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MOBILE World Congress (MWC), the world’s biggest telecommunications exhibition, is a platform for mobile operators, device manufacturers and technology providers to showcase new innovations and breakthrough in the mobile industry.

Themed “Intelligent Connectivity” this year, MWC Barcelona, held from Feb 25 to 28, showed how technology has become increasingly intelligent and easy to use. It is definitely an exciting year to witness the future of the mobile industry.

FOLDABLE PHONE

Almost all tech companies are racing to position themselves as leaders in the smartphone space.

However, what got everyone talking about at this year’s MWC are foldable phones.

Samsung actually jumped the gun and unveiled its Galaxy Fold at a separate Unpacked 2019 event in San Francisco, the US on Feb 20.

The company also became the first major manufacturer to offer the long-awaited new design for smartphones.

The Galaxy Fold has a 4.6-inch display when folded and becomes a 7.3-inch tablet when unfolded. It will be available from April 26 with a starting price of US$1,980 (about RM8,000).

Huawei also took the stage at MWC Barcelona to introduce its own folding phone, the Mate X. Not only has the phone got 5G connectivity, it also comes with a bigger 8-inch unfolded display and a 6.3-inch main display in its default state.

Be prepared to open something else that folds too, your wallet, because the Mate X will be a lot more expensive, at US$2,299 (about RM10,650), when it is officially available in the middle of the year.

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Huawei Mate X

EARLY STAGE

Foldable phones represent a major innovation since Apple’s co-founder the late Steve Jobs introduced a dark black rectangle iPhone with a touch screen in 2007.

However, analysts warn the technology is still too rudimentary and expensive to woo consumers in large numbers for now.

According to Ben Wood, an analyst at technology research consultancy CCS Insight, as reported by AFP, the appeal of foldable phones would be limited to gadget lovers who desire the latest tech.

“Right now, this looks like a solution looking for a problem. Most consumers will look at it right now and go ‘it is very, very expensive’. It is kind of an early stage product. I think we are in the Stone Age of the flexible device,” he says.

The report also says that aside from its steep price tag, problems with the devices include poor readability in sunlight and a bulky design needed to protect the screen’s fold.

Analysts have also expressed concerns over the durability of the devices since folds are typically areas where problems are most likely to develop in electronic devices over time.

Both Samsung and Huawei claim their devices can withstand the wear-and-tear of over 100,000 folds.

Meanwhile, Korean tech company LG made a rather unpredictable move. Instead of following its rivals with a folding phone, it launched an accessory for its new LG V50 ThinQ smartphone.

The LG V50, it takes a form of a clip on clam shell case that also doubles up as an additional, full-sized screen for the phone.

However, LG has not revealed information on its availability or cost.

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DJ Koh, head of Samsung Electronics Co.’s IT & Mobile Communications Division, unveiling the Galaxy Fold, the foldable smartphone, during an Unpacked event in San Francisco, California, USA on February 20. EPA Photo

CONSUMER VIEWS

New Straits Times talked to a few consumers to get their feedback on foldable phones.

For Mohd Zahid Mohd Yaziz, the invention marks a start of a new era in smartphone technology.

Although he will not be buying one immediately, he may do so in the future.

Zahid is brand-conscious and looks at camera specification and speed processor when purchasing his phone.

He wants to see more innovation, for instance, a customisation phone, with better batteries and unbreakable design.

Meanwhile, Muhammad Muzzammil Omar Bakhi says the evolution of tablet and phone will be the new way of getting work done. He will consider buying a foldable phone if the price is reasonable.

He always looks for a high-speed chipset and hopes for more innovation in terms of wearables technology.

Meanwhile, Darryl Teo Wen Cheah says he does not fancy the foldable phone.

“From the launch, I gathered that the capability to multi-task is slightly easier. Perhaps we shall see what creative stuff people may come up with this new feature.

“The price is way beyond what I would pay for a smartphone. The first generation of its kind would usually be quickly superseded with something that looks or works way better,” says Teo.

He usually considers buying a phone by its size, gaming performance and storage space to store media and download his favourite apps.

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A view of the new Xiaomi Mi MIX 3 5G on display during its presentation on the eve of the Mobile World Congress 2019 (MWC19), in Barcelona, Spain. EPA Photo
DAWN OF 5G

The MWC Barcelona is not only about new design in smartphones, but also the start of 5G.

Samsung and Huawei made an advanced innovation announcement with the introduction of not only foldable devices, but also 5G-enabled devices like the Samsung Galaxy S10 5G and Huawei Mate X.

For those who are eager to get their hands on a 5G device, the Xiaomi Mi Mix is already available in the market.

The 5G bug caught on quick with two other brands—LG, which released the V50 ThinQ, and ZTE, which unveiled Axon10 Pro at the MWC.

However, both models have yet to hit the local market.

For Malaysian consumers, we are not too far from 5G technology as Maxis signed an MoU with Huawei in Barcelona during the MWC for full-fledged 5G trials with end-to-end systems and services in Malaysia.

In a statement, Maxis chief executive officer-designate Gokhan Ogut said the company has long started its 5G journey.

“We are pleased to be working with our long-term partner Huawei on our 5G trials and to be a pioneer in bringing the latest technologies to Malaysia. We look forward to delivering the best 5G innovation for both consumers and businesses in future.”

CAMERA INNOVATION

Dual camera smartphones seem to be a story of the past. Nowadays, we have tri-cameras, quad-cameras and even a phone with a whopping five rear cameras, as announced in Barcelona HMD Global’s Nokia 9 PureView.

Oppo also hinted at its first 5G smartphone with lossless zoom technology at the company’s first MWC event in Barcelona, saying the technology is ready for mass production. The first phone will hit the market in the second quarter of this year.

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A new Nubia Alpha wearable smartphone is displayed inside its booth at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, Spain. Reuters Photo

FOR THE LOVE OF TECH

Besides phones, many interesting innovations were revealed at this year’s MWC, like advanced wearables.

The Nubia Alpha, for example, is said to be the world’s first wearable smartphone.

It runs on Snapdragon Wear 2100, a wearable chip. The Alpha can make and take calls and take perfect selfies with its 5-megapixel camera but landscape images may need a bit more effort.

It comes in two variants — Bluetooth and eSIM — with the latter offering 4G connectivity.

Meanwhile, battery manufacturer Energizer announced a smartphone with a staggering 18,000mAh battery, so powerful it has 50 days of standby time. It allows users to watch videos for two days, listen to 100 hours of music or talk for 90 hours continuously.

The Energizer Power Max P18K Pop features a 6.2-inch LCD display with dual pop-up selfie cameras, and supports USB Type-C fast charging. With this phone, you won’t need to carry a power bank anymore.

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