MWC 2019: everything we're expecting from the biggest phone show of the year

Expect a lot of new smartphones at the end of February...

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It's almost time for another Mobile World Congress (MWC) – the event where the smartphone industry descends en masse to Barcelona to talk shop – and that means we can look forward to a whole host of new smartphone launches heading our way.

In previous years we've seen handsets like the Samsung Galaxy S9 and LG G6 make their bow at MWC, and MWC 2019 will be another chance to see the best that the phone makers have to offer for the next 12 months. Here's everything we're expecting to see at the show.

When is MWC 2019?

This year's Mobile World Congress takes place from Monday 25 February to Thursday 28 February. Some of the major players usually schedule press events beforehand, so expect news to start appearing on Saturday 23 February and Sunday 24 February.

Everything happens in Barcelona, primarily at the Fira Gran Via event hall. The show isn't open to the public – you have to be in the industry or a member of the press to get a ticket, but we'll keep you right up to date with everything that's happening.

The Samsung Galaxy S10 and S10 Plus

Samsung Exynos 9820 MWC 2019

Samsung Exynos 9820

Samsung loves to put on a show at Mobile World Congress, and one of the big launches being tipped to happen at MWC involves the Samsung Galaxy S10 and S10 Plus. Expect Samsung to put down an early marker for others to follow next year.

As well as the usual upgrades – a serious specs bump, a better camera, tweaks to the display – we're also hearing that the S10 phones are going to have in-screen fingerprint sensors and notch-free displays. We haven't seen any leaked images yet, but this concept video gives you a good idea of what to expect.

We do know these phones are going to feature the newly unveiled Exynos 9820 chip, with improved support for AI processing and faster performance overall. That could be replaced by the as-yet-unconfirmed Snapdragon 855 chip in some countries, and we're also waiting to see if the phones are going to support 5G too.

Foldable phones from Samsung, Huawei and LG?

Samsung foldable phone MWC 2019

Samsung foldable phone

We're getting closer and closer to the big reveal of Samsung's foldable phone technology – we think the first handset might be called the Samsung Galaxy X Infinity Flex or something along those lines, and we've already seen a prototype demoed at the developer conference Samsung held in November.

Apart from the fact that it's going to have a foldable screen, we don't know too much about the handset – which may end up getting called the Galaxy F. It's going to cost you a lot of money, but you'll certainly have the fanciest phone in your neighbourhood.

Samsung might not have everything all its own way in terms of foldable phone technology at MWC 2019. Huawei has a foldable phone in the works that could make its debut at MWC and throw in 5G as well, while LG is also working on folding phone technology and might have a handset ready to show off in Barcelona.

The LG G8 ThinQ

LG G7 ThinQ MWC 2019

LG G7 ThinQ

Another company that likes to make its presence felt at MWC is LG, which means we could well see the LG G8 ThinQ make an appearance at the show in 2019. The LG G7 ThinQ wasn't launched at MWC 2018 though, so it's by no means certain.

Whenever LG decides to unveil the handset, we're expecting it to come equipped with a speedy Qualcomm Snapdragon 855 chip and more of everything that LG phones are known for – great displays, superior sound, and capable cameras.

It sounds as though the LG G8 ThinQ is going to come rocking a 4K screen, and we know from the LG V40 ThinQ that a triple-lens rear camera is likely too. Will LG fit a fingerprint sensor under the display as well? We'll have to wait and see...

The Sony Xperia XZ4

Sony Xperia XZ3 MWC 2019

Sony Xperia XZ3

The most recent phone Sony has launched upon the world is the Sony Xperia XZ3 but its successor could be just around the corner too. Based on the rumours we've heard so far, the Sony Xperia XZ4 will come running the Snapdragon 855 processor, as well as boasting a 6.2-inch screen and  dual-lens rear camera.

Sony phones have lagged a little behind the competition in terms of design in recent years, but the Xperia XZ4 is being tipped to be a fantastic-looking phone as well as a very powerful one. Considering the company's expertise in screen and camera technology, this should be well worth waiting for.

Considering Sony has been working with a six-month cycle for its flagship phone launches, and that Sony usually has an event at Mobile World Congress, it's highly probable that the Sony Xperia XZ4 will be at least shown off at MWC 2019 – even if it doesn't go on sale to the masses straight away.

And the rest...

Huawei P30 Pro concept MWC 2019

Huawei P30 Pro concept

Those are the headline phones we're expecting to see at MWC 2019 but there's going to be plenty more happening at the show. Nokia had a strong showing at MWC 2018, so it may well be back for more this year – keep your eyes peeled for the Nokia 9 making its bow.

Huawei has been known to launch a phone or two at Mobile World Congress, and besides the foldable phone we've mentioned above, the firm might also treat us to the Huawei P30 and P30 Pro. Expect more camera lenses and maybe even support for 5G if the phones do make an appearance.

Of the other big names, we're not sure what if anything the likes of OnePlus and HTC are going to bring to MWC 2019. There's a chance we'll see some new hardware from these two manufacturers, but it's still a little early for the HTC U13 or the OnePlus 7.

