The Fastlane to the Future: MWC 2019

Kickoff to Smartphone Season MWC 2019

The most innovative new tech at Mobile World Conference 2019 in Barcelona

Every year in February at Barcelona, a precedent is set. A blueprint for smartphone displays, software, processors, features, form factors and tech. Given that there are 2.5 billion smartphones in use in 2019, the impact of this precedent is massive for the rest of the year.

MWC 2019 saw the introduction of a lot of tech ideas. Innovation in camera enhancement, data transmission, screen panels and augmented reality. Here’s the best tech from Mobile World Congress 2019.

Closer than ever: Lossless Optical Zoom

Smartphone cameras have been consistently great except for only a couple of things: night photography and zoom. Google seemingly fixed the night problem last year with its Night Sight, and at MWC 2019, a Chinese behemoth does its best to rectify the zoom problem with a clever, periscope-like system. Oppo showcased the first 10x lossless zoom camera technology for smartphones. Most smartphone cameras have a maximum optical zoom of 2x, Oppo’s periscope offers 10x optical zoom on a phone.

In order to achieve 10x lossless optical zoom on a handheld, Oppo includes three cameras that cover a range from 16mm to 160mm, hence a 10x zoom. The Chinese company said a phone with the new 10x optical zoom camera tech will be introduced in Q2 2019, but was tight-lipped when requested to offer more details.

Dawn of a new “Reality”

Virtual Reality

MWC’s primarily a phone show, but that doesn’t mean the glass sandwich is the only gadget to see. Case in point: Microsoft’s HoloLens 2. The new mixed reality headset- blending Virtual Reality and Augmented Reality- still isn’t ready for consumers (it’s designed for business and enterprise), but Microsoft addressed the original’s biggest flaws and fixed them.

HoloLens 2 is sleeker, lighter, comfier to wear, more powerful, and has a field of view that’s over 2x greater than the first HoloLens. The headset’s also cheaper: $3,500 compared to the original’s $5,000.

Effectively, HoloLens is a fascinating device that overlays VR images on top of the real world in new, high-tech ways and offered a crazy glimpse of the future.

“For the first time, you’re going to feel what it feels like to touch a hologram, to interact with a hologram and to play with it, almost where you forget that this is a piece of digital content you’re looking at as opposed to it just existing in the real world,” said Alex Kipman, inventor of the device and a technical fellow in Microsoft’s Cloud and AI group. A new reality might just be around the corner.

Big things in Small packages

MicroSD Card

You may not need it, but SanDisk made it anyway: A microSD card with a whopping 1TB of space. SanDisk’s new card is the holy grail of smartphone storage, and it’s racking up some challans too with transfer speeds of 160 MegaBytes per second. Is it overkill? Undoubtedly, but if you’re gonna record life in 4K and fill up on mega-sized games, the memory card might be worth it. What will it cost to purchase this innovation in data storage? Only a dent of $450 in your wallet

As part of the Extreme line, the card is designed to withstand shock, extreme temperatures, moisture, and X-rays. Maker SanDisk also makes 400GB, 256GB, 128GB, 64GB, and 32GB sizes available in the same series, though cards lower than 128GB have slower speeds.

All-in with the Fold

All-in with the Fold

Futuristic-looking bendable tablets and smartphones have captured our imagination for years. With MWC 2019 seeing the launch of flexible devices from major players, the industry is clearly invested in playing their cards to the foldable future.

The emergence of mass production means device makers will be able to pick this display just like they already do with OLED panels. Samsung and Huawei have announced their devices. Xiaomi and Lenovo have also been teasing their own prototypes, and LG is also working on its own flexible OLED displays and TVs that roll up into a box.

Imagine the idea of rolling a 55-inch TV into something that will fit into your bag, or finally replacing pen and paper with a foldable tablet. It may sound far fetched right now, but we’re only at the very beginning of our flexible future.

Time to play Catch-Up?

Xiaomi retrofitted 5G into its Mi Mix 3, Samsung made an XXL Galaxy S10 to accommodate all the necessary 5G antennas, and Motorola’s 5G Moto Mod is a chunky block that you slip onto the rear of the existing Moto Z3. LG’s V50 is more or less. a V40 adapted for 5G. OnePlus unveiled a 5G prototype. No surprises here: the 5G fever has hit smartphones.

5G is a promise to change our lives in more meaningful and immediate ways than foldable devices. It’ll mature sooner, and turn us into even bigger mobile data consumption addicts. While companies like Qualcomm may emblazon “5G is here today.”, it clearly isn’t. Devices at MWC are certainly ready for 5G, but is 5G ready yet? We’re still months away from fully functional networks with meaningful coverage. With most networks slated for 2020 launches, 5G still a promise rather than a reality. With speeds as fast as these, we might just find ourselves playing catch-up.