An inside look at Mobile World Congress 2016

inside look at mobile world congress 2016 mwc header
While most of the big press conferences that kicked off the show were on Sunday, Mobile World Congress 2016 officially opened its doors on Monday — and the air was electric with excitement. Of course, that might have been from the body heat — 101,000 people packed their way into the Fira Gran Via and Fira Montjuic in Barcelona, 7,000 more people than last year. Of that record-breaking number, though, only 3,600 were members of the international press and media.

The big players


And just like every year, we saw all the big players making announcements and retaining a major presence at the show, including Samsung, LG, Huawei, Qualcomm, Google, Intel, and HTC, to name a few. Some of their booths had interactive demos of products, while others relied on a more traditional approach of simply displaying their new tech, like ZTE.

Robots get more limelight


They’re not taking over the world just yet, but robots had a pretty big presence at MWC this year. This began with LG’s announcement of the Rolling Bot, a ball-shaped robot that monitors your home when you’re away, and even lets you play with your pet with a laser that you can operate from a remote location. For more humanoid bots, you’d best look toward Pepper, by Aldebaran, which can detect human emotions. Pepper will soon be outfitted with IBM’s Watson technology, making the bot all the more responsive. The robot pictured here is one that’s already powered by Watson. Take a look at our round-up of some of the best robots we saw at the show.

The Zuck makes an appearance


Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg made an appearance twice this year — once at Samsung’s Unpacked event to talk about virtual reality, and the second time as the keynote speaker for the show toward the end of the first day. “Zuck” was trending on Twitter during the keynote, as the CEO discussed bringing connectivity across the world, presented his thoughts on the Apple vs. FBI case, and described his personal aspirations to build a Jarvis-like artificial intelligence for his home.

Virtual Reality


Robots were big, but virtual reality kept the masses entertained. Nearly every hall had some form of a “VR experience” or demo for people to try, the most popular being the highly appraised HTC Vive. The one pictured is a demo by the Institute of Electric and Electronics Engineers for a collaborative VR Mars rover mini-game, and showcases the multiplayer use-cases of VR games.

Google kept us occupied again


Continuing its tradition of holding a scavenger hunt, Google yet again offered around 87 pins to collect — scattered throughout the show at its partner companies, including HTC and Samsung. The Android Network Garden, which you couldn’t miss due to the massive green Android head it sported, offered free treats (with marshmallows of course), as well as a station to Androidify yourself and put the result around your neck in the form of an Android-advertising badge. You could also take your Androidified sticker and bring it to another booth to get it printed on a white bottle, to further reinforce Android’s slogan of, “Be Together. Not the Same.”

The other 97,400 people


Since only 3,600 of the 101,000 participants were journalists — who made up the rest? Analysts, company employees, exhibitors, GSMA members — there was no shortage of meeting rooms that were closed off to press, offering private spaces for industry members to converse.



And what kind of a show would it be if it smartphones weren’t the highlight? Arguably two of the most anticipated phones of the past year made their debuts at the show – the LG G5 and the Samsung Galaxy S7 and S7 Edge made headlines and caused long queues to form for people trying to get a glimpse of the two hottest phones at the moment. Of course, they were hardly the only flagship phones generating interest. Xiaomi finally announced the Mi5, and Sony had the Xperia X. And let’s not forget the myriad of mid-range-to-budget devices that were also showcased throughout the show, from startups like French-company Wiko, to a new Android One device from General Mobile.

Samsung’s Museum of Innovation


The Korean company brought to the show its Museum of Innovation, which offered a historical account of Samsung’s devices, ranging from Samsung’s first mobile phone in 1988, the SH-100 — a behemoth of a device, to its first smartwatch, the 2013 Galaxy Gear. It all naturally led up to 2016, marking the debut of the highly anticipated Galaxy S7 and S7 Edge.

Qualcomm’s Invisible Museum


Qualcomm also brought its own museum to the show — though it wasn’t too hard to carry. The Invisible Museum featured several set pieces that looked quite plain — until you bring up a tablet powered by Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 820. The piece lights up and displays several themes — one of which is the smart city. It depicts smart trash collection, smart buildings, phone booths turned into Wi-Fi hubs, and a whole lot more — all as seen through a tablet pointed at a single, plain-looking skyscraper.

Android mascots


While badges covered in Android pins were certainly the easiest to spot at the show, there were also a few Android mascots making the rounds around the show floor. Intel’s Android mascot fell over, after trying to spook someone who wanted a photo — bad karma? The costume didn’t exactly make getting back up very easy …

Getting help


…But don’t worry — he got the help he needed to get up and continue taking photos with people, spreading the Android spirit around.

