For the second year in a row, Mobile World Congress (MWC) – one of the biggest shows in mobile technology – is without any major smartwatch or fitness tracker announcements.
The show has featured the odd wearable product such as the new HoloLens 2, but that’s not set to be worn by millions of people around the world as they go about their daily lives. It’s targeted at a business audience instead.
The Nubia Alpha meanwhile wraps around your wrist, but rather than being an outright smartwatch this is a device that’s somewhere between that and a phone.
It’s an odd concept, and we’re pretty certain it’s not going to replace your Apple Watch in the coming months. That’s partly because it’s not out until the second half of this year, and partly because it’s trying to do something different to your average smartwatch.
In previous years, we’ve seen phone manufacturers turning up with wearable products in tow alongside their new top-end phones, but we now haven’t seen a major consumer wearable launch at the show since MWC 2017.
That last product was the Huawei Watch 2, and that again was the only major wearable device at the show. Wearable sales are still growing worldwide (at least, they were doing in 2018) and we’re seeing more and more companies embrace the space.
Indeed, companies are still pushing ahead in the smartwatch and fitness tracking markets, but they’re just moving away from Mobile World Congress as “wearables” further solidifies itself as its own segment.
The focus has now switched to other shows around the world. CES saw a variety of smartwatch announcements in 2019, while IFA 2018 was one of the best years yet for new smartwatch and fitness tracker releases.
Baselworld 2019 is right around the corner too. Its heritage is as a mechanical watch show where many of the top-end brands in traditional wristwear announce new collections, but last year we saw a lot of new smartwatch tech there and we’re expecting a similar amount again this year.
If last year is anything to go by, we can expect new smartwatches from the brands that Fossil controls alongside announcements from other legacy wristwear brands either embracing hybrid designs or full-blown smartwatch tech.
Samsung has also just unveiled its Samsung Galaxy Watch Active and Galaxy Fit health band family, and instead of holding back that announcement for MWC it bundled it in with the Galaxy S10 range for an unveiling a week earlier.
Rumors initially suggested Samsung may announce its new wearables at MWC instead of the company’s own separate Unpacked event, but that doesn’t make as much sense for the company.
If you’re pre-ordering a Samsung Galaxy S10 on the first day it’s available, the company would love you to pre-order the Galaxy Watch Active too so why not have both on offer at the same stage?
Meanwhile, Fitbit and Garmin as well as a huge swathe of running watch specialists haven’t ever had a presence at MWC, so there’s no reason for them to start now.
Why announce your new products in the mix of a big show alongside other headline-grabbing devices when you’re an already established company that can reveal a wearable whenever it’s ready?
All in all, wearables moving away from Mobile World Congress isn’t such a bad thing. As long as wearables fans aren’t getting shortchanged, that’s all that really matters.
MWC (Mobile World Congress) is the world’s largest showcase for the mobile industry, stuffed full of the newest phones, tablets, wearables and more. TechRadar is reporting live from Barcelona all week to bring you the very latest from the show floor. Head to our dedicated MWC 2019 hub to see all the new releases, along with TechRadar’s world-class analysis and buying advice about your next phone.