What to expect from Mobile World Congress, Europe’s massive tech con

More than 2,200 companies will exhibit at Mobile World Congress 2017 and this year is all about smartphones

Published February 24, 2017 1:00PM (EST)

 (<a href='https://www.shutterstock.com/g/Kostenko+Maxim'>Kostenko Maxim</a> via <a href='http://www.shutterstock.com/'>Shutterstock</a>)
(Kostenko Maxim via Shutterstock)

Mobile World Congress, the world’s largest gathering for the tech industry –and everyone who’s invested in its future – will open next week in Barcelona. The massive conference is host to a bevy of announcements from big-name companies (except for Apple, which prefers to hold its own events) as well as showfloor upon showfloor of innovative companies.

More than 2,200 companies will exhibit at Mobile World Congress 2017 – which is stretched across multiple football field-sized halls -- including Google, Intel, Nokia and Samsung. In addition to booths big and small, there will be a series of lectures and keynote speeches from industry heads and up-and-coming innovators.

But when the doors to MWC officially open on Feb. 27, what can the 100,000-plus attendees expect? Although the four-day event offers plenty in the way of nitty gritty technical advancements for the engineering geek, this year’s show is all about smartphones.

“[Mobile has] inextricably changed how we communicate, interact, work and play as individuals, and it’s transforming entire industries, bringing new levels of productivity and efficiency to enterprises,” wrote Michael O’Hara, chief marketing officer for MWC parent company, GSMA. “The 2017 edition of Mobile World Congress will highlight just how elemental mobile has become in our everyday lives and the positive impact it is having for billions of people around the world.”

Beyond the industry hype, MWC will likely be the stage for many major mobile companies’ new smartphones. If you’re planning to upgrade your phone in the next year, here’s some of what you can expect in 2017 and beyond.

No Galaxy reboot from Samsung

After poorly handling a product safety boondoggle in which its Galaxy Note 7 smartphones spontaneously combusted, Samsung isn’t expected to launch the Galaxy S8 at MWC (although the company traditionally announces its Galaxy line at the conference). Tech press is hoping to see a teaser video of the phone at Samsung’s MWC conference.

Samsung had touted the S8’s artificial intelligence capabilities, hinting at a “beefed-up virtual assistant” similar to Apple’s Siri. Other rumors included a dual-lens camera, huge 4200mAh battery, a curved 4K screen and a high-end processor.

“It's possible Samsung will use MWC to show off something else -- there's talk of two foldable phones coming from Samsung this year for a start, though they probably won't arrive until late 2017 if at all,” Tech Radar reported.

A super fast phone from ZTE

China’s ZTE will officially announce its ZTE Gigabit Phone, which supports theoretical upload and download speeds up to 1 gigabit per second. The Verge reported that the ZTE phone will likely include 360-degree virtual reality, 4K video capability and instant cloud storage on the move.

An Android phone from Nokia

Nokia already offers an Android phone exclusively in the Chinese market, but Wired predicted that the company will offer a similar phone in a wider market. The Nokia 8 might be “sold as a flagship device with a premium glass and metal form factor, high-end camera and competitive specs.”

A throwback to the early aughts

Nokia is also expected to re-launch its iconic 3310 phone – the pre-smartphone brick with interchangeable faceplates. Nostalgia is alive and well, as is the battery on this phone (unlike the flashy mobile you have now).

A high-end offering from HTC

Taiwanese manufacturer HTC is rumored to announce its top-of-the-line HTC 11 smartphone at Mobile World Congress. Tech Radar expects a 5.5-inch curved screen, 12 megapixel camera and big 3700mAh battery, as well as a 8GB of RAM and 256GB of storage for all your multi-media needs.

LG ditches its modular digs

LG’s expected G6 phone will have “a sleeker, more ‘usable’ look,” according to PC Magazine and this teaser trailer. The trailer hints at a large, narrow screen and waterproof body. Mirror reported that the South Korean company will have a cutting-edge processor and likely won’t be available until mid-March.

Possibly 5 handsets from Sony

Japanese site Sumaho Info reported that Sony will debut five phones at MWC 2017, all designed for high-end and mid-range markets. The flagship phone (codenamed Yoshino) “apparently has a 5.5-inch 2160 x 3840 screen, a Snapdragon 835 chipset, 4GB or 6GB of RAM and a Sony IMX400 camera sensor,” Tech Radar reported. The most notable spec is Yoshino’s 4K screen, Tech Radar continued, because the majority of Sony’s flagship phones still have 1080p displays.

Other expected handsets include the higher-end BlancBright, mid-range Keyaki and Hinoki phones, followed by a bottom of the range Mineo. Sony has not confirmed any of these handsets, but rumors of this spread have been repeated across tech publications.

The final version of the new BlackBerry

Last year, BlackBerry gave its handset manufacturing license to TCL, which also makes Alcatel phones. The company debuted its first smartphone under this new manufacturing partnership, Mercury, at CES in Las Vegas earlier this year. Mercury, a smartphone with a QWERTY keyboard and fingerprint scanner, will likely be shown in final production version at MWC.

By Jessica Lipsky

Jessica Lipsky is a cover editor at Salon.

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Mobile World Congress Nokia Samsung Smartphones Sony Technology Zte