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What to expect from MWC 2024: Transparent laptops, AI phones, smart rings, more

What to expect from MWC 2024: Transparent laptops, AI phones, smart rings, more
What to expect from MWC 2024: Transparent laptops, AI phones, smart rings, more

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Asus ROG Phone 8 Pro Series

Kerry Wan/ZDNET

Mobile World Congress, more commonly known as MWC, kicks off this Monday, and this year’s Barcelona trade show for all things mobile technology is poised to be one of the busiest ones yet. 

Also: 5 top mobile trends in 2024: On-device AI, the ‘new’ smartphone, and more

With the convergence of AI and personal computing devices, including smartphones, headsets, and wearables, there will be plenty of new and exciting products to dive into, even if the list includes concepts that offer promise more than real-world practicality, and gadgets that might never cross the Atlantic and enter the US market. What happened to 5G? What is 6G? We’ll have answers to those questions, too.

 First, here are the logistics of the event.

When is MWC 2024?

The week-long event spans from February 26 to February 29, with keynotes and launch events scheduled throughout the Fira De Barcelona convention center. Companies like Xiaomi, Honor, and Nokia have also announced product launch plans for Sunday, the day before MWC officially kicks off.

As a precursor, I’ve rounded up the three biggest topics to get excited about at this year’s mobile extravaganza, even if you’re not based in Europe and/or don’t consider yourself a devotee to the bleeding edge. 

1. Don’t sleep on the concepts

Motorola

Two things are certain for every MWC: Concept phones and tapas. While it’s hard to beat a plate of pan con tomate, I have a feeling I’ll be more drawn to the futuristic, mind-bending handsets that will be demoed on the show floor this year. Last February, Motorola unveiled its rollable phone concept, which I still believe should’ve been named “Moto-rolla”, while OnePlus showcased its glowing, icy-blue OnePlus 11 Concept. Both devices demonstrated the potential of our most personal computing devices when manufacturers push the envelope, even if the ideas take years to completely materialize.

Also: A smartphone without apps? This AI assistant aims to replace them all

This year, we’ll see more of that innovation:

  • While Motorola hasn’t confirmed anything, the company’s Adaptive Display Concept (depicted above) might make another public appearance since being unveiled at Lenovo Tech World back in October. I’m excited to see if there truly is a future where our smartphones can replace our smartwatches and wrist devices. 
  • Deutsche Telekom, T-Mobile’s majority stakeholder, also has plans to demonstrate an “AI phone” that replaces apps with generative AI assistants.
  • Just as bizarre, phone maker Tecno will be demoing the Phantom Ultimate next week, its first rollable screen concept that features a “double-sided screen that extends from 6.55 inches to 7.11 inches.” Are rollables the new foldables?
  • Or are transparent displays the new, best trend? Recent rumors by Windows Report hint at a transparent laptop unveiling from Lenovo at MWC. If true, this wouldn’t be the first device to feature a see-through display this year — CES was filled with those — but it would be a first for laptops.

2. Growing competition in the East

Nothing Phone 2 Glyph Interface

Kerry Wan/ZDNET

Concept phones aside, several mobile releases will actually hit the global market following MWC, including Xiaomi’s 14 Ultra, the company’s top-of-the-line handset with a rumored triple 50-megapixel camera setup, a titanium build, and the latest Qualcomm processor. Xiaomi found itself in third place when it came to global smartphone market share in Q4 2023, behind Apple and Samsung, as reported by Canalys. Here’s to hoping it can carry that momentum with its flagship release of the year, and possibly give the iPhone 15 Pro Max and Samsung Galaxy S24 Ultra a run for their money.

Honor, the former sub-brand of Huawei, will also be launching a phone in Barcelona on February 25. While it won’t be as flashy as the Magic V2 foldable that the company unveiled last month, the Magic 6 Pro carries a 180MP periscope camera that should be capable of capturing some of the most detailed and vivid portrait photos seen on a smartphone.

Also: The best phones to buy in 2024

Perhaps the most relevant MWC phone release to US readers will be the Nothing Phone 2a, a more affordable option to the brand’s light-pulsing flagship from last year. While the official price and specs have yet to be revealed, Nothing has announced that the Phone 2a will run on a MediaTek Dimensity 7200 Pro chip, a processor that should yield above-average performance at an accessible price point. If Nothing plays its cards right, this will be the budget phone to beat in 2024.

3. Wearables will steal the show

Xreal Air 2 Ultra

Kerry Wan/ZDNET

It’s my bold prediction for MWC; if the quality of new wearables over the past few months is any indication, most of the buzz this year might not revolve around smartphones but the gadgets that surround them. 

Also: What we know about Samsung’s Galaxy Ring: Features, price, availability, more

From XR glasses and VR headsets to fitness trackers and smart rings, companies, small and large, are doubling down on new ways to keep us connected, entertained, and always aware of our health.

Riding the momentum of Unpacked, there’s a chance that Samsung will speak more about the feature set and capabilities of its first-ever Galaxy Ring, though the official launch likely won’t happen until July or August. Xreal and HTC will also have a presence at the show, both of which will be demoing their latest innovations in spatial computing. And the OnePlus Watch 2 may round out the best of wearable news, with a “100-hour battery life” and key improvements that might just be enough to resurrect a once denounced smartwatch model.



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