This year more than ever, Mobile World Congress was about more than just mobile. We saw new smartphones of course, but also smart watches, connected homes, connected cars and every other gadget you can imagine – plus many you couldn’t. MWC is now a must for any marketer who wants to understand the tech that customers are using today, what they’ll use tomorrow, how to market to these consumers, how to use the data being collected now and what data signals might be available in the future.

The volume of news and launches at MWC is staggering, but here are five outtakes for marketers keen to grasp the new opportunities of the connected world.

March 2015

Always On, Now More Than Ever

With the smartphone often the first thing we look at in the morning and the last thing we see at night, 33% of UK consumers say it’s the most important device for getting online. Personally, the only time I’m without mine is when the battery is flat. Many enhancements on show this year addressed better battery life and quicker, more flexible recharging. Take the Samsung Galaxy S6 Edge. Design-wise, this was a real star of the show, but what I also really liked was its battery, featuring wireless charging. Instead of requiring a specific wireless charging pad, Samsung has opted to support both WPC and PMA standards (including Qi).

This means it can be charged from most of the wireless pads found in places like McDonalds and Starbucks, as well as from IKEA furniture. Another improvement is a 10-minute quick charge that gives four hours of battery life in a flash. The race is on for all devices to offer better battery capabilities, meaning we’ll be always on even more – good news for advertisers wanting to engage.

Hi Spec, Lo Price Leapfrogging

The premium end of the market and entry-level smartphones were previously the main areas of focus for many manufacturers, but this year saw some impressive advances in mid-tier phones. Take the Sony Xperia M4 Aqua phone, assessed below by Google’s Peter Fitzgerald. It has a five-inch screen, LTE octa-core Snapdragon CPU, 13 and five-megapixel cameras, is waterproof and costs just €299. This is a really high-spec phone at an affordable price. With many consumers in China, India and Africa leap-frogging PCs to access the internet with smartphones, we’re likely to start seeing their entry smartphones including better speed and display than before, which spells far better engagement potential for global marketers.


Smart Watches for the Smart Dressed

As a precursor to this week’s Apple iWatch announcement, MWC presented a number of smart watches likely to appeal to a far wider market. Take the good-looking LG Watch Urbane; with its circular, thin all-metal profile, it looks and feels more like the kind of traditional watch we’re accustomed to.

It has the functionality you’d expect from a smart watch though, including interactivity with your phone, the web and a heart rate sensor. Exactly how smart watches will develop is still an open question, but developments from manufacturers including Apple, LG, Huawei, Samsung and the innovative Kairos make this a space no marketer can afford to ignore. Just think of the signals that heartbeats reveal about emotional response; AKQA CTO Ben Jones had more to say about this in an interview we conducted with him.


Virtual Reality Headsets Everywhere

I donned a Virtual Reality Headset a few months ago for the obligatory roller-coaster simulation and have also seen some nice experiences with Cardboard such as Paul McCartney and Volvo, but I remained unsure of how and to what extent Virtual Reality Headsets might catch on. Well, if MWC is anything to go by, they’ll take off – I never imagined I’d see so many people in them. In addition to Sony's Project Morpheus, Oculus Rift and Samsung Gear VR, there’s a new kid on the block; HTC Vive debuted with 70 built-in lasers and sensors for positional tracking. The big opportunity is still obviously in gaming, but as these become more mainstream a whole new avenue for engagement could emerge, useful for promoting holidays, movies, driving and retail.

Expect the Unexpected

Exponential advances in tech inevitably throw up the unexpected, and this year was no exception. Many demos underlined the growing momentum toward faster, more responsive 5G mobile networks by 2020. My favourite was the synchronised robot at SK Telecom illustrating minimal latency. Other delights included the smart hat, 3D selfies and of course the frenzied collecting of Android pins.

There’s no doubt that Mobile World Congress remains a showcase where captains of industry break news and launch products, but it’s more than just a trade show producing a lot of commotion and announcements that don't amount to much. The sheer volume of interest-piquing gadgets proves that the mobile industry is still evolving in critical ways with significant implications for the marketer in today’s connected world.

At MWC 2015, Google partnered with The Drum to interview brands including Unilever, Hilton and Volvo.

See here for the hub containing the interviews and articles from MWC.