Well-designed spaces


It may be easy to forget in the heat of the show, but the set designs for a lot of booths were downright incredible. Pictured above is Nokia’s, but other notable mentions include Intel’s booth, which had floating rings above it lighting its space. Samsung had another incredible enclosed space, covered in white light and glass cases that protected its devices from grabby hands. ZTE was white and minimalistic as well, but HTC also did a great job in showcasing people demoing the Vive with outward facing enclosures. It stopped people in their tracks and made them line up to try it themselves.

Innovation City


It has become normal to expect GSMA’s Innovation City to be present at Mobile World Congress, but 2016’s version felt quite small compared to years past. This year’s highlight was most likely the Starship, a semi-autonomous robot that will make its first delivery in April. The company was formed by the co-founders of Skype, and is seeking to have this six-wheeled rover replace your delivery man.



Smartwatches took a bit of a backseat this year at MWC, especially compared to last month’s CES, where we saw a nearly endless supply of new fitness trackers. There were a handful of interesting devices — notably FlexEnable’s curved bangle, that showed off its plastic, organic LCD screen. Haier also had a neat-looking Android smartwatch (not Android Wear), that had Haier’s own customized UI over it, which is the one pictured above.


Google’s radical Gmail redesign is finally rolling out on Android

Google is slowly but surely giving its apps a refresh, modernizing them and ensuring that they're easy to use. The latest app to get a redesign is the Gmail app for Android, which has been redesigned with a few tweaks.

Samsung Galaxy S10e vs. OnePlus 6T: Can the Flagship Killer survive?

The Samsung Galaxy S10e is the new affordable flagship on the block, but at $750, it's $200 more than the OnePlus 6T. Does the Flagship Killer stand a chance against the new generation of flagship devices? Let's take a closer look.

From folding phones to 5G -- here's everything we saw at Galaxy Unpacked

Samsung's Galaxy Unpacked event treated us to a real parade of technological excellence, from folding phones to new fitness wearables. Here's everything we saw at Galaxy Unpacked on February 20.

The 2-year-old Nokia 6 is now being updated to Android Pie

Android 9.0 Pie has been released. But is your phone getting Android 9.0 Pie, and if so, when? We've done the hard work and asked every device manufacturer to see when their devices would be getting the update.
Virtual Reality

Getting into VR is spendy. Which headset is truly worth your hard-earned cash?

Virtual reality has finally gone mainstream, but how do you find the best VR headset for you? Check out a few of our favorites, whether you want the best of the best or a budget alternative for your mobile device.

The best Samsung Galaxy S10 Plus cases to protect your $1,000 phone

Can't get enough of big phones? The Samsung Galaxy S10 Plus is absolutely up your alley. But it's still fragile, and damage is easily gathered through normal life. Protect it with the best Galaxy S10 Plus cases.
Product Review

Galaxy Watch Active is the right size, no matter how big or small your wrist is

Launched among a massive array of other new products, the Samsung Galaxy Watch Active could easily have been missed at Galaxy Unpacked 2019 -- which would be unfortunate. This is a sensibly designed, correctly sized smartwatch suitable for…

Samsung Galaxy S10 vs. Galaxy S9: How much better is Samsung’s new flagship?

You'd naturally expect the Samsung Galaxy S10 to be better than last year's S9, but just how do the two phones differ? We break down the specs and compare Samsung's flagships in various categories to pick a winner.

Protect and style your Samsung Galaxy S10 with the best cases and covers

If you've splashed the cash for a shiny new Samsung Galaxy S10, then you'll want to take steps to protect your investment. With a metal frame and glass curves, the S10 needs some cover. Check out the best Samsung Galaxy S10 cases.
Health & Fitness

Nike’s Android app is bricking its $350 Adapt BB self-lacing shoes

A firmware update for Nike's new self-lacing Adapt BB shoe appears to be bricking the $350 footwear for some owners. Android users have said the Nike app no longer pairs with the shoe, rendering the tightening mechanism useless.

You can now pre-order the Samsung Galaxy S10, S10 Plus, or S10e

The Samsung Galaxy S10 is one of the most-anticipated phones of the year, offering a new chipset, beautiful display, and more. Now that the phone has been announced you might be wondering where you can get it for yourself.

Where to buy the Samsung Galaxy S10, S10 Plus, and S10e in the U.K.

The Samsung Galaxy S10, S10 Plus, and S10e have all been officially announced and can be pre-ordered right now, with deliveries expected on March 8. If you're in the U.K., this is where you need to go to buy one.

Sony partnership with Light aims to take smartphone photography to new heights

Smartphone photography is in its ascendancy, and a new partnership between Light and Sony hopes to lift it to new heights through the development of multi-image sensor solutions for smartphones. We spoke to Light to find out more.

Samsung Galaxy S10 vs. Google Pixel 3: Can Samsung beat the stock Android king?

The Samsung Galaxy S10 is here, offering modern specs, a beautifully high-resolution display, and an edge-to-edge design with a small cutout in the display for the front-facing camera. But can the phone take out the Google Pixel 3?