MWC 2019 Preview: All the New Phones, 5G and More

Updated

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.

John Hoffman, CEO of the GSMA (mobile operators association). Credit: Sopa Images/GettyJohn Hoffman, CEO of the GSMA (mobile operators association). Credit: Sopa Images/Getty

And this year’s edition of MWC, which gets underway 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.

MORE: 5G Phones: News and Release Dates

It promises to be a packed agenda. So here’s a full rundown of what we expect to see come out of MWC 2019.

Samsung a No-Show?

The biggest phone launch in February could be taking place right before Mobile World Congress. Samsung is skipping this year’s trade show so that it can have the stage all to itself on Feb. 20, when its Unpacked event in San Francisco should reveal the Galaxy S10.Credit: Evan Blass/@evleaksCredit: Evan Blass/@evleaks

Reports indicate there will be three S10 handsets unveiled in total — the S10, S10+ and an entry-level S10E, which will offer not-as-elaborate features for a not-as-eye-popping price. All three phones are expected to include an in-display, hole-punch selfie camera design to let their screens reach from end to end, though the S10E is expected to include a flat display with some small side bezels. The more expensive iterations of the S10 will likely have rear three-lens cameras and a fingerprint reader built into their screens.

There had been some speculation that Samsung might still make some noise at Mobile World Congress with its foldable Galaxy F phone. But even that looks to be part of the company’s Feb. 20 event, as a teaser video from Samsung basically confirms we’ll at least get a new look at the upcoming device.

The Future Unfolds

This doesn’t mean Samsung won’t have a presence at the actual MWC show in Barcelona. One possibility is the Korean company joining Verizon on stage to unveil a special 5G version of the S10+. The expectation is that the next-gen wireless version would be available later than the S10 models it will have shown off at its “Unpacked” event.

When: Wednesday, Feb. 20; 2 p.m. ET/11 a.m. PT

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 two phones up its sleeve, with the LG G8 ThinQ and LG V50 ThinQ on tap for 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 the company has teased that gesture controls are coming to the G8 as well.

Credit: Evan Blass/@evleaksCredit: Evan Blass/@evleaksAs 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 could also be in the cards for LG, with a patent from last year showing that the company is at least tinkering with the idea. But there has been very much buzz about LG being ready to unveil a device like that at this year’s MWC.

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 much anticipated P30 Pro, a good old-fashioned flat-screened Android smartphone, that’s looking more and more like a no-go. New reports now have the possible four-lens-camera follow-up to the popular P20 Pro getting an introduction in March.

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.

HoloLens 2 Teaser

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.

When: Sunday, Feb. 24; 5 p.m. CET/11 a.m. ET/8 a.m. PT

Nokia 9

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.

Credit: GizmoChina/OnLeaksCredit: GizmoChina/OnLeaksWhat 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

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 could give an update on potential 5G compatibility for an upcoming phone.

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. Leaks indicate that the verywide-screened Xperia XZ4 Android phone could be the headliner at Sony’s event.

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.

When: Monday, Feb. 25; 8:30 a.m. CET/2:30 a.m. ET/11:30 p.m PT (Feb. 24)