What to expect from Mobile World Congress 2016

The first big mobile show of the year gets even bigger.

mwc preview primary
Credit: Ryan Whitwam

Mobile World Congress is one of the biggest events of the year for Android, and it's coming up fast. In recent years, major manufacturers have chosen to host their own events at other times to announce flagship devices, but we already know of a few that are coming back to MWC this year. It's going to be a big show, so let's look at what you can expect to see—and not see—at Mobile World Congress 2016.

Sure things from Samsung and LG

Samsung released the Galaxy S6 to great reviews not even a year ago, but it's more than likely following it up with the Galaxy S7 at Mobile World Congress—technically the evening before MWC kicks off, Sunday February 21st. Samsung's teaser for the event says they will unveil "the next Galaxy," so there's really not anything else it can be.

The GS7 is expected to have a lot in common with the Galaxy S6, though possibly with a larger battery, a microSD card slot, and new Snapdragon 820 chip. Alongside Samsung's new phone, there might also be a new version of the GearVR and a 3D VR camera to people can make their own immersive videos. With the Oculus Rift launching and Google Cardboard continuing to take hold, Samsung will probably make a big deal of its VR platform.

mwc preview gs7 evleaks

An alleged image of Samsung's next flagship.

LG is having an event the same day as Samsung, but it's not mincing words about what to expect. LG has confirmed it will be unveiling the G5. Again, this is several months earlier than the G4 was announced last year. The G5 will also allegedly be powered by a Snapdragon 820 and LG is hinting strongly at an always-on screen feature. This phone is expected to step things up in the design department to better compete against Samsung with its new-found focus on build-quality.

What about HTC?

HTC is probably in the weakest position of all the major Android OEMs. Its 2015 flagship, the One M9 sold poorly enough that the CEO was forced to step down, and the follow up One A9 in late 2015 was far too expensive for what it offered. Rather than go toe-to-toe with Samsung and LG, HTC will most likely be holding off on its big 2016 phone announcement.

mwc preview htc evleaks

This M10 leak appears to show a phone that continues HTC's design aesthetic from the A9.

The HTC One M10 (possibly code named Perfume) is probably going to be unveiled at a separate event a few weeks after Mobile World Congress. This might be HTC's last shot at stabilizing its market position before growing OEMs like Huawei and Xiaomi eat into its sales too much.

Instead, HTC might talk more about the Vive VR headset it is building in conjunction with Valve. It’s going on sale soon, and we still don’t know the price—this would be a good time to announce it.

Sony, BlackBerry, and more

Sony has a habit of releasing new flagship smartphones at a breakneck pace, and despite rumors they'd slow down, Sony does have an MWC press event this year. There are a few things to watch for here. We might see a new generation of Sony's Z Tablet series; the Z4 tablet never saw a wide release, and the smaller Z3 Tablet Compact is well over a year old.

It's plausible that Sony is going to move forward with its phone lineup, possibly announcing the Xperia Z6 family. The Z5 was announced at IFA last September, so we'd be about on target for an update (by Sony's measure). However, a mid-range phone followup to last year's M4 Aqua is a possibility too. Sony also hasn't launched a new Android Wear device since the Smartwatch 3. If Sony intends to keep going with wearables (which it has been making since before Android Wear), MWC is a good place to show it off.

Blackberry released its first Android phone, the PRIV,  several months ago, and has recently said that it's leaving the BB10 operating system behind in 2016. Blackberry will probably release a few Android smartphones this year, maybe even at MWC. The PRIV was a portrait slider, but the standard candybar form factor is still open to Blackberry, or it might choose to go with a more traditional "Blackberry-style" keyboarded phone running Android.

mwc preview 820

All the big flagship phones in 2016 will probably sport this chip.

Qualcomm itself will likely be on-deck to talk up the Snapdragon 820, which is sure to be one of the most important systems-on-a-chip in 2016. Last year the Snapdragon 810 proved to be a disappointingly warm chip that caused some devices like the HTC One M9 to get sluggish as they heated up. It was so bad that Samsung didn't even use Qualcomm chips, and other manufacturers like Motorola and LG used the 808 with fewer high-power cores. The Snapdragon 820 will sport new, custom CPU cores that are expected to be considerably more efficient. Qualcomm will push the narrative that this is the chip you want in your next phone.

Then there's Huawei, which had a huge year in 2015 with growing sales in Asia and a flagship Nexus phone. The Chinese firm will have a presence at MWC 2016, and the word is it will be announcing the long-awaited P9. It will most likely run one of Huawei's new Kirin 950 SoCs, but the specs are otherwise unclear. Likewise, we don't know when or if it will be sold in North America. Huawei might also have something to say about wearables too. The Huawei Watch was first unveiled at MWC last year, and it went on to be one of the best Android Wear devices available. I'm sure they'll want to do another one, and MWC is a good place to show it off.

The first big events will start the Sunday before Mobile World Congress officially kicks off. Then the main show starts on Monday, February 22nd and runs to the 25th.

This story, "What to expect from Mobile World Congress 2016" was originally published by Greenbot.