Get the inside scoop from top tech experts and commentators ahead of the world’s largest mobile expo in Barcelona, MWC…

It’s that time of year again. All the biggest names in mobile are descending on Barcelona for the world’s largest phone show – Mobile World Congress – and all eyes are on Samsung and its Galaxy S9 range.

But while Samsung’s pending announcement is causing a stir, it’s not the only brand to look out for at MWC 2018. We caught up with a few of the UK’s most prominent tech journos from TechRadar, Pocket Lint, T3 and Wareable to find out what they’re most excited about at this year’s event, and what might hit tech headlines come Monday 26 Feb…

Samsung’s big reveal

Not technically part of the main event, Samsung’s is set to launch its flagship Galaxy S9 and S9 Plus at 5pm GMT, Sunday 25 Feb. Its ‘Unpacked’ event has been teased with an invite displaying a big number 9. But what might a new flagship bring?

The general consensus among our tech reporters (and the majority of info to date) is that any change from the Galaxy S8 will be iterative. However, as the one big phone launch that can rival iPhone, the big reveal of Samsung’s Galaxy S9 and Galaxy S9 Plus is guaranteed to steal the media spotlight.

Product and style editor at T3, Spencer Hart, says despite the proliferation of info online, he’s still very interested to see what Samsung has in store:

“A lot of the details surrounding its flagship have already leaked online. So far it doesn’t look like a massive update, with a faster processor and tweaked design, but we’re hoping it will pull something special out of the bag.”

Over at Pocket Lint, editor Chris Hall agrees:

“We’re expecting power and AI advancements, but more importantly, camera innovation,” he says. “However, all focus will be on the new dual aperture camera that the phone is carrying.”

A new flagship from Sony

Looking beyond Samsung, our pundits also predict a new device from Sony. But the nature of this isn’t quite so clear-cut.

UK phones editor at TechRadar, John McCann says, “The cool thing about MWC is the breadth of launches that you get. With Sony, we could well get a successor to the 4K screen XZ Premium that they launched last year – maybe an XZ2 Premium or XZ Premium 2.

“They could also launch a more traditional flagship like an Xperia XZ2 and some mid-range phones as well – although they did launch a couple at CES earlier in the year. They’ve not launched a tablet in a while so it’s also possible that we might get a new Android slate from them,” he says.

Spencer’s also looking forward to Sony’s release:

“Last year Sony failed to jump on the bezel-less bandwagon and as a result, their handsets looked dated,” he explains. “The 2018 handsets look like they’ll be a big departure from their previous aesthetic – definitely a welcome change in our eyes.”

Wearables and hearables

When it comes to smartwatches, fitness trackers, sports tech and VR, editor of Wareable, Michael Sawh, knows his stuff. His picks for MWC 2018? An influx of smartwatches and the continued incorporation of voice assistants, AI and even translation into our earbuds and headphones.

“With the Apple Watch starting to gain traction, it feels like people are finally seeing the appeal of owning a smartwatch,” Michael says. “Huawei is strongly tipped to unveil a successor to the sporty Huawei Watch 2, and we could well see more watches embrace 4G connectivity, like the Apple Watch 3, letting them become more standalone devices.

“Smart assistants like Alexa and Google Assistant will find their way into smartwatches and earbuds, and start to become genuinely useful with the benefit of features like on-the-fly translation in the latter. As Apple continues to give traditional watch makers a run for their money, the likes of Swatch will try to take Apple on at its own game, too.”

“Smart assistants like Alexa and Google Assistant will find their way into smartwatches and earbuds, and start to become genuinely useful” – Michael Sawh, Wearable.

He also believes health tracking will be a hot topic, with Apple, Fitbit and Samsung all exploring how they can use wearables to tackle heart health, sleep disorders and more. And VR will continue to have a strong presence, as HTC reveals its plans for the future of Vive.

Top trends

In among the phone launches, there are a few emerging trends. For Spencer, this includes the continued reduction of bezels and an increased focus on AI as a key component of software releases:

“Huawei, Honor and Google are already hot on artificial intelligence powering complex tasks on your smartphone, and we think other manufacturers will follow suit,” he says.

John, meanwhile, is on the lookout for enhanced biometric technology:

“We expect brands to follow on from Apple’s Face ID smarts. Huawei, Honor and One Plus have already brought similar tech to their phones – although it’s not quite as in-depth as Apple’s. All the big companies are working on this kind of technology. We’ll certainly be keeping an eye on the face recognition and in-display fingerprint scanners as biometrics really take a hold this year.”

That’s while Chris over at Pocket Lint expects manufacturers to pick up the pace:

“Aside from all the specs and updates and promises of better things, there’s going to be talk of getting faster – with 5G devices launching in 2019 – as well as smarter – with the rise of AI. Google Assistant, Alexa and Bixby: these are the names that will resonate through the halls of MWC as manufacturers bring machine learning to bear.”

Finally, Michael believes 2018 could be the year of AR:

“Everyone was talking about augmented reality in 2017, but in 2018 it feels like we might finally get our hands on the headsets that can give us that mixed reality feeling in our homes,” he says.

It sounds like an exciting week in Barcelona, but will they get it right? We’re gearing up to bring you all the details on this year’s new flagship phones over the coming weeks.

In the meantime… Keep your finger on the pulse with our pundits’ predictions for Samsung’s Galaxy S9.

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