Editors' Note: Updated Feb. 22 with additional information on what to expect for Mobile World Congress.
The end of February always brings a shakeup to the smartphone landscape as Mobile World Congress, the mobile industry’s biggest trade show, introduces us to the latest devices that will capture our attention — at least until the flurry of fall flagship phone news.
And this year’s edition of MWC, which gets underway Monday (Feb. 25) in Barcelona, figures to offer even more phones than usual.
Not only can we expect the usual parade of flagship and midtier mobile devices that always make their debut at MWC, but phone makers have more surprises in store this time around. Folding phones, which have been in development for years, are finally starting to get real, and Mobile World Congress could introduce us to some brand new foldables.
Then there’s 5G. The next-generation networking standard arrives this year, and MWC should give carriers a platform to tell the world more about their launch plans. Meanwhile device makers may let us know when we can expect phones that are compatible with 5G networks and their faster speeds.
One of the bigger phone releases this month happened before MWC even got underway. Samsung unveiled its Galaxy S10 lineup this week, which included a 5G version of the S10 due out later this spring. Samsung also showed off the Galaxy Fold, a folding phone that's due out at the end of April
Even with Samsung getting all that news out of the way before MWC, the trade show promises to have a packed agenda, with plenty of phone launches slated for the weekend. Here’s a full rundown of what we expect to see come out of MWC 2019.
LG G8 and LG V50
Like Samsung, LG has often used MWC to unveil its latest G series flagship Android phone. This year looks to be the same and then some, with the Korean phone maker set to host a Feb. 24 press event in Barcelona the day before the mobile show officially gets underway. And LG apparently has multiple phones up its sleeve, with the LG G8 ThinQ and LG V50 ThinQ leading the way MWC.
According to leaks and rumors, the G8 will look a lot like the G7 ThinQ and carry the same 6.1-inch, top-notched screen. LG has already confirmed that the new phone will feature a 3D camera up front, possibly adding a face unlock feature similar to what iPhone users enjoy, and that the phone's screen will double as an audio amplifier. In addition, LG has teased that gesture controls are coming to the G8.
As for the V50, the latest edition to LG’s premium line would be arriving ahead of schedule if it shows up in Barcelona — the V40 just came out in October. But LG could speed up the release to flaunt the V50’s 5G capabilities in partnership with Sprint. LG has already promised a phone that’s powered by the Snapdragon 855, uses a Vapor Chamber cooling system and packs a 4,000 mAh battery.
A foldable-screen phone from LG was thought to be in the cards for MWC, but LG president Kwon Bong-seok said in a Korea Times story that it's too early to come out with a folding phone; instead, LG is putting its efforts into 5G devices. In advance of MWC, LG also announced a trio of midrange and budget phones that it will show off in Barcelona.
When: Sunday, Feb. 24; 7:30 p.m. CET/1:30 p.m. ET/10:30 a.m. PT
Huawei's First 5G Phone and Foldable Phone?
MWC might be overloaded with the potential for foldable phone and 5G phone news, but Huawei could still make a splash by covering both categories in one device.
The Chinese phone maker previously announced that it will have a 5G smartphone to show off in Barcelona, and teases since on social media have pointed to that same handset featuring a foldable screen. That’s all we know so far, but that’s enough info to pique interest.
As for whether Huawei will announce the much anticipated P30 Pro, a good old-fashioned flat-screened Android smartphone, don't expect an MWC debut. Huawei has set a March 26 date for that phone's launch in Paris.
When: Sunday, Feb. 24; 2 p.m. CET/8 a.m. ET/5 a.m. PT
Microsoft HoloLens 2
Microsoft may be out of the business of making phones, but it’s still planning on attending Mobile World Congress this year. And augmented reality could be a big reason why.
Microsoft is holding a press event of its own on Feb. 24, where it’s widely expected that the company will show off HoloLens 2, the successor to its mixed reality headset. The new version, which Microsoft has hinted at in a teaser video, is expected to be lighter, offer a wider field of view and cost less than the current HoloLens. This week, Microsoft announced plans to bring HoloLens apps to iOS and Android phones.
