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The mobile phone industry’s biggest event of the year is back with a muffled bang this week, as it slowly emerges from coronavirus restrictions just as the world’s attention has turned to Ukraine.
The few headlines in the mainstream media about this week’s Mobile World Congress in Barcelona have concerned the absence of a Russian pavilion and some Russian companies being barred. The organisers expected more than 50,000 visitors otherwise, and about 1,500 exhibitors. That is down from 2019, when there were 110,000 visitors and 2,400 exhibitors, but the numbers are encouraging after MWC’s cancellation in 2020 and postponement in 2021 because of the global pandemic.
Themes of the show include 5G and the major presence of Chinese smartphone makers as they try to make an impression in Europe. They have made a splash with handset and other mobile device announcements. Oppo unveiled its Find X3 Pro flagship phone as well as displaying its smart glasses. Realme unveiled its latest flagship, the GT2, and claimed the world’s fastest charging capabilities — 50 per cent in five minutes — only for Oppo to top this with its claim of a 100 per cent charge in nine minutes.
There have been low-cost phones from HMD Global’s Nokia brand and China’s Poco, while Honor, spun out from Huawei, has announced the premium Magic4 Pro. Huawei itself has turned its attention to the “Smart Office” as its phone offerings have been crippled by US sanctions. It launched seven products, including a top-end laptop and its first printer and e-ink tablet.
Its network equipment business is also under pressure from Open RAN alternatives, where operators can piece together different manufacturers’ equipment. Analysts at CCS Insight highlight a partnership between Qualcomm and Rakuten to promote Open RAN.
They also say that Truphone offering its e-SIM for free to manufacturers could be a “long-awaited catalyst” for the embedded alternative to Sim cards. In 5G, there has been progress reported by Korea’s Samsung and SK Telecom in network slicing, which can help realise 5G’s full potential as it allows multiple virtual networks.
As far as multiple product announcements go, we will keep track of the main ones this week in Tech Tools below.
The Internet of (Five) Things
1. Crypto exchanges under pressure over Russia
Crypto exchanges are coming under pressure to block transactions with Russia, as western politicians fear that cryptocurrencies provide a back door to move money around the world while they seek to shut Russia out of the global financial system. Lex says Russia might struggle to switch, with the entire crypto market having a market capitalisation of $1.7tn, not much bigger than its banking assets.
2. Former CFO of Celsius Network arrested
Yaron Shalem, now the former chief financial officer of the cryptocurrency lending platform, was detained at Ben Gurion airport in Israel on November 18 in connection with suspected fraud. After a three-month gagging order, an Israeli judge has now lifted the reporting restriction, enabling news organisations to report the arrest.
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3. Toshiba’s chief quits abruptly
Satoshi Tsunakawa, the chief executive of Toshiba, resigned suddenly on Tuesday, reviving speculation that the Japanese group will consider a take-private deal and hardening the resolve of large investors to oppose the company’s plan to split in two.
4. Zoom’s post-pandemic blues
Zoom shares fell more than 5 per cent on Tuesday after it forecast downbeat full-year revenues and profits. Lex says a brutal 75 per cent drop in the video conferencing company’s stock price from a high in October 2020 tracks the decline in other pandemic-era winners, including Peloton and Robinhood.
5. Get Rich or Lie Trying
Conservative estimates suggest there are upwards of 3.5mn influencers engaged in advertising products and services. In his book Get Rich or Lie Trying, Symeon Brown takes a critical look at this and other forms of online “hustle”.
Tech tools — Samsung’s MWC laptops
After unveiling its latest flagship smartphone at its own event three weeks ago, Samsung used its presentation in Barcelona to show off two new laptops. The Galaxy Book2 Pro 360 has S Pen functionality, while the Galaxy Book2 Pro features 5G. Tom’s Guide says the pair feature improved webcams with better resolution and a wider field of view, along with new Intel processors, but otherwise seem like iterative updates to the laptops Samsung introduced a little more than a year ago.
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