Mobile World Congress 2016: An executive summary

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What were the most popular products, brands and trends at MWC this year? We have the statistics.

Image: Guillem Valle/GSMA

As mobile has gone mainstream, so the annual Mobile World Congress (MWC) expo has steadily broadened its remit and seen attendances rise. There's still plenty of traditional smartphone action, of course, but a lot more besides -- including the Internet of Things (IoT), the next-generation 5G networks that will carry all this extra mobile traffic, and up-and-coming technologies like virtual and augmented reality.

This year saw nearly 101,000 visitors descend on Barcelona for MWC 2016 -- up from 93,000 in 2015 and the first six-figure attendance. There were than 2,200 companies showing their wares, across 110,000 net square metres of exhibition and hospitality space -- up from 2,000 and 100,000 respectively in 2015. Media and analyst attendance was down slightly at 3,600 compared to 3,800 last year.

Social media analysis

PR firm Hotwire's Insights & Analytics team has examined tweets with the hashtag #MWC2016 -- 405,132 of them -- to determine the most-talked-about brands and technology trends at the mobile industry's premier event.

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The clear brand winners are LG and Samsung, both of which made high-profile announcements of forthcoming flagship smartphones -- the LG G5 and Samsung Galaxy S7/Edge respectively:

Data source: Hotwire Insights & Analytics

LG didn't announce last year's G4 flagship handset until April 2015, which is why the company didn't even register in Hotwire's 2015 brand rankings. This year HTC has delayed the announcement of its new flagship -- the M10 (codenamed Perfume) -- and therefore slipped down the chart, from the top spot in 2015 to seventh place. Other notable developments are the appearance of Chinese smartphone-maker Xiaomi in the brand rankings for the first time, and the absence of BlackBerry (10th in 2015).

The top trends noted in Hotwire's Twitter analysis were Samsung and LG's flagship smartphone announcements, followed by Sony with its Xperia X Series handsets and intelligent Xperia Ear Bluetooth headset.

Data source: Hotwire Insights & Analytics

Facebook's Mark Zuckerberg is prominent here, thanks to his widely-reported keynote (see below), while key themes such as the IoT, VR and 5G also make the top-ten trends at MWC 2016. Notable by their absence are any trending topics directly related to wearables: last year saw high-profile smartwatch announcements from Huawei and LG, but the noise around wearables was far more muted this year.

'Best of MWC 2016' analysis

To get another handle on the most popular products and technologies at MWC 2016, we've examined a selection of 17 'Best of Mobile World Congress 2016' compilations from various publications to produce the following summary chart based on the number of citations:

Sources: Alphr, Android Authority, Android Central, Android Pit, BGR, Chip Chick, Digital Trends, Expert Reviews, Know Your Mobile, MobileGeeks, Slashgear, Techradar, Techspot, Tom's Guide, Tom's Hardware, Trusted Reviews, Ubergizmo
Image: Charles McLellan/Tech Pro Research
Top-ranked at MWC 2016: LG G5, Samsung Galaxy S7/Edge, Huawei Matebook.
Images: LG, Samsung, Huawei

It's no surprise to find the modular LG G5 at the top of the list, along with Samsung's Galaxy S7/Edge. LG's result looks even better when you consider that three of the G5's LG Friends modules -- the Rolling Bot, 360 VR and Hi-Fi Plus -- get 'best of' citations in their own right.

Huawei also made a big impression this year -- not with a smartphone, but with the MateBook, a 12-inch Windows 10 tablet including an optional keyboard, stylus and dock.

Making up the remaining top-ten 'best of' products are Samsung's Gear 360 camera, Sony's flagship Xperia X Series smartphones and Xperia Ear headset, Alcatel's mid-range Idol 4 and 4S smartphones, Google's innovative Project Tango (which Lenovo is likely to bring to market first) and HTC's Vive VR headset (the star product at CES, and now available for preorder at $799).

The next 10 entries are an interesting bunch, including: the first rugged smartphone with a thermal imaging camera (Caterpillar S60); a couple of enterprise-focused products in the shape of Epson's Moverio BT-300 (smart glasses) and HP's Elite x3 (Windows 10 phablet); an emerging rapid-charging technology (Oppo Super VOOC); an Android-powered portable projector (ZTE Spro Plus); smartphones from two up-and-coming Chinese vendors (the Xiaomi Mi 5 and ZTE Blade V7) and a pair of tablets (the Ubuntu-based BQ Aquaris M10 and the affordable Lenovo Tab3 series running Android 6.0).


The most widely reported keynote speaker at MWC 2016 was Facebook co-founder, CEO and chairman Mark Zuckerberg, who also made a surprise appearance at Samsung's Unpacked event for good measure, where he extolled 'social VR' (Samsung's Gear VR is built around Facebook-owned Oculus technology).

Zuckerberg's own keynote concentrated on wireless connectivity, particularly in emerging markets, and highlighted the foundation of the Telecom Infra Project, a cross-industry engineering initiative to accelerate the development of open-source components for existing and future telecom networks.

According to Zuckerberg, high-quality VR experiences will be one of the killer apps for forthcoming 5G networks.

Roll on MWC 2017

If you're already eagerly awaiting next year's event, note that MWC 2017 will be held between 27 February and 2 March.

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