Has MWC2023 restored former glory to the world's largest tech gathering?

A visitor touches a screen at the Mobile World Congress (MWC), the telecom industry's biggest annual gathering, in Barcelona. (Photo by Josep LAGO / AFP)

A visitor touches a screen at the Mobile World Congress (MWC), the telecom industry's biggest annual gathering, in Barcelona. (Photo by Josep LAGO / AFP)

Published Mar 5, 2023


Paris - Mobile World Congress 2023 came to a close this week - a conference that in previous years was recognised as one of the most significant events on the global tech calendar.

Previous editions of the congress saw a plethora of smartphone launches, showcasing new tech and an indicator of the latest innovations to be expected in the coming years. Some conferences even spawned some of the most iconic launches and historical images, sure to grace the textbooks of future pupils.

In 2017, Nokia relaunched one of its most iconic mobile devices ever, the infamous 3310, at MWC.

While the 3310's launch event itself was near impossible to attend by just anyone in the tech world, Nokia's display stand at the event was another testimony to the hype around the device, with crowds of attendees fighting long lines to spend mere seconds with (arguably) the grandfather of mobile devices.

Showcasing the magnitude of MWC's influence in the mobile tech space and the legacy it would leave behind was one of the most historical images depicting the new age of technology.

In 2016, Facebook and Meta founder Mark Zuckerberg was pictured walking through a crowd of attendees, all wearing Virtual Reality headsets, oblivious to his presence and proximity, metres away from them.

The image was meant to illustrate one's distraction by technology during the launch of the Samsung Galaxy Sxx. It achieved this with a neatly captured image of the social network creator amid a crowd of unwary attendees.

In all fairness, the South Korean electronics maker pulled the 'wool' over the eyes of attendees (literally) by telling them to wear the headset, as part of the launch, before allowing 'the Zuck' to walk among the crowd.

Nevertheless, the image is etched in the history books of the tech world and serves as just another notch in the belt of a series of successful, world-class MWC events.

Without a doubt, the congress has played host to the glitz and glamour of the tech world, with the biggest manufacturers rolling out devices year after year at the event, with over 100 000 attendees and exhibitors present at each edition of the conference.

This was all until the Covid-19 pandemic.

Suffering the fate of many businesses and industries globally, the tech world itself faced its own hurdles during the pandemic.

Large, recognised smartphone manufacturers, such as Samsung and Huawei, that deliberately chose MWC as the first platform the public would see their latest flagship smartphones were sadly forced to launch devices elsewhere, mostly during online launches which lacked the oomph of an MWC.

With the Covid-19 pandemic diluting three consecutive years of congress due to the global restrictions on gathering crowds, manufacturers that previously set the trend of launches at sideline events to MWC seem to have forgotten the tradition, almost as if it never existed.

MWC23 carried the weight on its shoulders of an anticipated full comeback without the restrictions brought on by the pandemic.

Reflecting on previous events while fast-forwarding to the latest MWC proved that it had yet to lose any of the awe and excitement offered by an event of such magnitude.

Much like those that have passed, MWC didn't shy away from the hundreds of thousands in attendance, showcasing everything from the latest, innovative smartphones to mobile-activated robot dogs and butlers ready to replace the waiter at your favourite restaurant.

Despite this, the sideline mobile launches that formed a major part of previous MWC events - wound a tight thread of hype around each edition that has since been frayed.

As witnessed in the months leading up to MWC23, the most popular players in the smartphone space have already launched their flagship devices, opting to display them at the event.

The trend has since influenced other new and dominant players in the market, such as Oppo, to sidestep the congress completely, following the fashion of a more independent smartphone launch, witnessed from the introduction of its Find N2 Flip weeks before the event.

MWC23 has undoubtedly shown an applaudable effort in attempts of a much-anticipated comeback. Despite this, tech lovers can only pray for the event to become fully restored to its heyday in a build-up of years to come.

For now… MWC23, you've done 'a'ight'...

* Kyle Venktess is a freelance content producer for IOL Tech.

** The views expressed do not necessarily reflect the views of Independent Media or IOL.

IOL Tech

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