At Mobile World Congress, an annual industry trade show in Barcelona, companies showcase much more than smartphones.
To be sure, several smartphone makers are using the event as a launch platform for their newest models, including LG, Huawei and Sony. However, VR headsets, drones, cars and even regular old feature phones (a.k.a. non-smartphones) are among them. Last year’s debuts included a ball-shaped robotic camera, an IoT toothbrush and a Braille smartwatch.
Notably, many big global smartphone companies have chosen to stay home. Apple hosts its own conferences. Chinese maker Xiaomi, which made a splash last year, is absent, while Samsung has merely taken this year’s show as an opportunity to announce a reveal date (March 29) for its anticipated Galaxy S8. A new version of the Google Pixel is also out of the conversation at this time.
The annual event draws about 100,000 visitors, according to organizer GSMA. Without shiny new phones from some of the biggest players, Mobile World Congress features a range of mobile tech and explores where the industry is headed. For example, Netflix CEO Reed Hastings gave a keynote and discussed plans to improve mobile video streaming and adapt to trends such as artificial intelligence.
Here are five highlights from this year’s Mobile World Congress.