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MWC 2023: foldable phones, chatbots, 6G and everything to expect

Mobile World Congress (MWC) is back, promising a slew of big launches across the phones space including new handsets, new technologies and more.  

It’s the biggest mobile tech show of the year, when major players from all across the industry get together to show off products, make deals, and check out some of the innovations that will be making their way to consumer devices over the next 12 months.

In recent years, we’ve seen fewer smartphone launches at MWC – these now tend to be at separate events, including Samsung Unpacked – but there will still be a lot of news and announcements coming out of the event across several days.

We’ll be on the ground at MWC as always, and will be bringing you all the big news as it happens. Ahead of the official start of the event, here are the most exciting launches to look out for.

When is MWC 2023?

MWC 2023 runs from Monday, February 27 to Thursday, March 2 – though expect most of the big announcements to happen towards the start of the week, rather than the end. It takes place in Barcelona, Spain, with a wide range of exhibitors in attendance, and plenty of conferences and meetings happening across the course of the event.

What to expect at MWC 2023

Just about everyone who’s anyone in mobile tech is going to be in attendance at MWC 2023: even if companies aren’t launching new products, they’ll certainly be showing off existing ones (like the Oppo Find N2 Flip, for instance).

We’ve already had a few hints and rumors about what to expect at this year’s Mobile World Congress, and these are some of the areas where we’re anticipating that there will be plenty of news and new gadgets to pore over.

Phones, foldables, and rollables

Honor Magic Vs hands-on half open angled back

Expect to see more of the OnePlus 11 Concept (Image credit: Future | Alex Walker-Todd)

As we’ve already mentioned, we don’t get many phone unveilings at MWC these days – though there were a smattering of launches at MWC 2022. Launches we do know about are the OnePlus 11 Concept, an international expansion for Honor’s folding Magic Vs phone (above), and global availability for the Xiaomi 13 (plus maybe one or two other Xiaomi surprises).

We’ll also sure to get demos of the latest folding and rolling screen technology ready to be deployed in the phones of the future. Expect to see various screens and prototypes shown off at MWC 2023, with improvements in terms of resolution, clarity, and durability – particularly from the Chinese manufacturers such as Xiaomi, Oppo, and Honor.

It continues to get easier and cheaper to make folding phone screens, which means more models are on the way, and phone makers can get more creative when it comes to designs and form factors. As for screens that extend by rolling, we know that multiple manufacturers including Samsung are interested in this sort of tech.

AI, apps, and satellite tech

A robo-bartender at MWC 2022

A robo-bartender at MWC 2022 (Image credit: MWC)

It’s difficult to get away from artificial intelligence at the moment – ChatGPT, anyone? – and this is undoubtedly going to spill over into MWC 2023. Expect to see plenty of AI demos running on smartphones, as we’ve already seen from Qualcomm’s Stable Diffusion test in the Galaxy S23, and news about how much better handsets are going to get in this regard in the not-too-distant future.

Apple steers clear of Mobile World Congress now – though that wasn’t always the case – but Google usually makes an appearance to promote Android and support its partners. We won’t get any major Android news, but there might be one or two software updates or new apps mentioned; plenty of app makers and developers are going to be in attendance at MWC 2023.

Speaking of Apple, the satellite tech that it has added to the iPhone 14 will most probably see a response from the mobile companies who are at MWC this year. Satellite connectivity and satellite messaging are likely to be on the agenda, giving us an idea of how we might be communicating without cell signal or Wi-Fi on the phones of the future.

6G and networking

5G demo at MWC 2022

5G is so 2022 (Image credit: MWC)

There’s a lot that goes on at Mobile World Congress that isn’t terribly exciting to humble consumers – supply chain deals, infrastructure upgrades and so on – but what this means at our end is hopefully cheaper tech and faster speeds. We haven’t heard much about 6G just yet, but that might be about to change at MWC 2023.

You might be thinking that the 5G speeds that you’re getting on your phone – if you’re getting them at all – aren’t good enough yet for us to even think about 6G right now, but this is part of what MWC 2023 is about: previewing future tech. We wouldn’t be surprised if we hear news of some 6G testing and theoretical upload and download rates.

Don’t panic, 5G fans, because there’ll be plenty in the way of news and updates about the existing technology too, whether that’s in terms of expanding coverage, better connection speeds for phones, or cheaper internal components that can maintain a high-speed link without using up quite so much battery life.

VR and the metaverse

VR headset being demoed

VR companies will be out in force at MWC (Image credit: MWC)

Virtual reality headsets count as mobile tech, and you’ll notice that MWC tech roundups are often accompanied by shots of people wearing weird and wonderful boxes on their heads. Just about all of the big names in VR and AR are going to be at MWC, even though there might not be many major new product unveilings.

Mobile World Congress is often a time for smaller tech companies to shine, and that could well be the case when it comes to realities virtual, augmented, and mixed. Look out for innovative new gadgets from manufacturers that aren’t so well known, as well as improvements in the underlying hardware technologies.

There are plenty of metaverse-related talks and discussions happening at MWC 2023 – so even if consumers aren’t completely sold on the idea at the moment, those who work in the mobile industry are still keen to push it. As always, we’ll pick out the news that’s actually newsworthy to share with you.

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