When: Sunday, Feb. 24; 5 p.m. CET/11 a.m. ET/8 a.m. PT
The Nokia brand, now managed by HMD Global, was active at last year’s MWC, when we saw five mild-mannered Android and non-Android handsets of varying price and feature ranges. In 2019, however, the one-time king of cell phones is looking to make a bigger splash in Barcelona with the likely unveiling of the oft-leaked and five-lensed Nokia 9 PureView at a Feb. 24 press conference.
What can a camera with that many lenses do? Leaked info on the 9 PureView says it will be able to simultaneously capture 10 pictures of varying light intake and use software to merge them together to create super rich and dynamic snaps. The phone will also reportedly have an in-screen fingerprint reader, 6GB of RAM and 128GB of storage. But if its camera can take pictures that look as good as its rumored circle of five lenses look weird, then that’s the only feature anyone will be concerned with.
When: Sunday, Feb. 24; 4 p.m. CET/10 a.m. ET/7 a.m. PT
Xiaomi already unveiled the Mi 9 earlier this week in China. But we expect to hear more about the Chinese phone maker's global launch plans for the $450 phone, which is highlighted by a Snapdragon 855 chipset, three rear camera setup and 6.39-inch Full HD+ display. (Sadly, those plans are unlikely to include a U.S. launch date, as Xiaomi has yet to bring any of its phones to this country.)
Rumors about Xiaomi's MWC presence include the possibility of a 5G version of its Mi Mix 3 phone. But what we'd really like to see is more of the foldable device that Xiaomi's been teasing online.
When: Sunday, Feb. 24; 10:30 a.m. CET/4:30 a.m. ET/1:30 a.m. PT
Oppo 10x Zoom Phone
Chinese smartphone company Oppo has been teasing its “lossless” 10X zoom smartphone camera technology for a bit. At a Feb. 23 pre-MWC event in Barcelona, the company has promised to show more details of the system, which apparently uses a combination of lenses (a type of optical zoom) to punch in without all the pixelation that comes with the digital zoom most smartphones rely on today.
When: Saturday, Feb. 23; 2 p.m. CET/8 a.m. ET/5 a.m. PT
OnePlus 5G Phone
OnePlus had made no secret that it’s working on a 5G phone. And though there’s no large-scale OnePlus press event slated for MWC, OnePlus is hosting a smaller get-together, where it's apparently going to show off a prototype of the device. That may be the only way U.S. phone shoppers see the 5G phone from OnePlus for a while — CEO Pete Lau says the phone will launch in the U.K. and Finland first.
When: Tuesday, Feb. 26; 8 p.m. CET/2 p.m. ET/11 a.m. PT
Sony Xperia XZ4
Sony holds its MWC press conference on Feb. 25, the opening day for the trade show. Early leaks indicated that the very wide-screened Xperia XZ4 Android phone could be the headliner at Sony’s event, though now, that phone may be going by a different name — the Xperia 1.
The phone’s purported super tall and narrow 21:9 screen is an aspect ratio that’s never before been tried on a smartphone, so it’ll be interesting to see what that feature will be ideal for, besides watching ultra widescreen movies. It's certainly a change from the blocky phones that have come to be associated with Sony over the years.
When: Monday, Feb. 25; 8:30 a.m. CET/2:30 a.m. ET/11:30 p.m PT (Feb. 24)
A week after unveiling a new 5G modem that's going to power 5G devices released in late 2019, Qualcomm will arrive in Barcelona ready to talk up the new networking standard. The chip maker, which builds the processors and modems you're likely to find in many 5G-ready phones, laptops and other devices, plans to showcase real-world use cases for 5G at its Mobile World Congress booth.
Sprint is hosting an event on Monday, Feb. 25 which will include an update of its 5G plans. And we wouldn't be surprised if other U.S. carriers make 5G announcements around the same time to get their own efforts in the headlines.