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MWC16: Smartphone suppliers show off virtual reality at Mobile World Congress

At Mobile World Congress 2016 in Barcelona, key device suppliers have been quick to roll out their flagship devices, with an emphasis on virtual reality

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Suppliers including Huawei, LG and Samsung fired the collective starting pistol at Mobile World Congress 2016 in Barcelona before the show formally begun. All three companies hosted events on Sunday 21 February to show off their devices before the crowds arrived, and went big on virtual reality (VR) technology.

Huawei led the pack at the mobile industry’s annual blow-out, with the launch of a high-end 2-in-1 device called the MateBook, featuring a sixth generation Intel Core m-series processor, running Microsoft’s Windows 10.

LG unveiled its G5 modular smartphone, which comes with an ecosystem of companion devices, including VR goggles and a compact 360-degree angle camera.

Finally, in what has come to be a regularly scheduled launch at Mobile World Congress, Samsung launched its flagship Galaxy S7 and S7 Edge handsets. It also reintroduced MicroSD card storage expansion, as well as gaming technology, VR support and enhanced cameras.

With the smartphone business saturated in developed markets, many observers have spoken out about a perceived lack of innovation around mobile devices lately.

Speaking to Computer Weekly in advance of the show, Gartner’s Anshul Gupta said that where innovation existed, it would tend to be around add-ons and services ecosystems.This is something borne out in both the LG and Samsung launches, both of which were heavily slanted towards non-core add-ons such as VR.

Thomas Husson, vice-president at analyst house Forrester, said: “The LG 360 VR headset is a way to leverage the hype around virtual reality and to further the emergence of self-created content.

“As Samsung has a huge marketing budget and wants to maintain leadership in the smartphone high-end segment, it will invest a lot more than its competitors on promoting virtual reality.

“No doubt it will help to create buzz among media, gamers and the niche audience demanding immersive experiences. But will it offer consumer benefits for the masses? The short answer is no. In 2016, reach for VR platforms will remain more than limited.”

Incremental value

Husson said Samsung’s S7 offered only incremental value to the average user via more advanced specifications, such as battery life, processing speed and water resistance.

“Samsung needs to invest a lot more in software, services and content partnerships. This is how they will be able to push systems such as Samsung Pay from nice-to-have to must-have for consumers and merchants alike,” he added.

“Other attempts from Samsung in the consumer service ecosystem have not proved to be successful yet. Samsung will have to accelerate open innovation with partners and software innovation to be able to compete with Apple in the premium smartphone segment.”

Read more about virtual reality

Aman Bhachu, general manager of connectivity and customer systems at retailer Carphone Warehouse, was more enthusiastic.

“TheSamsung Galaxy S7 range is a truly exciting development for our customers. The continued evolution of the mobile world has marked some of the most innovative tech we’ve seen, and it’s clear VR is the next step in revolutionising the way we view content.

“The return of water resistance on the S7 is most welcomed. Most of us have had the mobile mishap of liquid damage, so it’s added peace of mind,” he said. xxxx xxxx xxx xxx xx xx xxx xx x xxx x

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