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Thursday, April 25, 2024

AI in focus at world’s mobile fair in Spain

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Phone makers are expected to focus on the unique AI-powered tools of their latest handsets at the four-day Mobile World Congress in Barcelona where 95,000 attendees and 2,400 exhibitors from around the world are awaited for an event that lasts until Thursday.

Telecoms operators will use the event to explore how AI can help improve their operations, from boosting security to providing better customer service.

AI “is clearly democratizing and is now embedded everywhere: inphones, in devices, in networks,” said Thomas Husson, principalanalyst at Forrester who sees it reviving innovation in the sector.

The event comes as global smartphone shipments declined 3.2 percent to 1.17 billion units in 2023.

It was the second consecutive yearly decline, according to the IDC consultancy, as consumers took longer to upgrade their devices due to a lack of innovations, high inflation and economic uncertainties.

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But shipments rose 8.5 percent in the fourth quarter to 326.1 million units which suggests “momentum is moving quickly toward recovery.”

Google and South Korean giant Samsung have both recently unveiled new flagship handsets with flashy AI-power tools such as advanced photo editing and easier online search which they are expected to highlight.

Other smaller handset makers such as China’s Honor are set to unveil new devices at the event.

Honor’s new flagship phone features a camera with AI motion-sensing capabilities that can detect and automatically take a picture of a moving object at the best moment.

AI had already “kicked off” before the last MWC in 2023 but “a year later we have a much better idea of how operators and the mobileindustry can take advantage of it,” said Peter Jarich, head of intelligence at telecoms industry group GSMA, the event organizer.

Among the 1,100 speakers who are scheduled are Michael Dell, founderand CEO of the personal computer firm Dell, and Microsoft president Brad Smith.

Aside from AI, discussions are expected to focus on the consolidation of the European telecoms market after the EU on Tuesday approved the merger of the Spain operations of French telecoms giant Orange with its Spanish rival Mas Movil.

There is also likely to be debate about whether big tech should contribute to the cost of deploying the networks their products rely on, a notion commonly known as “fair share.”

The annual congress, which has been held in Barcelona since 2006, initially focused on phones but has since expanded to include all sorts of connected devices such as drones and robots.

Among the more eye-catching devices which will be on display is the working model of what US firm Alef Aeronautics says is the world’s first “real” flying car and a lifelike robotic dog by TECNO mobile that can understand voice commands.

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