The relevance of Mobile World Congress (MWC) is something that’s been hotly debated in recent weeks.
Just a month after similarly downbeat scribblings about the huge Consumer Electronics Show trade event in Las Vegas, the Barcelona bash is now getting it in the neck from the tech press, as the world’s major players choose instead to reveal their hottest new products at special events over which they have greater control.
As the show itself becomes less vital to the success of the smartphone business, mobile-makers are having to resort to their usual approach whenever events like this lose their allure. Namely, specs.
Already, we’ve had Huawei big up their Ascend P2 as ‘the world’s fastest smartphone’.
Meanwhile, HTC is full of chatter about ‘ultra pixels’ on its HTC One camera, as LG outs a device with a vast 5.5-inch screen.
As a tech watcher, this has been the tiring truth for years. Bigging-up specs is still the fallback option when there’s little else to talk about, a way for manufacturers to trumpet innovation and fanboys to play oneupmanship in increasingly fraught comments sections.
It’s boring and overlooks the fact that user experience is, and has been, the key factor for years.
Millions of people haven’t hoovered up iPhones and Galaxy devices because of their lengthy and lavish spec sheets but because they’re easy and intuitive to use.
Sadly though, as operating systems and software take pride of place, this is pretty much all hardware makers have to try and set themselves apart.
HTC has done well in developing Sense in order to give itself some leverage in the Android space, but by and large, with manufacturers using the same Google OS, the only way they can differentiate themselves is by saying something is the ‘world’s thinnest’, ‘world’s lightest’ or ‘world’s fastest’.
In reality, these stats are meaningless, quickly superseded by rival devices.
Life right now is hard for mobile-makers. Users know that all they’re buying is a black (or white) slab with a nice screen, which hosts the things they want: a specific operating system and millions of different apps.
Google and LG knew this when they outed the Nexus 4. It’s not the hottest handset going, but it has everything you could need specs-wise, but more importantly it offers the latest software innovation from Google, unadulterated by skins or bloatware.
As the software battle becomes more entrenched, smartphone-manufacturers are only going to hammer home their specs advantage more. They have no choice.
But in 2013, it ultimately means nothing. Everyone has the same specs, give or take the odd megapixel, half-inch on a display or PPI.
It’s all about software and services and how they’re implemented, something hardware makers, Apple aside, have little control over.
Yet because of this, the specs fight will continue apace this year and for years to come.