Thoughts from Barcelona

While heading to Gatwick with Cordelia on the way to MWC, we got talking about ‘here we go again’ and how many times we’d been to Barcelona for the event in the mobile industry calendar. I’m a relative newbie with eight visits under my belt now.  I can’t claim to hark back to the days for 3GSMA back in Cannes, I’ve only known Barcelona.


In my relatively short time going to MWC however, there’s been an undeniable shift but that’s only to be expected. You’d be surprised if it hadn’t changed and even more people would be questioning its relevance. As it stands, it’s one of the biggest mobile technology conferences on the planet with nearly all the major device manufacturers present, Apple has never ‘officially’ been present in terms of being an exhibitor, but you know that it’s always there in one way or another, even if it’s just the fact that everyone there looking at new devices is going to compare them to an iPhone.


There were several things that caught my eye this year that I wanted to share (including a robot riding a Segway), especially around the changes I saw this year and naturally touching on some of the device stuff.  


“I’ll never buy a Samsung device..."


This is what I said to colleagues in the time building up to MWC. For the last few years I’ve been using an HTC and it’s been a beautifully crafted and brilliant device. To me, Samsung mobile devices have always had the perception of looking and feeling cheap, costing more than they should, unnecessary clutter that just drains your battery and things note quite implemented properly (fingerprint scanner, Samsung Health etc.). HTC has had an advantage over Samsung the last couple of years by producing beautiful devices, but given Samsung’s marketing spend, HTC has never really been able to get their devices in consumer pockets and now I fear it’s too late.


Needless to say I was looking forward to the HTC M9 launch. I’m still looking forward to news from HTC of the new device, because I believe what it launched at MWC was an HTC One 8.5. It’s almost impossible to tell the difference between last year’s device and this new device, which is so disappointing. Yes I can understand wanting design consistency to try an build an iconic device, but if you’re going to spend that amount of money at MWC with this as your hero device, the software needs to be up to scratch and things like the camera performance just wasn’t up to scratch. Admittedly HTC says this can be improved with software updates, but the camera has always been my one bugbear of HTC devices.


Then Samsung launched the device that HTC should have and now I think HTC is going to feel the impact. The GS6 Edge is by far and away the best device Samsung has ever produced in my opinion. I was fortunate enough to get backstage and get my hands on it. The built quality is superb and Samsung has stripped back a lot of the features and clutter it crammed in to its flavour of Android.  After a little bit of time with it, I can safely say that I have seven words that sums up how I feel about the GS6 Edge.


“Shut up Samsung and take my money.”


Four years is almost a lifetime in mobile...


2015 marked the second year that the 4YFN (4 Years From Now) conference ran alongside MWC at the old Fira venue. It’s been the first time I’ve been able to check it out and I loved it. I think over the last few years there’s been a calling for MWC to address this sort of audience. It started to happen with the number of Heroes of the Mobile Fringe events that took place and 4YFN seems to have picked up the baton to address the startup/disruptor market.


4YFN was an interesting mix of startups, investors, panel discussions, keynote presentations, pitch competitions and workshops, all addressing a number of different sectors, trends and looking at how markets across the globe can and will be disrupted and developed in the next four years. With sponsors like Audi, Banco Sabadell and Telefonica (motor, banking and MNO are all arguably looking at an almost unrecognisable future), not to mention FIWARE  - an open initiative aiming to create an ecosystem to help grasp the opportunities the IoT presents, 4YFN represents a serious look at how industries will change in the future, with major brands fully on board.


For me, 4YFN is going to play an even bigger role next year, especially as it hits our sweet spot at FieldHouse. Of course MWC is always going to be the main event, but 4YFN offers a refreshing alternative and perhaps it won’t be hard to imagine 4YFN taking over another hall or two at the old Fira…..perhaps not even four years from now.


It’s about the network...


No I’m not talking about ZZZZuck’s ‘keynote’ pandering to the network operators. I’m talking about the personal networks we build as PR professionals. At MWC you may have a few chance encounters among the 90,000 other attendees that help expand your network, and perhaps again this is where 4YFN excels a little further, given the targeted audience there, but the real value comes in the evening networking. Here you’re among like-minded people and the opportunities are almost palpable.


It’s no secret that a lot of the deals that take place around MWC take place in the evenings, which is no different for me as a PR person. Many of the events we went to in Barcelona were with top industry influencers, incredible fast-growth businesses and some of the best investors in the game.  The network is one of your most valuable assets, and no more so than in the PR game. Pretty much anyone can get media coverage for a good story - but what clients should actually look for is how PR can help shift their bottom line, and the relationships we have with industry stakeholders, not just media. That’s how PR should be working for clients - and the strength of our network at FieldHouse is one of the many reasons we keep on heading out to MWC. We don’t look into an industry from the outside, we want to be part of the industry. So I guess I’ll be heading out to MWC for quite few more years….