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Mobile World Congress 2021: dates, news, what new products to expect

One of the world’s biggest tech trade shows – Mobile World Congress – returns as a hybrid experience this month, with new devices and product teases possible from some of the world’s most well-known smartphone makers.

It’s one of the major events in the tech industry’s calendar – and not just because it takes place in sunny Barcelona. Although that probably doesn’t hurt.

But like pretty much all events in 2021, the shadow of the pandemic continues to loom large – and the once-bustling show floor that usually holds over 100,000 attendees is expected to be more than halved amid new safety measures.

Will those measures – which include everyone in the venue having a negative test result within the past 72 hours – be enough to limit potential spread? While MWC organisers, the GSM Association, claim yes – it’s clear that some tech companies are not completely convinced – or at least not yet willing to take the risk.

So this year, MWC will be different – and it’s still unclear if any device announced will be worthy enough to make the cut of our best smartphone guide.

In previous years, the sprawling halls would have been full to the brim with tech firms promoting their latest smartphones, laptops, gadgets or software. But this time, many of the showcases will be beamed in virtually. Companies including Google, Nokia, Facebook, Vodafone, Sony and Ericsson declined to send anyone in-person.

That’s not to say there won’t be exciting news, however, and RadioTimes.com will be bringing you those announcements – from a safe distance. So here’s what you need to know about MWC 2021, who is there and what devices to expect.

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What is Mobile World Congress?

One of the big trade shows of the year used to show off new tech products. It’s not a free event, and tickets start from around £600, although some announcements will be streamed to the public.

When is Mobile World Congress 2021?

This year, MWC 2021 is taking place at Fira Gran Via in Barcelona, Spain, between 28th June and 1st July 2021. Due to the pandemic, it will be a mix of in-person and virtual showcases. The event previously took place in February or early March. It was cancelled in 2020.

Who’s attending? Highlights from the MWC 2021 agenda

The MWC trade show this year is almost more notable for who isn’t attending due to pandemic concerns, but some companies that are still included in the main agenda include Samsung and Lenovo – although their sessions are both virtual.

Intel and Nvidia are both set to detail their 5G platforms, while the Chinese tech giant Huawei is listed as an exhibitor, but it’s not clear if it will actually be unveiling any new phones during the event, like a new foldable or the P50 range.

In terms of keynotes, the main draw will be SpaceX chief Elon Musk, who is scheduled to appear virtually to chat about his internet satellite project, Starlink.

Qualcomm, Google, Facebook, Microsoft, BT, Nokia, Sony, Oracle, Ericsson and Xiaomi previously announced they would not be attending in-person, however it’s not clear at the time of writing if the companies are still planning to reveal any new devices virtually, or even via their own announcements timed around MWC.

Sony Mobile told us it will not be participating in MWC 2021. Amazon confirmed that its AWS and Amazon Advertising divisions would both be attending.

This page will be updated with the major future updates as they are announced.

Which virtual events can you watch at home?

Samsung: While most of the sessions are paywalled, Samsung has confirmed it will stream its announcements to its website and YouTube channel.

Its showcase will cover the Galaxy ecosystem, a new smartwatch experience and mobile security. The MWC 2021 listing asserts that Samsung will be “reimagining smartwatches,” likely referring to the new partnership between its Tizen OS and Google’s Wear OS that was first revealed during Google I/O in May.

The two companies are now collaborating on a joint smartwatch platform called Wear that will enhance smartwatch speed, battery and performance. The MWC Samsung event is scheduled to take place on June 28, streaming from 18:15.

Mobile World Congress 2021: what to expect

MWC is no stranger to big product reveals. In 2019, for example, both Samsung and Huawei were both promoting their new foldables – the Galaxy Fold and Mate X. That year, Huawei also unveiled its Matebook X Pro laptop, Microsoft was there with the HoloLens 2, while Sony launched its Xperia 1 flagship smartphone.

It’s not a crazy bet that brands like Sony, Nokia, Honor, Motorola could still make announcements virtually at MWC 2021, but there’s nothing on the main agenda just yet. Google is another possibility. It’s a long shot, but its Pixel 5a smartphone was a no-show at I/O, despite speculation that its release is getting close.

Don’t expect any phone announcements from LG, which announced in April that it was disbanding its mobile business unit. Apple doesn’t do trade shows.

Lenovo is also holding a virtual showcase at MWC and is promoting the hashtag #LenovoMWC, but it remains unclear if – like Samsung – it will be streamed to the general public or withheld to paying ticket holders of the tech conference.

We already know some of the devices it will show off at the trade show, however, as it made a series of announcements via multiple press releases on June 23rd, covering new laptops, PC accessories, Chromebooks, monitors and a 2-in-1 model.

The products were named as:

  • ThinkPad X1 Extreme Gen 4
  • ThinkPad L13 Gen 2
  • L13 Yoga Gen 2
  • IdeaPad 5i Chromebook
  • IdeaPad Flex 5i Chromebook 2-in-1
  • Lenovo Go PC accessories

For the GSM Association, the show must go on. But for everyone else, it seems like 2021 may be more muted than previous years. Stay with RadioTimes.com for the latest MWC 2021 news and in-depth coverage of the Samsung event.

For the latest news, reviews and deals check out the RadioTimes.com Technology section. Searching for a new mobile handset? Don’t miss our guides to the best smartphone, best Android phone, best Sony phone and best camera phone.