing, allowing managers to know which products customers in the shop are likely to prefer. Additionally, in the field of enterprise mobility management, our colleagues from enterprise and IoT research noted that IBM’s Watson AI is making its way to ForceManager, a mobile CRM, as a result of the company having signed a partnership with Big Blue.
The major issue with most AI applications is training and learning which, more often than not, is still quite limited and/or tedious, and the systems utilizing AI rely too much on pre-programming and pre-built interaction models rather than the AI’s capability to build models on its own. Adapting and applying something learned while performing one task to another, slightly different task is also beyond the wit of most current AI applications.
That wraps up our live coverage of MWC 2017, but be sure to check out our various insight reports on the newly announced products, services, and key developments from the event. Also, SA has cutting-edge expert research available in all of the areas discussed – let us know how we could help your company succeed in 2017 and beyond.