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Opinion

View from the airport: Hardware at MWC 2022

Flight cancellations and COVID-19 restrictions aren’t enough to dampen the glorious return of Mobile World Congress

“Morning guys. Just had a text saying the flight is cancelled.”

I’d only just put my coat on when that message popped up in the MWC 2022 WhatsApp group. A cab hummed outside, waiting to take me to the airport. Thankfully that airport was Gatwick and I smugly arrived, untroubled, in Barcelona by lunchtime on Saturday.

The same couldn’t be said for other journalists and MWC attendees who were caught up in a British Airways IT meltdown. All short-haul flights were cancelled on Saturday morning due to “technical problems”, leaving thousands stranded, desperately scrambling to find alternative flights. 

I was quite lonely on that first afternoon, tucking into some spicy patatas bravas in my hotel’s rooftop bar. Any happiness at being in a foreign country again was tinged with a fear that no one else was coming. We’re supposed to be getting back to some kind of normalcy and human connection, and physical events are a huge part of that. 

The theme for MWC 2022 was “connectivity unleashed” but the troubles at BA had unleashed only chaos over the preceding weekend. My heart goes out to the Samsung PR team, who put on an absolutely wonderful hands-on session at an idyllic little beach hut, lit beautifully in the early morning sunshine. It was a photographer's dream. but most of its guests were living out a nightmare at Heathrow’s Terminal 5. More than 50 guests were scheduled to attend, but the troubles with BA saw just a handful of us there to capture shots of the new Galaxy Book2 Pro range

The idyllic Samsung beach hut at MWC 2022

Bobby Hellard/IT Pro

Thankfully, companies like Lenovo and Oppo provided virtual launches so no one would miss out., including the former's first Arm-based ThinkPad, which boasts a 29 hour battery life. The latter, meanwhile, showcased its latest flagship handset, the Find X5 Pro, but the company was the star of the show on Monday after it revealed a revolutionary charger prototype. The Oppo SuperVooc 240W fast charger blew everyone’s mind with its promise of fully charging a flat battery in nine minutes. The OnePlus 10 Pro, however, failed to impress, given it's only a minor upgrade on its predecessor and there's no exact UK release date.

My favourite launch was from Huawei, meanwhile, which hosted MWC attendees at the Regency Hotel on Sunday to debut its updates of the MateBook X Pro and MatePad E 2-in-1. It also unveiled a handsome MateStation X desktop. We all sat patiently, expecting an executive to come onto the stage, but, instead, we were treated to a pre-recorded video of Richard Yu, the CEO of Huawei’s consumer business group. It began with Yu walking forwards as if he were about to break the fourth wall and appear on the stage. He wasn’t there, of course, which we assumed was down to the extra-long quarantine restrictions in place for people returning to China.

We’re slowly getting back together and meeting up at large international events, but it seems as though it’ll be an experience with limits and restraints for the foreseeable future. We’re still living under the shadow of COVID-19 and transportation faults – be it train delays or flight cancellations – are more common than they should be. There’s a positive way to look at it, though, and this is perhaps the real legacy of the pandemic; we’re a much more fluid and flexible workforce now than ever before. We have the tools and the know-how to work from anywhere that has an internet connection, and this was fully on display at MWC 2022 as exemplified by Huawei's Super Device ecosystem. In contrast with previous years, product launches were mainly virtual, too, and even available to watch on YouTube. 

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There are no guarantees the world will be completely free of COVID-19 or restrictions any time soon, and the same has always been true for transport disruptions. We appear to be better at navigating those challenges than ever before, however. A good example of this was in the MWC 2022 WhatsApp group, where a resourceful and fluid Huawei PR team rapidly found flights and alternative routes for their guests. Some even flew into Madrid to catch a high-speed train to Barcelona. I was amazed at how rapid and adaptable their approach was, although it seemed entirely normal to them. 

The lesson here is, in the age of COVID-19, we can still enjoy large international events in-person, but to get them going requires a change of mindset. When things go wrong, you need to just simply move on. 

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