This is my third consecutive year joining the global melting pot of a hugely diverse industry at Mobile World Congress.
There has been one clear change that struck me immediately this year: Smartphones, as devices, have ceased to be exciting.
In years gone by, new phones have been the rock stars of MWC. But the changes to new phones are pretty much incremental now, and this is opening up a much more interesting focus and changing what MWC is actually for: it has become an event about what mobiles enable, not what they do.
And this is arguably more profound: helping us to be healthier, making payment or banking easier and more widespread, improving the experience and safety of transport, better connecting us to family members, or simply just making the experience of using or buying a brand more convenient.
There is also a refocused attention on the role of network operators. Cisco says that 50% of operators will become irrelevant to mobile users. In a world where Google is launching a virtual mobile network and Facebook just wants cheap data and connectivity everywhere, this is a real risk.
But there is, of course, also the opportunity to be the other 50%: to build a meaningful role in the emerging world of mobility (vs mobile) by enabling the growing array of smart tech and services centered on the sim and its ability to be an identifier or connector across these.
At the risk of drifting into buzzword bingo, what I’ve seen at MWC this year suggests to me we’re genuinely entering a post-mobile phase: where we stop focusing on what they are and start focusing on what we do with them. Making the customer experience easier, more enjoyable, more helpful, more personable. In many ways, brands have only just scratched the surface.
Mark Holden is head of futures at Arena.