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Thanks Samsung, you’ve ruined Mobile World Congress 2018

thanks samsung youve ruined mwc 2018  lluis gene

Looking forward to a massive, seemingly unending parade of delightful, tantalizing, cutting-edge new smartphones at Mobile World Congress (MWC) this year? Don’t bother.

Samsung has ruined all that. Sure, there will be a quite the number of great phones to see; but a few we’re really looking forward to in 2018 won’t be there. Why? Fear, and it’s all Samsung’s fault.

Samsung has an event on February 25 in Barcelona, Spain, and you don’t need to be a cryptographer to work out the secret in its teaser image. Samsung will announce the Galaxy S9 and Galaxy S9 Plus, a day before the show actually opens its doors. You’ve probably heard about them. They’re going to be two of the world’s biggest selling phones in 2018. While tech journalists will flock to the event and smartphone fans over the world will ogle the live stream, every other big-name phone company has effectively run from Barcelona screaming.

Three top names that won’t show off a competing flagship phone at Mobile World Congress are Huawei, HTC, and LG. More could follow. If you’re waiting for the rumored LG G7, HTC U12, and Huawei P20, they’ll all come at a later date. How many of the above would have chosen MWC as the launchpad for their flashy new phones if they knew Samsung was turning up with a couple of tablets and not a lot else, like it did last year?

The Galaxy S9 is coming, run away

Okay, it’s not entirely Samsung’s fault. LG is rethinking its mobile strategy, and Huawei had a poor start to the year when AT&T (and now reportedly Verizon) pulled out of a deal to sell its Mate 10 Pro smartphone. HTC also just sold a chunk of its mobile engineering team to Google, but we’re not so sure if that’s affecting its launch plans.

But at the end of the day, Samsung has the Galaxy S9. Everyone knows it’s going to be a huge deal, and likely a very good phone indeed. The leaks surrounding the Galaxy S9 indicate it’s going to correct a major issue with the Galaxy S8 — the camera. It wasn’t bad, but it was soon eclipsed by other 2017 phones because it wasn’t too different from the Galaxy S7.

Jung Yeon-Je/Getty
Jung Yeon-Je/Getty

Samsung proved it could make a brilliant camera with the Galaxy Note 8, and we’re expecting the Galaxy S9 to be even better — at least on the Galaxy S9 Plus. Samsung’s most definitely not copying Apple by making its larger phone more desirable by giving it a dual-lens camera, and lumping a single lens on the smaller, cheaper Galaxy S9. The design looks very similar to the S8, but that doesn’t matter because it’s gorgeous.

Every other big-name phone company has run from Barcelona screaming.

Then there is the launch event itself. Spectacular doesn’t quite come close to describing it. Samsung always goes all-out to make an impression at its “Unpacked” events, and given the importance of the Galaxy S9, this one won’t be any different. February 25 will be Samsung Day, and we doubt anyone could steal the limelight if they tried.

That’s the problem. If Mobile World Congress is a horror movie, Samsung is the monster in the closet everyone is too terrified to take on.

Dollars, eyeballs, and column inches

HTC won’t bring the U12, or any other major phone release, to MWC and will hold its own event at a later date. Huawei has already chosen Paris for its next big phone launch in March, which we expect to be the Huawei P20. It will still likely launch a product or two at the show — perhaps a successor to the Huawei Watch 2. LG isn’t holding an MWC press conference at all, so the G7 definitely won’t be there; however like Huawei, we’re expecting it to put on a brave face and give us something to gawk over.

It costs a lot to put on a massive show at Mobile World Congress, and promotion is everyone’s goal. Samsung’s marketing budget for the Galaxy S9 is sure to be gigantic, and Digital Trends, along with every other publication, tech-centric and otherwise, will be writing about the phone.

Sharing space with any other company is already bad news, but sharing space with Samsung is really, really bad news. Outspending Samsung also seems like a very poor use of anyone’s budget. It’s much more sensible to hold your own event later on, when Samsung won’t be looming over it like a Bixby-controlled Dementor.

We get it. It makes good business sense. But we can’t help feeling a little robbed.

The brave few

Is it going to be ‘Samsung Presents: Mobile World Congress 2018?’ No, not quite. In addition to whatever Huawei and LG show, there are several companies bringing new phones. Sony, Motorola, and Nokia will undoubtedly announce a handful of phones, and there will be plenty of other surprise devices to find in MWC’s cavernous halls too. It just won’t be the flagship phone shootout it could have been.

We’ll get to see awesome new phones spread over the next few months.

On the bright side, it also means we’ll get to see awesome new phones spread over the next few months, rather than all in one go at the end of February. It also gives us a better chance to properly assess releases, as we’re blessed with more time to do so. So while we complain, it’s actually not a bad thing — but modern life is all about urgency and instant gratification; we want everything now, thanks very much.

But it’s also a dangerous game to play. People only have so much money to spend, and if it gets spent on the Galaxy S9 because it’s the only new game in town during March or April, then sales will be lost for everyone else.

If at the end of February you’re wondering how the new Galaxy S9 stacks up against the new phones from every other manufacturer, you won’t know, because they’re all hiding in the corner, quivering. You’ll know when they emerge over the next few months. We won’t be quivering though, we’ll be in Barcelona to courageously take on the Galaxy S9, and everything else at the show, then tell you all about it. We can’t wait.

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