What to expect at MWC 2019

Flagship, foldable and 5G phones.

There's always plenty of news from MWC, and it's either entirely expected or word gets out early. This year is shaping up to be slightly different, though, as companies are preparing their version of the future of smartphones. From foldable designs to 5G and more, this year's Mobile World Congress won't only be jam-packed with news, but it should also be exciting once again.

LG is one of the few phone makers that still reserves its flagship announcements for MWC. This year, reports indicate that the company will pull the wraps off of the G8 ThinQ -- a device that will be the answer to Samsung's shiny new Galaxy S10. While the S10 houses three cameras around back, the G8 ThinQ is said to only have two, but should be powered by one of Qualcomm's Snapdragon 855 processors that are both AI- and 5G-ready.

The G8 ThinQ will also offer some kind of gesture control. Thanks to a tease from LG, we know that the phone will have some way of interacting with it, without actually touching the device. Details are scarce, but this hands-free operation is sure to get plenty of stage time. LG has also teased the G8 ThinQ's "Crystal Sound OLED" display, the same tech we've seen in Sony's TVs. The technology vibrates the screen to produce sound, a process LG claims improves audio quality with more volume and enhanced clarity.

Like a lot of other companies, LG will likely show off a 5G phone in Spain too. Based on early revelations, we know the V50 ThinQ is probably the company's first 5G model and it looks similar to its predecessor (the V40). But that's about all we know about it at this point, other than Sprint apparently plans to sell it in the US. With 5G looming large over all of MWC this year, the full details on the V50 ThinQ should be revealed as a key part of LG's press event on Sunday.

Sony can be a little reserved when it comes to big news at MWC, but this year could be much different. Rumors suggest the company is literally working on something big: multiple phones with 21:9 displays. Of course, this means the devices -- likely the 5.9-inch Xperia 10 and 6.5-inch 10 Plus -- will be much taller in your hand as a tradeoff for what we expect to be an improved cinematic experience for all your movies and TV shows. While the display news might be exciting if you like to stream Netflix on the go, it sounds like those phones will also sport midrange specs. More specifically, the smaller Xperia 10 will run on a Snapdragon 630 while the larger will be powered by a Snapdragon 660.

We're crossing our fingers for news of a more-premium device from Sony next week. If that happens, it will likely be the 6.5-inch triple-camera XZ4. Come on, Sony, don't let us down.

When invites went out for a Microsoft event at MWC, it caught many people by surprise. The company may be out of the smartphone game, but its products still play a big role in the mobile world. Next week's news will likely revolve around a new HoloLens headset which will be the successor to the original, announced in 2015. Thanks to the event invite and a teaser from HoloLens creator Alex Kipman, it's a safe bet Microsoft will be focused on augmented reality in Barcelona.

There aren't a lot of details about the so-called HoloLens 2 headset just yet. However, a source familiar with the matter told Engadget that the device would be powered by Qualcomm's XR1 platform. That technology is said to deliver "high quality" AR and VR experiences with the promise of directional audio, 3D elements and 4K video at 60 frames per second.

Motorola may not be ready to discuss its foldable phone yet, but other companies certainly have their affairs in order. We already know what Samsung's device looks like, at least in its current form, and LG has plans to make a folding phone of its own. At this point, it's unclear if LG will divulge anything at MWC or show off a device. Xiaomi also teased a foldable design a while back, and its fold-back edges make it one of the more unique items we've seen thus far. But again, there's no clear indication we'll see it on stage next week.

China's Oppo also hasn't been shy about its foldable phone plans, and it went so far as to promise an early 2019 reveal. We've reached that time and if Oppo wants to make some noise in Barcelona, the official announcement of a folding handset would certainly do that. The only foldable phone we know for sure we'll be seeing during the show is from Huawei, and that's because the company wanted to start the hype machine by plastering the device all over the invite to its press event. However, that's really all we know about the thing: that it will most likely be on display at MWC.

By now you've likely seen the leaked images of HMD's Nokia 9, complete with its cluster of five rear cameras. Rumors have been circulating for months at this point, but with no official announcement, our curiosity is running wild trying to figure out how that many cameras will function as a single unit or how exactly HMD plans to revive PureView.

It won't be all about the Nokia 9 for HMD though. Based on the company's track record, we're likely to see some mid- to low-range phones as well. Perhaps we'll see a follow-up to last year's Android Go handset and a feature phone or two.

There will be a lot of 5G talk at MWC as we hurtle toward next-gen connectivity becoming a reality. OnePlus is one phone maker who will likely be focusing more on 5G than new phones, since the 6T debuted late last year. Blockchain is on the docket for HTC as the company is primed to chat up its Exodus phone. Hopefully, that means we'll get the chance to see one in person. Motorola has already tipped its hand on the new G7 lineup, but the company could discuss its RAZR-inspired foldable phone at MWC.

Huawei has had its hands full with security concerns, accusations and legal troubles over the past few months. Even after being formally charged with allegedly violating sanctions, fraud and theft of trade secrets in the US, the company hasn't slowed down in terms of both news and new products. In addition to the foldable phone that's on tap for next week, we know that Huawei will be discussing 5G as well. It's unclear if that foldable phone will also be its first 5G handset, but we're sure to find out soon enough. We do know that Huawei's next proper flagship line, the P30 series, won't debut at MWC. Instead, the company will unveil that news in Paris on March 26th.

If we just stuck to what's expected, MWC would be a week's worth of exciting news. But as it goes with nearly every major event, there's sure to be many more announcements that haven't been ruined by leaks or reports just yet. It could get weird. In fact, it probably will get very weird at some point. When you mix tapas, Spanish wine and a tech trade show, anything could happen.

Images: Evan Blass/evleaks (LG G8 ThinQ); WinFuture (Sony Xperia); Engadget (HoloLens); Huawei (Hua MWC invite); Evan Blass/evleaks (Nokia 9); HTC (HTC Exodus)

Writer: Chris Velazco
Presenter: Nicole Lee
Camera: Chris Schodt
Editor: Chris Schodt

LG G8 ThinQ and 5G V50 ThinQ

LG G8 ThinQ

All of the Sony phones

Sony Xperia 10

Microsoft and HoloLens 2


Foldable phones

Huawei foldable phone

Nokia 9's five rear cameras

Nokia 9

The best of the rest

HTC Exodus