MWC week is the most important industry event in the Digitonic calendar. With over 110,000 industry people in attendance, the entire city of Barcelona is transformed every last week of February to handle the largest technology event in the world.

Any event of this scale is a logistical spectacle, and it takes focus to get value from something so vast and varied. We approach MWC for the sole purpose of competitive benchmarking, and this year we are specifically measuring the fragmentation in the messaging sector, as well as observing the impact of GDPR on wider marketing applications. A key indicator of appetite is always demonstrated by the types of organisations that choose to physically attend, and at what scale they do this.

Messaging

Firstly on messaging, never has there been more opportunity to engage with a customer via preferred applications, but never has it been more complicated to do so.

RCS – heralded by many as the saviour of SMS – continues to make slow and convoluted progress, and we lack a coherent approach from Google on the wider use case for this format on legacy Android devices. The current tone remains to think of a use case for RCS based on the functionality available; and to work with it (despite its current limitations). Regardless, the conversational principles of RCS functionality cannot be ignored and RCS remains one to watch.

Other Messaging Apps – Facebook Messenger was notable only by its absence, with enterprise preferring Whatsapp as the OTT app of choice for powering conversations. This is hardly a huge surprise given Whatsapp’s global scale and – arguably – a perceived separation from the Facebook platform. The challenge remains how to make sense of these (and other) messaging options at scale; presently it is faster and easier for marketers to do what they always did using traditional channels; which is in itself a trap.

It was also notable to see a reduction in the presence of traditional ad-tech since GDPR has come into force. It is our Managing Director of Technology Iain’s belief that this symbolises a wider shift towards consent-driven practices, an opinion reinforced by an increased presence for messaging options instead.

5G

Elsewhere on the floor it was impossible to escape the buzz of 5G. No matter your application towards mobile, 5G does represent a significant opportunity to do more with connectivity. Backwards compatibility of 5G applications with 3G and 4G is a challenge that will be extremely pertinent to ensure usability, especially as Vodafone have announced they will be launching 5G across 19 UK towns and cities this year.

IOT, Digital Health, Connected Cities and Security were also high agenda items, and if you like gadgets then there were plenty of new smartphone launches timed for MWC. Samsung, as ever, utilised immersive experiences to showcase functions and features of their phones, this year focusing on AR and VR derived from device cameras – showcasing both the increased CPU as well as the potential behind 5G.

This was Digitonic’s 8th Mobile World Congress – now known only as MWC – and it was also our Managing Director of Technology Iain’s 8th consecutive trip to the event.