This was my first Mobile World Congress. Attending the world’s largest trade show in the mobile industry had always been a dream of mine since I joined the industry, and while I felt ready to power through the four-day event, nothing quite prepared me for the actual experience of walking through the show floor. Here’s what I learned from covering Mobile World Congress 2014.
1. ABC – Always Be Chasing
I’ve experienced it several times now, but I’m always surprised at the way international tech journalists rush to an event hall to get the best seats or to be the first in the experience zone to do their coverage. Actually, “rush” is an understatement: these journos sprint. You chase people, you chase stories, you chase time… you chase everything at MWC.
And it’s a powerful habit too: you snooze, you lose.
2. NFC is Actually Useful
One of the coolest things I experienced at MWC 2014 was the highly integrated use of NFC throughout the event. For instance, in addition to the standard printed press pass I got when I registered, I was also told to download an app for MWC 2014 and find my digital press pass there. This digital pass can be used to validate my identity in seconds by simply tapping an NFC-enabled device at the security checkpoint. (iPhone users were given a special NFC case.) At every entrance booth, I can then smugly beat the crowd and enter the show floor via the NFC Badge checkpoints.
The app also allows users to include their PayPal details, allowing them to pay for any food purchased in the show floor via NFC. On top of that, the NFC Peer-to-Peer Connect function in the app also lets you swap contact details with just a tap of your smartphone, in a similar concept to the Razer Nabu’s shake to share LinkedIn profiles.
3. Extension Plugs are the Best.
A habit cultivated from the various balik kampung destinations where there are more electronic devices than available electrical plugs. An extension plug is the best thing you can have in a foreign country where the power outlet sockets are different to Malaysia’s. Shortly after arriving in Barcelona, I’d used up one camera battery, one power bank, and both smartphones I had were dangerously close to powering out. With the help of the extension plug and just one universal travel adaptor, everything was fully charged by the time I woke up the next morning.
4. Always Be Ready…but Know that Things May Take a Turn for the Worse
My gear list for this trip included a Lenovo ThinkPad Yoga (which charges from 0% to 80% in an hour), an Oppo N1 (which has a 3610 mAh battery), a Nexus 4, a Canon EOS 700D, four microUSB to USB cables, four power banks, a Gorilla Pod, a (super comfortable) DSLR sling strap, two microphones, and of course, several cans of Red Bull. I got a local 3G SIM card soon after arriving too.
But alas, at the Galaxy S5 unveiling, with a rumoured 2000 attendees at the very, very packed hall, almost every mobile Internet service crawled to a halt. The WiFi connection provided was unstable at best. There was nothing much that could be done, other than preparing the article offline and publishing it once the connection was slightly better.
5. Tech Journalists are Really Fit People
Over the course of four days, one would be constantly moving between the eight vastly expansive halls, scurry back to the media village with insanely fast Internet, publish the article(s), and then hunt down more stories hidden in the halls. One easily clocks in kilometers on foot in any single day walking around the halls, which are connected via an upper level with long, wide corridors and travellators.
Case in point: Fitbit had a special challenge for the press covering MWC 2014. Buy a Fitbit Flex at 40% off, wear the fitness tracker as you trawl through the show floor, submit your stats at the end of each day and win awesome prizes. The highest recorded distance in one day? 68,800 steps. Now, Fitbit reckons 10,000 steps is about 5 miles, so this Greek god of a journalist walked a total distance of about 35 miles – that’s over 56km! Even when you take into account the error margin that’s associated with these trackers, that’s an unbelievable distance to cover on foot in a day.
6. In the Future, Smartphones will be the Most Powerful Device You’ll Ever Own
On a more serious note, the ever-increasing amount of features a smartphone can pack is astonishing. And it’s not just the heart rate monitors I’m talking about here: it’s the software side of things. With the help of apps, your smartphone can control your home and your car in the future. The Connected Home and Connected Car concept is a hugely compelling arena for developers and industry players alike, simply because of what it can achieve if done right.
Imagine a car that syncs with your smartphone’s calendar and navigates you to the location of a meeting, without your prompt. Imagine a home that switches on the air conditioning to cool your living room as you leave the office. Anything is possible.
7. Make the Most of Your Opportunities
I had to learn this the hard way. I stopped by a cafe inside the show floor when I spotted the Malaysian Multimedia Development Corporation (MDeC) booth, and made a mental note to return once I returned from the media room to publish some articles. I never came back, because I simply didn’t have the time to return to that particular hall.
It’s critical, too, that you gather as much material as you need when you visit a booth, so that you don’t need to make repeated visits to the same booth. And, when you speak with any of the people manning the booths, or even at an informal meeting with a founder or CEO, don’t be shy to ask anything even if it’s a criticism to anything related to the company. You’ll be surprised at the response. Each and every time.
8. The Power of Understanding a Foreign Language
I’m grateful for picking up Spanish in my university days. While some of the locals do speak a little English, it’s amazing how quickly they warm up once you begin speaking in broken Spanish and understand what they are trying to say.
9. Leave with Little Stories that Make it an Experience
But most of all, I leave Barcelona with the little stories that made this working experience one to savour. From the head of security at the Sony booth who thought I was stealing intellectual property; the elderly spokesman at HP who looked exactly like Colonel Sanders; the lady at the LG booth who wanted to know more about “the country between Thailand and Singapore”; being right in the crowd between the Sony and Nokia booths as the people danced to Pharell’s “Happy” ten minutes before the end of MWC 2014; and of course, seeing the other Malaysian media, Amanz and Soyacincau, mixing it up with the editors of The Verge or Engadget; little anecdotes such as these kept me going through the lack of sleep, the stress, and the constant feeling of chasing time throughout the four days I was on ground.
The Mobile World Congress may have closed its doors two weeks ago, but the memories linger on. Best of all, the experience gained this year only whets my appetite for MWC 2015.
Lowyat.NET’s Samsung Unpacked 2014 Episode 1 and MWC 2014 coverage was made possible by the kind folk at Samsung Malaysia, and this article was inspired by this post by Amanz.my. ¡Hasta luego, Barcelona!