Apple, Samsung step aside—letting LG, Huawei, Lenovo and others rush into MWC device gap

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The Mobile World Congress trade show has long been a battleground for competing device announcements. But this year Samsung’s apparent decision to hold off on the announcement of its next major Galaxy S smartphone appears to have opened the door for other companies to seek the spotlight in Barcelona.

Following a truly devastating 2016 in which the company was forced to withdraw a major flagship phone from the market, Samsung this year is reportedly planning to hold its own separate event later in 2017 to announce its next Galaxy S smartphone. That’s a reversal of several years of precedent, as Samsung has repeatedly used the Sunday of MWC to unveil the next version of its most popular Android smartphone—a notable decision considering Samsung is often ranked as the world’s largest smartphone vendor.

Not surprisingly, a number of competing handset vendors are rushing into the void left by Samsung (though, to be clear, Samsung is still planning on announcing various gadgets at a MWC press event). Other handset vendors expected on the MWC scene include:

“Every phone-maker will be hoping that its latest Android device will stand out in the sea of smartphone sameness. We expect the big trend is going to be smaller bezels—it's going to be all about taking stunning screens right to edge of devices. There are likely to be a few devices sporting dual cameras and biometric features such as fingerprint and iris recognition,” wrote the analysts at CCS Insight in a MWC forecast.

(It’s also worth noting that Apple, which currently claims the title of world’s largest smartphone vendor, has been listed as a MWC exhibitor for the first time this year. But that probably won’t result in any major news at the show.)

Of course, device news at MWC won’t be confined to just phones. As IDC analyst Ramon Llamas said, wearables will likely continue to generate traction. “With Android Wear 2.0 coming out, I expect more devices coming from more vendors, and not just from the usual tech crowd. Look to the fashion companies, fitness companies, outdoors companies, and of course, watch companies to bring a device to the market,” he said.

Llamas added that fitness trackers, smart clothing and watches with cellular connectivity could also generate interest at the show.

“What’s really important to recognize is that 2017 is going to be the start of the pivot for the market, going from Gen 1 to Gen 2 type devices and experiences,” he added. “Yes, it is very possible that we may lose some vendors along the way, but for those that remain, I expect them to have a much more improved selection of devices, more compelling use cases, and seamless integration with other devices and systems.”

Apple, Samsung step aside—letting LG, Huawei, Lenovo and others rush into MWC device gap