It’s a week until Mobile World Congress (MWC) kicks off in Barcelona. But after years of being the focus of smartphone innovation for the world’s biggest mobile makers, the show appears to be losing its edge.
The biggest players are either holding their flagship devices back until after the stands have been taken down, or are simply using special events ahead of the bash in order to corner headlines and not get lost among the morass of new devices.
HTC is a key case in point. It desperately needs a good start to 2013 after what can only be described as a total disaster in 2012.
And so, instead of revealing its much-leaked HTC One, also known as the M7, at MWC, it is instead holding a special event on February 19th.
That means it can feed off a ton of press focused solely on its new handset, as well as coverage of any other budget Android devices it touts.
LG has taken things a step further. Not only has it unveiled its new Optimus phones, it’s even released the 5.5-inch Optmius G on its home turf of Korea. It’s also detailed release plans for the phone in the US and Japan.
Rival Samsung, meanwhile, has made it clear it won’t be showing off its hugely-hyped Galaxy S4 at the show and will instead wait and unveil it at a time when other manufacturers aren’t unleashing devices too.
And then there’s Nokia’s [so-called EOS Pureview Windows Phone](/mobiles/news/2013/02/nokiaprepping41megapixelpureviewlumiaphone/_. But that too is likely to be held back until summer, when Espoo can sing its praises and not face as many questions about why it’s still struggling in the smartphone space.
This all suggests that MWC is becoming an increasing irrelevance. All these companies will have a presence, but they won’t be using the show floor to unveil new, flagship kit.
There may be the odd new tablet and budget device, but nothing that’ll leave tech-watchers cooing about innovation and major change.
It’s really no surprise. There’s been a wider trend in the industry towards the big players hosting their own launch events, giving them greater control over the message they want to convey.
It also stops any awkward, unfavourable comparisons with rivals’ new kit that may be on show at the same time.
More than anything, you can get more attention from the assembled press at a dedicated event than at a big show like MWC.
The fact is, writers and video types aren’t running around trying to do a million things at once at a dedicated gathering, unlike at MWC.
There’s also the big question as to how important new hardware really is. While new smartphones are always exciting for a certain type of geek, it’s the operating systems and the software that supplements them that has become more important.
And you don’t really need a trade show in a big, soulless hall to show that off. Just people willing to try it out on existing devices they already have at home.
MWC will doubtless kick on for a few years yet. But like CES and Macworld, don’t be surprised to hear about more and more insiders ditching it all together as tech companies realise it’s not the ideal place to show off their sharp new products.