Emerging Chinese firms like Oppo and Xiaomi should be in attendance as well, increasing their visibility in Europe and the US, though as for specific handsets we haven't heard much from the rumour mill so far. We might not get any new Oppo or Xiaomi phones at MWC 2019 but they'll still have a presence.

As for two of the biggest names of them all – Apple and Google – they usually save their phone launches for their own events. Apple doesn't like mixing with its rivals so will be a MWC 2019 no-show, but Google will be there supporting its Android partners and promoting its mobile offerings, even if it doesn't have any new devices to unveil.

The best bits of MWC 2018

To predict the future, we must understand the past... or something like that. These are the best phones we saw at MWC 2018, which might give us some clues about what to expect this time around.

1. Samsung officially launched the much-leaked Galaxy S9

The Samsung Galaxy S9 is a refined version of last year's S8

Samsung had already promised to unveil "the next generation of Galaxy devices" at a press event on 25 February, and those devices were the Samsung Galaxy S9 and its bigger sibling the Galaxy S9+. 

Of course, that was widely known ahead of the result due to a series of leaks. So by the time the launch event rolled around we knew pretty much everything there was to know about the new Galaxy phones, but that didn't make them any less appealing.

Samsung is at the top of its game right now when it comes to mobile, leaving other Android handset manufacturers struggling to compete.

Check out our impressions of the new Galaxy handsets in the links below.

Samsung also confirmed its Bixby smart speaker for the second half of 2018. Aimed at the premium end of the market, the speaker looks set to take on Apple's HomePod.

2. LG brought AI smarts with its V30S ThinQ

LG V30S ThinQ

The LG V30S ThinQ features an AI powered camera

The highlight for LG at MWC 2018 was the LG V30S ThinQ, which packs a super camera powered by AI, that could show up the new Samsung Galaxy S9 and Sony Xperia XZ2

The camera's artificial intelligence will automatically adjust the settings according to what you are shooting and it will apparently be able to recognise an object – a pair of shoes, for example – and tell you where you can buy it online. High street shops are gonna love that.

3. Huawei made us go "Oooh" with its pop-up MateBook X Pro webcam

How cool is this little pop-up webcam?

This year we didn't see any new phones from Huawei but the brand did rather wow us with its new Huawei MateBook X Pro, which joins the MateBook X that it launched last year, to create a MateBook range. 

It's highly spec'd and almost bezel-free: Huawei says it has a 91% screen to body ratio. And because those thin bezels leave no space for a webcam, the webcam is hidden in a little pop-up function key in the top row of the keyboard. How cute is that?

The MateBook X Pro features a 13.9-inch 3K touchscreen with a 3000 x 2000 pixel resolution and is set at a 3:2 aspect ratio. 

There's a lot of screen on the MateBook X Pro

Huawei also announced a trio of Android tablets: the MediaPad 5, the MediaPad M5 and the MediaPad M5 Pro. The MediaPad 5 is 8.4" which the two M5 variants are 10.8". All three feature speakers tuned by Harman Kardon.

Oh, and the Chinese brand also gave us more details about its next flagship smartphone. It'll be releasing its next flagship smartphone, the P20, at a launch event in Paris on the 27th of March. T3 will be there.

4. Sony trimmed back the bezels with its new flagship, the Xperia XZ2

Sony Xperia XZ2

The Sony Xperia XZ2 improves on previous Xperias

As was rumoured, Sony arrived at MWC with its new Sony Xperia XZ2. Compared with previous generations of the Xperia, there's a better screen-to-bezel ratio and, as you'd expect from Sony, the camera looks impressive. It's the first phone on the market to deliver 4K, HDR recording.

While the bezels have been reduced they are still very much a, er, feature, so we're not sure what reception the handset will get when it goes on sale.

Spec-wise, the Xperia XZ2 is up there with the rest of the flagships, so it's unlikely to disappoint in its performance.

Check out our hands-on Sony Xperia XZ2 review for our impressions of the new handset.

As well as the Sony Xperia XZ2, the brand also launched the smaller Xperia XZ2 Compact handset, and its new Sony Xperia Ear Duo earbuds which are designed to let you listen to music and still hear background sounds.

Those earbuds are basically the exact opposite of noise cancelling headphones so should be safer if you're listening to music in busy places, or you just want to be more aware of what's happening around you. They'll be available in May for $280 (UK price to be confirmed).

5. Nokia went bananas with the rebooted 8110

Nokia 8110

Nokia's slider is back (in yellow and black)

In a move that will delight some (though they might not go so far as to actually buy one), Nokia rebooted the Matrix phone, the banana-like Nokia 8110. And now it's even available in a cheery yellow.

It's been updated from the original 8110 and now features 4G connectivity, an app store for gives access to apps such as Google Assistant, Google Search, Google Maps, Facebook and Twitter, and yes – it comes with an updated version of Snake.

The phone apparently runs KaiOS, which is based on the now discontinued Firefox OS.

If you fancy one, you'll be able to pick one up in black or yellow for €79 (around £70) when it launches in May.

Nokia also announced the Nokia 1, Nokia 6, Nokia 7 Plus and Nokia 8 Sirocco. Of all the Nokia releases, the Nokia 8 Sirocco, with its  5.5-inch QHD OLED display, is the flagship and we have a hands-on review of the Nokia 8 Sirocco right here.