As the world’s largest mobile expo quickly approaches, top tech experts and commentators give us the lowdown on what could be biggest stories from MWC 2019…

Hype around Mobile World Congress 2019 is now at fever pitch, with the world’s largest phone show once again hosting the biggest names in tech and promising an array of exciting new announcements – with many hoping to see phones get more flexible and 5G ready.

But MWC 19 promises to deliver a whole lot more, and we’ve spoken with some of the UK’s leading tech journalists – from the likes of TechRadar, Recombu and Wareable – to prove it.

So, what should you be keeping an eye out for come Monday 25 February? Let’s find out what our experts expect to be the biggest news coming out of Barcelona this year, and whether any surprises are set to be sprung…

5G devices

There’s no way we can mention MWC without broaching the mobile industry’s hottest topic: 5G.

David McCLelland, UK tech journalist and broadcaster for the likes of the BBC, says: “MWC Barcelona in 2019 will see 5G smartphones making their first proper outing. While the next-gen cellular standard isn’t ready for prime-time quite yet, many device manufacturers will be keen to be seen at the front of the queue ready for when it does finally arrive. LG and Huawei are among the first out of the blocks,” he adds, “confirming well in advance that they plan to launch 5G phones at this year’s show. Expect others to tag along too.”

John McCann, senior editor, Phones at TechRadar agrees, adding that 5G isn’t only about making your shiny device that much quicker. He explains:

“2019 is the year we’ll see the first 5G phones launched, and the first 5G networks switched on, ushering in a new era of mobile and the ‘Internet of Things’. Qualcomm says we’ll see over 30, 5G-enabled devices launch in 2019, with the majority of those being smartphones.

“At MWC 2019, you can expect to see a number of 5G handsets launch, from Huawei and LG to perhaps Nokia, Lenovo/Motorola and more.”

The really good news? The consensus among our experts is that the buzz around 5G extends far beyond mobile devices…

5G and the development of IoT

The imminent arrival of 5G promises great things, from smarter drones to autonomous cars, and it’s at MWC 19 that our experts believe we’ll see the first real shoots of innovation from this technology:

“While the headline 5G feature for consumers is even-faster internet speeds on your mobile, allowing you to stream video in HD with no buffering and download apps in a flash, 5G offers much more,” John explains. “It’ll allow even more devices to become connected, allowing more of your home, street and cities to talk to each other and in turn, become smarter, safer and more convenient. It will take several years for 5G to achieve its full potential, but MWC is the place to be to see the first devices in action.”

This is a sentiment echoed by David, whose hopes for 5G are suitably high. He says, “If the hype is to be believed, this vision of the future – in which anything and everything can communicate with the internet and each other – could be one of the most transformative technology movements since the mobile phone itself.”

And as for MWC itself? He adds that we should expect to see lots of storytelling around “connected cities,” “smart infrastructure,” and how artificial intelligence will help manage a huge number of future devices.

For those casting an eye to MWC 2019 for something a little more immediate, though, there’s plenty to look forward to…

Foldable phones and mind-blowing cameras 

In the buildup to Mobile World Congress 2019 there’s been plenty of noise surrounding foldable devices, and it’s fair to say our experts are in agreement that this will likely be one of the biggest themes of this year’s show. John expects plenty of major manufacturers to get in on the act:

Samsung is tipped to launch its flexible phone a few days before MWC, while Huawei has confirmed it will be announcing a 5G smartphone with a foldout screen in Barcelona. As someone who watches a lot of Netflix and Prime Video on my long commute to and from the office,” he adds, “the promise of being able to easily fold my phone out for a larger screen is really appealing.”

And flexible tech will contribute to some exciting new wearables, too, according to Michael Sawh, editor at Wareable.com: “With all the talk about flexible smartphones, wearables might be the device that benefits most from the bendy tech. Chinese firm Nubia is tipped to unveil a flexible fitness tracker,” he tells us, “which could be one of the biggest talking points at this year show.”

Chris Barraclough, editor at Recombu, is in agreement. “This expo will likely see the launch of bendy devices and handsets that pack as many cameras as possible onto that shiny rear,” he says.

While David also adds that both foldable phones and kitted out cameras will be the order of the day when it comes to device announcements:

“Remember the megapixel arms race that ultimately saw smartphones sport insane 40-megapixel cameras? This year there’s a new challenge, as smartphone manufacturers attempt to attach an increasing array of lenses to the back of their phones. Samsung launched the four-camera Galaxy A9 smartphone late in 2018,” he says, “and speculation is rife that another manufacturer will bring a five-camera backed phone to Barcelona in 2019.”

A big year for wearables

MWC 2018 was a comparatively quiet year for wearable tech, with Michael noting that the show was dominated by Virtual Reality and a greater focus on interesting concepts that could one day feature more prominently in wearable devices. This year, though, he thinks things will be different.

“This year, the big story of the show entirely depends on what Samsung announces at its own Unpacked event a week before MWC.” He adds, “It looks highly likely it’ll have a new smartwatch, but it could also be prepping new fitness trackers and smart wireless earbuds to rival Apple’s AirPods too. The question is whether we’ll see all of those new devices announced in one place, or if it’ll save something for MWC.”

He’s also confident that VR will once again be a big talking point. Michael explains, “VR is likely to take centre stage again, with Vive leading proceedings as it starts to ready the launch of its Vive Cosmos headset. We can also expect to hear more about augmented reality, but AR hardware that is ripe for consumers may still be a year or two away from the big time.”

Future gazing with 4YFN

Looking for something a little more unpredictable from MWC? David points us towards 4YFN – or 4 Years From Now. 4YFN is the event’s startup hub, which attracts more than 700 companies from across the world each year, each eager to showcase their new products on a global stage and claim the €300,000 4YFN Awards prize.

According to David, it’s also an ideal place to spot where the next big mobile trend may come from:

“For me, 4YFN is one of the most unexpected and vibrant parts of MWC; high on the startup vibe, tech creativity is self-evident across all corners of the show floor. That so many of the big, established tech firms also have an official – or unofficial – presence here tells us all we need to know about where they think the next big ideas in mobile will come from,” he says in closing.

We can’t wait to find out what happens in Barcelona when the event gets underway next week, and we’ll be sure to bring you all the details of the year’s biggest announcements over the next few weeks. Keep it locked to Vodafone Social for more.

Want to know more about the hottest tech trends of 2019? Check out these predictions from a UK tech expert…