MWC 2018: What to expect from the biggest phone show of the year
It's almost time for Mobile World Congress again, the annual event held in Barcelona where the biggest names in phones and mobile get together to show off their latest gadgets. The event kicks off with a press day on February 25, and we're expecting more than one flagship to make its debut.
While Google and Apple tend to prefer having their own, separate events, just about everyone else in the industry will be descending on Barcelona in a few days' time. Google will have an extensive presence too, showcasing the latest Android has to offer, but it won't be launching any new phones.
As with every MWC, we don't have much in the way of confirmed facts, but we do have a whole load of rumor and speculation to sift through. Here are the handsets and the tech we're expecting to see break cover at Mobile World Congress 2018.
The Samsung Galaxy S9 and S9 Plus
Having snubbed MWC 2017 with a separate launch event for the Galaxy S8 and S8 Plus, Samsung is back with a bang this year. Official invites have been sent out, so we know the S9 phones are debuting on February 25. Samsung has also confirmed a new AI-ready chip is going to be powering the phones.
That's all we know officially so far, but the rumor mill has been busy filling in the rest of the blanks over the last few months. We think we know, for instance, what the phones will look like, courtesy of the image below, as tweeted by Evan Blass – pretty much the most reliable man in phone leaks that there is.
Note that dual-lens camera on board the S9 Plus model, which is part of a rumored camera upgrade across both new handsets. Snaps should come out better than ever in low light, an area Samsung's phone cameras were already strong in. It looks like the fingerprint sensor is going to stay around the back, though most insiders are tipping Samsung to try and emulate Apple's Face ID unlock in some way.
Better speakers, a super slow-motion mode for video, Samsung's own version of Apple's Animoji, even smaller bezels and an even higher price for the S9 and S9 Plus compared to last year's models have all been mooted, and in a few days we should know for sure. The launch of what's likely to be one of the phones of 2018 is set to dominate the news coming out of MWC, but plenty of other stuff will be happening too.
Sony and LG
After Samsung, the two companies most likely to launch brand new phones at MWC 2018 are Sony and LG. Sony always likes showing off new hardware at the event, as it did last year, but the whispers from insiders are that the tech giant is finally going to join the rest of the industry in banishing bezels from the front panels of its flagship phones.
We're not sure exactly what Sony has in store, but it does have a press event scheduled, and the consensus seems to be that the names Xperia XZ Premium 2 and Xperia XZ2 Pro are on the table. Even as the hardware and displays get upgraded, Sony's rather confusing naming scheme continues to keep up its tradition of not making much sense.
Then there's LG. We're almost certain we're going to see an upgraded LG V30 at MWC, complete with added AI. That means better image recognition for the on-board camera, so it can recognize what you're shooting and adjust the settings accordingly, and an improved set of voice commands for Google Assistant.
What we're less likely to see is the LG G7, with most tipsters predicting that LG is going to push the launch of the successor to the LG G6 to later in the year. LG has been making noises about releasing fewer phones in the future, and slowing down its launch schedule, so we'll have to wait until after Mobile World Congress to know what's next.
And the rest...
Speaking of delaying phone launches, the word on the mobile street is that both HTC and Huawei are going to wait until March or April to bring out their own 2018 flagships – that means no notable launches at MWC, although there's a chance that Huawei might show off some new Windows 10 2-in-1 devices at least, and perhaps a mid-range phone.
Whether these two companies don't want to get caught in the shadow of Samsung's major launch, or whether they just need time to perfect their next major phones remains to be seen, but both HTC and Huawei are likely to have a quiet MWC 2018.
That said, HTC's Vive demo area has been a highlight of Mobile World Congress for several years now, and we expect the company to be showing off the HTC Vive Pro this year in Barcelona. We wouldn't be surprised to see some more VR news announced at the event as well, though perhaps not any significant new hardware.
As always at Mobile World Congress, there will be a ton of interesting and unusual gadgets for you to feast your eyes on besides the main flagship phones, and we'll bring you the news from the event as it happens. Over the week that the show runs for, we should get a much better idea of where the mobile industry is heading for the rest of 2018.