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David Lucas
| 6TH MAR 2024

Zeno Thinks: What happened at this year’s MWC, and why it matters

Amidst the sea of announcements at last week’s Mobile World Congress, it was easy to miss the trends amongst the latest shiny devices and another round of AI stories. We’ve scratched a little deeper, to find the news that tells us more about the industry’s direction for the next year. Here are six trends coming out of the event.

  1. More new screen formats

What happened: CES saw a plethora of devices launching with screens that defied convention, and MWC was no different. Lenovo’s world-first transparent laptop and Motorola’s rollable screen were on display. Smart glasses continue to be demonstrated, as manufacturers keep looking for the device that will break through in this category.

Why it matters: While widespread adoption may be a while away, we can expect to see this technology applied in new ways that better integrate devices into our lives. Rather than having to rely on traditional screen formats, new formats give flexibility and can help devices feel less invasive in our homes, offices, cars and anywhere else we might need them.

  1. Robot dogs and flying cars

What happened: Xiaomi used MWC to demonstrate CyberDog 2, a robotic dog that can do backflips and replicate canine movements. Meanwhile, the world’s first flying car was on display, giving us a glimpse of a driving future away from the roads.

Why it matters: While we’re unlikely to be swapping our furry friends for robot pets anytime soon, developers are able to create their own apps for the CyberDog. This provides a great opportunity to test how the technology could be used in other scenarios – think search and rescue, or logistics and deliveries. Similarly with flying cars – the regulatory hurdles that these cars need to jump (or fly) through mean it’s a while before we’re living our Jetsons fantasy. A, applying the technology elsewhere could see more immediate use cases.


  1. Wearables for health

What happened: Technology that we wear isn’t anything new, but as smart watches become increasingly prevalent, vendors are looking for new tech that attaches to us. From smart rings that track body metrics and wellness goals to smart assistants living in pins attached to our chests, the battle to find different ways to connect us to data and insights continues.

Why it matters: As with the screen formats on display, new wearable devices help us to see how technology can be used in different contexts, away from the applications we’re used to. The wearables market seems to have plateaued recently and the next wave of devices need to prove how they’ll bring new insights into our lives – with health data the perfect way to do so.


  1. Sustainability steps it up a notch

What happened: MWC saw commitments made to cut emissions and improve the efficiency of hardware. But there was also an increased recognition that more needs to be done. Research launched at the event highlighted the increasing demand for refurbished smartphones. New initiatives also promised to increase the lifecycle of hardware through new refurbishment programmes.

Why it matters: As upgrade cycles lengthen, more is being done to keep hardware feeling fresh. This is good for consumers and businesses. But it indicates a shift in how we think about our devices. We can expect more news like this to emerge in the coming months, as well as more detail on how software will be tweaked to ensure older devices still benefit from emerging innovation.


  1. 5G isn’t living up to the hype

What happened: 5G was supposed to change how we use technology, but the biggest change many of us have seen is being able to scroll Instagram slightly faster when we’re on the bus. With networks looking to better monetise their 5G investments, attention is also turning to 6G and how to ensure this meets expectations.

Why it matters: Widespread use of AI will require fast access to a lot of data. Much of this will be stored at the edge – a distributed model that brings computation and data storage closer to the sources of data. M, meaning that tasks are performed on devices or servers at the “edge” of the network, rather than relying solely on centralised data centres. Faster 5G and 6G networks will be key to this, and a lack of 6G capacity could reduce our ability to maximise use of AI tools.


  1. Moving beyond generative AI

What happened: It wouldn’t have been a technology event in 2024 without AI making its way into most keynotes and announcements. Microsoft launched ‘AI Access Principles’, designed to demonstrate its commitment to fair competition and responsible AI development. Google showcased new features for its suite of apps that make use of generative AI and Deutsche Telecom launched an AI-enabled handset that replaces the apps we typically use with an assistant that pulls the relevant information for the user.

Why it matters: Generative AI is still the major driver of this news. But AI’s potential goes a lot further. We saw hardware launched that will use AI capabilities to offer new services to users. As this hardware gets into the hands of developers, we can expect to see more AI use cases launched in the coming months.