Mobile World Congress 2018: What to Expect At Biggest Mobile Phone Conference of Year

Product launches, keynotes, and sunshine: the mobile tech industry descends on Barcelona. 

A woman taking a picture of another woman during the Mobile World Congress 2018 in Barcelona
Mobile World Congress

Every February, the mobile technology industry gathers in Barcelona, Spain for the Mobile World Congress (MWC), a trade show that allows companies to show off new mobiles products, CEOs and other thought leaders to share their vision of the mobile future, and otherwise enjoy the bright Mediterranean sunshine.

This year’s MWC officially begins on Monday, February 26 and runs through March 1, but a number of companies will be unofficially kicking off with press conferences on Sunday, February 25.

Here’s 4 things to expect from this year’s event:

Samsung will launch its flagship Galaxy S9 and S9+

MWC is, typically, Samsung’s show, with the biggest and most anticipated product launches coming from the South Korean company, and 2018 is no different.

After skipping MWC in 2017 because of the exploding Note 7, the company is expected to reveal the Galaxy S9 and S9+, which will hopefully not combust (the Galaxy S8 and Note 8 did not — a good omen) but also serve as a direct competitor to the iPhone X. While the phone will look similar to the S8, the S9 models will have seriously fancier cameras, have a fingerprint scanner on the back, and — bucking the trend — will still have audio jacks.

The kick-off of Samsung’s portion of the show — and the new S9s — will take place on Sunday, February 25, at 5pm GMT and can be watched via livestream.

The end of the audio jack drawers closer.

Though the new Samsung S9s have stubbornly kept the headphone jack in its design, experts agree that bluetooth headphones are the way of the future, and it is expected that the of the headphone jack will be pushed a step further at MWC. Sony’s Xperia XZ2 and Nokia 8, which are both going to launch at the event, are rumored not to have headphone jacks, which are already gone from handsets from Huawei, Google, HTC, and Motorola, among others.

Ajit Pai, the Chairman of the FCC, will be one of the keynote speakers.

This year’s keynote speeches are mostly made up of the heads of various telecommunication companies, though a few non-mobile tech CEOs will also be speaking. These include Dr. Jim Young Kim, the president of the World Bank; Formula 1 Driver Fernando Alonso (apparently speaking on the Fourth Industrial Revolution); and Ajit Pai, the chairman of the FCC that is overseeing the dismantling of net neutrality. According to the official program, he will be speaking on “tech and society” and “future services provider.” Perhaps he has an alternative to net neutrality? Or more likely: he’ll make an argument for why the ending of net neutrality is actually the right decision.

Apple will not be physically present, but will make its presence known in other ways.

As the top mobile phone company in the world, Apple doesn’t really need the MWC, and instead makes all of its big product reveals and announcements at its own conference in the fall.

It does, however, tend to upstage Samsung and MWC in other ways, like when the Samsung Galaxy S6 was launched with a significantly improved camera — and Apple launched the #shotoniPhone campaign for the then-upcoming iPhone 6, revamping its whole website and launching print and digital advertisements. Trolling success.

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