2015 was this editor’s first visit to the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona. Though well prepared for the experience by seasoned visitors, the sheer size of the event is simply breath-taking. 15 minutes to walk fast from the entrance to the end of Hall 8.1 suggests the site is getting on for a mile long, and five minutes to walk from one end of Hall 3 to the other suggests it’s pretty wide too.
The sheer volume of people attending is astonishing – nearly 90,000 expected this year, which must be the largest single alien invasion of the city. It certainly tells, with long queues to get on the train to the Fira Gran via site in the morning, and a 25 minute wait to get on a train back for those making the mistake of hanging on to closing time early in the week, to indulge in the hospitality that breaks out on many stands as the sun passes the yard-arm.
Organisation is stunning too – there are helpful people way back in the metro system pointing the way, and throughout the site. Ask them and they’ll almost certainly know the answer, or know someone who does.
The contrast therefore with the Congress’s largest exhibitor – Samsung – is remarkable. Samsung’s dedication to making a success of its Galaxy S6 is clear from the huge space dedicated to it – three stands alongside each other in Hall 3. And these are not small stands – you could fit the whole exhibition space from yesterday’s eHealth week, or the last TSA event, into one stand and have room to spare. Put the three together and you have a decent football pitch, with room for spectators.
However the one thing that the literally hundreds of blue-and-white uniformed people manning the stand did not have was any good idea about what S-Health does. Everyone this editor knows who has a Samsung phone uses S-Health, if at all, as a step counter only. So, following Samsung’s recent commitment to mHealth, this editor decided on a mission when in Barcelona to understand how it could be used more fully.
Starting at the main stand, I was politely told that it was to to do with health & wellness. When I enquired further, explaining a professional interest, a manager was summoned who was equally lacking in knowledge. There then followed a search for a mythical Adrian (the Anglicised name for a Korean guru apparently). Then Adrian became Ian (with a Spanish accent they do sound similar), then became female, though no-one was ever found. During this time I was ushered inside one of these vast stands, into the very holy-of-holies, which itself was an experience with over a thousand S6s/S6 Edges on metallic stalks.
(Whilst waiting for the guru to be located, I did try to find out what is so special about the S6 range – apart from the fact that the S6 Edge has two curved edges, nothing persuaded me that I should be upgrading from my S4 yet, either.)
Finally I was pointed towards Hall 8.1 where I was assured the guru (now without name or sex) was to be found. In view of the distance (according to my S Health I’d already walked 7 miles) I headed for 8.1 the following morning. After a brief further period of pass-the-customer, I was referred back to the Hall 3 stand from whence I had come the previous day.
Thus it seems that in spite of the launch of the Apple watch shortly, albeit possibly with a diminished health & wellness flavour, and much talk of the widespread deployment of the Apple Healthkit architecture, there was actually no one in Barcelona from Samsung who knew anything about S Health, other than that it had something to do with health & wellness. For the owner of a Samsung mobile & a Samsung tablet, that was a huge disappointment.
(Apple by the way do not exhibit at events such as this, an insider told me; many of their people attend although not with Apple Inc. on their badges.)
However I have a name to email who assured me that when she returns to her desk she will ensure someone contacts me, next week.
Watch this space.
Read Part 2 here