Lumenci reviews: MWC@Barcelona
Updated: Jul 4, 2019
Mobile World Congress (popularly called MWC) is the largest exhibition for the mobile industry. Both Technology Companies and Tech Enthusiasts wait for this event eagerly. This year is no different as Technology Giants made a number of announcements, some expected and some surprising. Here are certain trends that we picked up in the hope that you will enjoy reading the early snapshots. More on MWC in coming days, as the event progress.
5G Consumer Devices
Being an exhibition organized by the GSMA, the announcement of 5G mobile phones was highly anticipated. Also, since Samsung launched Galaxy S10 5G edition ahead of the MWC, therefore, all eyes were on similar announcements from other players. Five 5G Phones were announced - Huawei Mate X, LG V50 ThinQ 5G, Xiaomi Mi Mix 3, OnePlus prototype and ZTE Axon 10 Pro 5G. Interestingly, 80 % of the newly launched phones (i.e. except Huawei) are based on Qualcomm Snapdragon 855 and X50 modem chipsets.
Now, here is something unexpected, HTC launched an interesting mobile 5G Hub that combines a 5G hotspot, an Android hub, and a battery pack into a single device. As with SmartPhones, it is also based on the same Qualcomm chipsets. But it also comes with 802.11ad/ax support that extends its usability with the Gigabit WiFi standards. For dense deployments, 802.11 ax (known as WiFi 6, as per latest nomenclature) have at least four times higher throughput than 802.11ac (WiFi 5). The HTC 5G Hub runs on Android Pie 9 and can also stream videos on popular streaming Apps on its display.
The next biggest trend is the launch of Foldable Phones. Samsung announced Galaxy Fold ahead of MWC, followed by Huawei Mate X. TCL also exhibited its foldable phone prototype and Nubia displayed its wearable smartphone. The one common point that everyone is making about these phones are their pricing. With Samsung Phone priced at $1,980 and Huawei Mate X priced at $2,600, Foldable phones definitely broke some records but simultaneously raised queries and discussions at their usability and value to customers beside increase in available real-estate for content display.
Power of Cumulative and Organized Efforts
If one tries to compare the growth timelines of these two technologies that shared the stage at MWC then it can be said that 5G development happened at a much higher pace compared to Foldable Phones. Samsung announced working on Flexible and Foldable Smartphone as early as 2010 and it took almost a decade to reach a commercial product launch. It is important to note here that work on Flexible Displays (displays that can bend) actually started even lot earlier (1974) when Xerox researcher, Nicholas Sheridon, invented first flexible e-paper display.
In contrast to Foldable Display, 5G development effort, though based on aggregated achievements and learnings of 3G and 4G, is more recent and can be traced back to year 2015 when Next Generation Mobile Network (NGMN) Alliance White Paper was launched. In less than five years, a commercial product is available. This is the difference between a standardized technology like 5G and non-standardized technology like Foldable Displays. Such partnerships and alliance are missing in the Display OEM manufacturers. 5G has very useful and well-understood use cases from day zero whereas Foldable Phones still appear to be in search for their killer use cases to drive their acceptance and thereby reduction in prices
Another trend that is visible in the mobile phones of today and those that were launched at MWC is push towards increasing the number of lenses on the cameras of the Mobiles. Talk about three lenses is common now. We have now seen four lenses in Samsung Galaxy S10 and five lenses on Nokia 9 PureView. These advancements are based on ability to generate high-resolution images using data captured from various lenses via software modules running on specialized hardware. For example, in case of Nokia, the technology is powered by data coming from 3 monochrome and 2 RGB sensors which is then combined using software running from Light (famous for its 16-camera fusion) on a co-processor in parallel with Qualcomm 845 Chipset.
Lenses sit in both directions, when one is trying to capture reality into display and when projecting virtual reality onto real world. Microsoft HoloLens2 made few announcements at MWC too. The HoloLens2 is said to be way ahead in terms of its predecessor in terms of weight, performance, automatic calibration and convenience. It is also targeted towards real world applications in the field like remote assistance which definitely can benefit from the 5G connectivity. In association with Trimble, Microsoft launched a custom hardhat for Construction Industry. Many such Industrial mixed reality use cases will become real in
Display-as-Speaker and Audio-based FingerPrinting
Last year, In-Display FingerPrint sensors made a foray into the world of mobile devices. This year, audio has been integrated in two interesting aspects with respect to Displays. First, LG announced Crystal Sound OLED (CSO) technology for G8 flagship phones. This technology repurposes the OLED display as a diaphragm. The entire surface of the display is vibrated to produce sound with a loud volume Audio output.
Second, Samsung Galaxy S10 announced use of Acoustic Fingerprinting via a 3D Sonic Sensor from Qualcomm that creates a three-dimensional mould of the fingertip by bouncing sound waves off the skin through the display. The use of audio in two interesting ways showcases the importance of Whitespace Analysis where an interesting feature can be recreated using introduction of similar physical principle and a new sensor.
We will come up with more insights in our next blog. Look forward to Ericsson Radio Stripes and other announcements from 5G Operators and Carriers.