World’s Largest Telephone Fair Begins, Fronted by Artificial Intelligence

World’s Largest Telephone Fair Begins, Fronted by Artificial Intelligence

The Mobile World Congress (MWC) began on Monday in Barcelona, expecting to draw around 95,000 attendees. This figure is near to the number of attendees before the pandemic. The main focus of the congress is artificial intelligence (AI), with 5G technology also being a significant theme.

At a time when the success of the metaverse is uncertain, the industry is looking to Generative AI to boost mobile phone sales. This technology, which can create content such as text or visuals, is seen as a key tool for revitalising a market that has been on the decline for some months.

The organising company, GSMA, is also looking forward to the return of Asian attendees, who have not been able to participate in the congress since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic. The event, which is now in its 18th edition, takes place in the eight pavilions of the FIRA on Gran Via in Barcelona.

Over the course of four days, more than 2,400 exhibiting companies and over 750 operators and manufacturers in the telecommunications sector will be present. These include Samsung, Xiaomi, Orange, and Vodafone. Huawei, which is focusing on 5.5G technology development, has the largest presence at the event. Also in attendance are tech giants such as Microsoft, Google, and Amazon. Notably absent, as usual, is Apple.

MWC 2024: the main news

King Felipe VI of Spain observes a prototype of a flying car during the opening day of MWC 2024. (Photo: EFE)

With the mobile phone market having slowed in recent years due to a lack of impactful news, this edition of the MWC is seen as a potential turning point. The industry hopes that the continued development of artificial intelligence will drive a resurgence in interest and sales.

Several manufacturers have announced technological advances in the field of artificial intelligence. These include US chip manufacturer Qualcomm and Chinese company Honor, which has unveiled a camera with AI-enhanced performance.

Around 20 talks and roundtables on AI were scheduled for the opening day alone. Among the key speakers was Demis Hassabis, co-founder and CEO of Google DeepMind and one of the pioneers of artificial intelligence.

Hassabis suggested that current users are only seeing the surface of what AI has to offer and predicted that the next five years could see significant changes in how we understand and use portable devices such as phones.

Microsoft president Brad Smith, a major shareholder in OpenAI and a leading figure in the adoption of generative AI in the business world, stated that we are witnessing the emergence of a new economic sector.

New products on the market this year include Samsung’s Galaxy S24, which features AI systems that offer simultaneous call translation and tools for improving text message writing and photo editing.

Alongside these real-world products are concept proposals that give a glimpse of the future of the industry. One such proposal is Deutsche Telekom’s mobile prototype, which features a smart assistant that replaces all the apps currently installed on smartphones.

A standout prototype is Motorola’s ultra-flexible folding phone, which can bend enough to be worn on the wrist.

Motorola’s ultra-flexible concept. (Photo: Reuters)

Many real-world applications of 5G technology are also on display. This technology has been a common feature of MWC editions for the past five years, but its adoption has been slow due to the significant investment required. The industry is now looking to 5.5G as a solution to meet increasing data transfer demands, with virtual and augmented reality playing a key role.

Tech giants are also stepping up efforts to improve battery performance. This is a new challenge for the industry, which is also being called on to reduce its environmental footprint. Manufacturers are aiming to create more efficient batteries that offer greater autonomy, faster charging times, and less reliance on strategic metals.

The capacity of batteries is still a significant issue. Most batteries currently offer a day of autonomy and only last a few years. This is a problem for smartphones, which are being used more and more intensively.