Mobile World Congress

Samsung Galaxy S9, 5G and A.I.: What to expect from the biggest mobile show on earth

Key Points
  • Mobile World Congress (MWC) is the biggest mobile event in the world, and often sees electronics giants like Samsung, Sony and Huawei launch their latest devices.
  • Samsung is expected to launch its Galaxy S9 smartphone on Sunday.
  • Other big themes include 5G, artificial intelligence and virtual and augmented reality.
What to expect from the biggest mobile show on earth

Mobile World Congress (MWC) is the biggest mobile event in the world, and often sees electronics giants like Samsung, Sony and Huawei launch their latest devices.

Over 100,000 people attended the show in Barcelona, Spain in 2017 and this year's event is expected to be even bigger when it kicks off Monday.

The following themes are expected to be big at the conference.


The most talked about announcements at MWC are usually the new phone launches, and Samsung's flagship Galaxy S9 is expected to be the biggest one.

Samsung has a press conference scheduled Sunday where it will unveil the device, just ahead of the official opening of MWC.

HMD Global, which now makes Nokia-branded phones, will also be taking the wraps off new devices Sunday, while Japan's Sony has a press conference on Monday to unveil new smartphones.

Beyond the high-end offerings from the likes of Samsung, analysts are expecting a number of similar looking Android devices to be present at the show.

"Everybody likes to see the latest and greatest shiny device, but I think we have reached new heights in the sea of sameness when it comes to smartphones," Ben Wood, chief of research at CCS Insight, told CNBC by phone earlier this week.

Global smartphones sales recorded their first ever decline in the fourth quarter of 2017, according to data from Gartner, highlighting the current tough market.


5G has been hyped up in the past few years at MWC, but analysts are expecting some more concrete plans around the next generation of mobile internet.

"Everyone is at final approach to launching 5G services commercially. There are some more pre-commercial trials, the focus is about when will 5G arrive and what will it deliver in the next couple years," Ian Fogg, head of mobile at IHS, told CNBC by phone earlier this week.

Already, companies such as Samsung, Nokia, Huawei and some mobile networks have carried out 5G trials.

5G is already being used at the Winter Olympics and AT&T recently announced plans to roll out 5G to some of its customers this year.

Artificial intelligence

Artificial intelligence (AI) was one of 2017's biggest technology buzzwords and it continues to be talked about by companies this year.

Telecom firms will be discussing how AI is being used to enhance their networks, while mobile players will be talking about how the technology is being used in their devices. For example, last year Huawei launched the Mate 10 Pro, a smartphone with its own Kirin 970 AI chip.

But analysts warned that many companies will be marketing their products as AI, without actually using any of the technology. For example, a company might claim that a feature is powered by AI when in reality its software is based on a rigid computer algorithm.

"We believe that AI is going to be a fundamental element of all devices and services in the future, the way in which it is being marketed right now feels reckless," Wood said.

"From the perspective of consumers, they are not going to buy AI. They are going to buy products which use AI and deliver a fantastic experience."

Virtual and augmented reality

Worldwide spend on augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR) is expected to hit $17.8 billion in 2018, a 95 percent rise from last year, according to research firm IDC, and the technology is expected to make a big appearance at MWC.

Visitors examine the new Samsung's VR (Virtual Reality) devices during the Mobile World Congress 2017 in Barcelona, Spain on February 27, 2017.
Albert Llop | Anadolu Agency | Getty Images

Last year, Apple and Google released developer kits aimed at AR applications. This could lead to more uses being shown off at the show.

"We expect the buzz around augmented reality to intensify on several fronts: apps, mobile games, digital marketing, m-commerce (mobile commerce), and social media," research firm Ovum said in a note this week.