MWC 2013 Wrap-Up: The Age of Software

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Despite the fact that a number of smartphones were revealed prior to the show, there was no shortage of device announcements coming out of this year’s MWC. But attendees of the show may have noticed something a little peculiar: generally speaking, the focus wasn’t so much on the hardware as it was on software.

On the surface, it would appear that the announcements were all about the hardware. But in most cases, the major differentiators between devices, be they tablets or smartphones, were specific apps or certain aspects of the software.

Take the new flagship phones from HTC and LG, the One and the Optimus G Pro, as examples. They’re both impressive pieces of hardware, to be sure, but is what they boast anything particularly out of the ordinary? Quad-core processors. HD resolution. A massive display, in the case of the Optimus G Pro. They boast high quality specs, but this has all become familiar territory.

Instead, consider what these companies are using as their phones’ main selling points. For HTC, it’s BlinkFeed, the constantly updating news and entertainment feed that serves as the company’s response to live tiles. There’s also Zoe, HTC’s revamped camera software, which includes features like object removal, automatically generated highlight reels, and video capture to accompany every still shot being taken.

The Optimus G Pro, meanwhile, sports Q Slide 2.0, a new version of LG’s multi-tasking software. It allows users to open certain apps, like the video player, and then either dim it or shrink it into a window to perform other tasks simultaneously. The Optimus G Pro also has Vu Talk, a Pictochat-esque piece of software that lets users communicate via a shared drawing board when on a phone call together.

And these weren’t the only two companies that attempted to hawk their new, upcoming wares by focusing on the software side of things. Samsung unveiled the Galaxy Note 8.0, yet another addition to its growing line of Galaxy Note products, and the Korean company was all about what it could do with S Pen-optimized software.

The Awesome Note app, for instance, will be on Android for the first time on the Galaxy Note 8.0, since it was previously an iOS exclusive. Samsung was quick to point this out, along with all of the other optimized apps because, after all, beyond the physical dimensions, there’s almost nothing separating this Galaxy Note from the others. So it makes sense that some of its main selling points come down to its software.

Even operating systems got some time in the sun at MWC. The ZTE Open barely even got any attention for being its own device; rather, it was mostly there as a means to show off the upcoming Firefox OS. Other open source offerings had a presence at the show as well, including Tizen, Sailfish, and Ubuntu OS.

At MWC 2013, this was the year of software. And frankly, there are worse things than that, especially in this day and age when differences in hardware specs are becoming more and more granular (e.g. a 1.6 GHz processor versus a 1.7 GHz processor). It’s about time that these companies start thinking outside of the box and trying to differentiate their products from that of the competition. And at this point, that may be easier to do from a software perspective since it appears that, at least for the time being, we’re reaching the ceiling of hardware innovation.

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