Are Mobile Devices Becoming Boring?

Are Mobile Devices Becoming Boring?

A lot of people tend to take it as a given that mobility is the area of technology that sees the most innovation, change, and just plain old cool new stuff. And for a while that was very much true. Each new Apple announcement heralded the beginning of how we would all start using mobile devices. And conferences such as Mobile World Congress (MWC) let all of the other major mobile players like Samsung and LG show off their cool new products and gadgets. But that pace of change is clearly slowing. The last Apple announcement that seemed really cool was the Apple Watch, and even that is now starting to underwhelm. And last year’s Mobile World Congress didn’t really have a lot of cool new mobile stuff to show off, and the same looks to be true of this week’s MWC in Barcelona. From a strictly smartphone and tablet standpoint, while there are plenty of quality devices out there that will make consumers happy, there really isn’t anything to make you sit up and think “I must have that!” A modular smartphone that makes it possible to plug in new capabilities? Nice. Some slim and capable new 2-in-1 tablet/laptops. Always welcome. But not really anything that’s changing the face of mobile computing. Probably the biggest area of excitement at this year’s MWC was around virtual reality (VR). From Mark Zuckerberg’s Oculus, to Samsung’s neat new Gear, to HTC’s affordable Vive, there are some interesting and promising developments in VR. But is this changing the way mobility works? Will we all be sitting in our trains staring into VR goggles constantly? You never...
Mobile World Congress Gets Future Focused

Mobile World Congress Gets Future Focused

Mobile World Congress in Barcelona has wrapped and this year’s event stood apart from past MWCs in its singular focus on mobile technologies that have yet to arrive. While MWC is typically focused on smartphones (and there were plenty at this year’s event) probably the three biggest attention getters were smart watches, mobile payments and virtual reality, all technologies that have yet to prove themselves. On the smartwatch front, while they weren’t at MWC, most attention is still focused on Apple’s play in wearables. Still, there were some pretty compelling watches at the show, including LG’s Watch Urbane, which is beautiful and comes with its own data plan, so no tethered phone is required to use the watch, a key advantage for this device. Still the watches that I’m most interested in are the new Pebble devices. With expected battery life of ten days, this is a watch you can wear and keep on, as opposed to many of the other smartwatches (including Apple’s), which at best will need to be recharged every night and, in the worst cases, every few hours. Another noteworthy announcement was the unveiling of Samsung Pay. This mobile payment solution is based on LoopPay, which we highlighted as an alternative Apple Pay and which was subsequently acquired by Samsung. One of the big differentiators for this offering is its ability to work with the standard magnetic card readers already present at many vendors. This means that Samsung Pay should at launch work at a lot more vendors than competing mobile payment systems, which require special NFC hardware at the vendor’s location. While there were...
Mobile Vendors Looking to Score Big at Mobile World Congress

Mobile Vendors Looking to Score Big at Mobile World Congress

In the world’s version of football (what we in the U.S. call soccer), FC Barcelona is perennially one of the best teams in the sport. However, at the Mobile World Congress being held in Barcelona this week, Apple, the team that many think of as the best in mobile, is conspicuously absent. Of course, that’s nothing new. Apple is famous for not attending any tech events but their own (and to steal a bit of MWC’s thunder, Apple has an event planned for early next week). But Apple wasn’t completely absent from day one of MWC. One of the main announcements of note concerned their continuing partnership with IBM to build better enterprise applications. One can’t help but appreciate the goal of this joint effort, as enterprise apps can use all the help they can get in the areas of design and usability. However, while the fruits of this union have been impressive looking, most so far are in vertical areas like retail and travel, so many of us stuck with lousy business apps may have to wait a bit longer to see any benefits. Another interesting trend so far at MWC is the increasing prevalence of good but inexpensive smartphones.  For those (like myself) who tend to be frugal in our purchases, it’s welcome to see decent phones, priced around $150, that provide all the capabilities we need, give us the freedom of an unlocked phone, and don’t force us to break the bank or agree to a long term contract with a carrier. Though in the world of more pricey, high-end smartphones, Samsung did debut their Galaxy...
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