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Fast Charge: MWC seems to be going the way of E3

OPINION: I’ve spent the past few days wandering around the halls of the Fira, the home of the long-running Mobile World Congress, better known as MWC. I’m no stranger to the show, having attended multiple times during my time as a journalist, but things just feel a little bit… different this year, and not for the better. 

Back when I first began attending MWC in the mid-2010s, the event was jam-packed with announcements from most of the big players in the mobile space.

I remember one particular Samsung launch back in 2016 with a surprise appearance from Mark Zuckerberg while we all donned the Gear VR headsets. It was surreal.

It wasn’t just Samsung that’d use MWC as a springboard to showcase their latest tech; I’d usually have a jam-packed show with launches from many big-name brands like Huawei, LG and Sony that would keep me busy, running from hall to hall to not only attend the launches but to go hands-on at the companies’ respective booths at the show.

samsung unpacked
Samsung launches products at dedicated Unpacked events

What’s changed?

In 2024 though? It’s not quite the same story. Big players like Samsung have now stepped away from MWC launches, instead choosing to branch out and do their own events, usually weeks before the show’s start. The company is still there in a big way to showcase its latest smartphone tech, but it’s no longer an MWC launch.

Then there’s OnePlus who, despite launching the OnePlus Watch 2 at the same time as MWC, didn’t have a presence at the show at all

While there are differences in circumstances, it does feel like big players in the mobile market are pulling away from MWC, choosing instead to host their own events, sometimes not even show-adjacent – and that reminds me a lot of E3 before it eventually went the way of the Dodo.

In a similar way to what we’re seeing with MWC, big E3 publishers like EA began pulling away from the main show with its adjacent EA Play show, while others, like Sony and Nintendo, would snub the show altogether. Granted, the final nail in the coffin was the pandemic and a failed attempt at a digital alternative to the in-person show, but the writing was on the wall for quite some time.

xiaomi 14 ultra back in hand
Xiaomi announced the 14 Ultra for Europe at the show

Of course, I’m not saying that MWC 2025 won’t be happening, with Chinese manufacturers like ZTE, Tecno, Xiaomi and Honor taking advantage of the swathe of European press at the show this year, with interesting announcements this year including the Xiaomi 14 and Xiaomi 14 Ultra, Honor Magic 6 Pro and the Tecno Phantom Ultimate concept

It also remains a huge networking event for businesses, with much of the event space not taken by consumer-focused brands like Samsung but brands covering a span of related industries like mobile connectivity, AI, telecoms and much more.

I just wonder whether it’ll eventually morph into something solely business-focused, leaving big mobile brands to host their launches in the first few months of the year. It does seem to be trending in that direction, but let’s see…

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