From time to time, picking a winner and loser of the week is a challenge. This is not one of those weeks. There were two big stories that dominated the tech world this week, at opposite ends of the fortune scale. Here are our winners and losers of the last seven days.
We'll start with an honorable mention - Andy Rubin's Essential announced that it was shutting down on Wednesday. Following in the footsteps of BlackBerry, the somewhat innovative mobile brand started by the Android co-founder will no longer sell phones. It was only back in October 2019 that Essential announced it was working on a super-slim, "radically different" smartphone format, and personally I thought it looked quite cool, if not a little impractical. Now, it looks like we will never see Project GEM, dubbed the "candy bar phone" by some, on the market. That's a shame, in my opinion.
Winner of the week: Samsung has the floor to itself
It was only Tuesday, but the Samsung Unpacked event feels like a long time ago. In San Francisco, this week, the South Korean giant launched it's latest flagship smartphones - the Galaxy S20, S20+, and S20 Ultra - along with its new Motorola Razr competitor, the Galaxy Z Flip. The new S-series phones represent one of the bigger steps forward between generations we've seen in a while from a smartphone manufacturer. Almost everything is upgraded on the S20s compared to the S10 phones, including bigger batteries, 120 Hz displays and some fancy camera improvements including 8K video recording and a new Space Zoom feature that promises up to 100 x magnification on the S20 Ultra.
Then there's the Galaxy Z Flip, which has reportedly already sold out in the United States, despite costing $1,380. Limited supply is playing a role here, of course, but the response to the first foldable smartphone with an ultra-thin glass display has been largely positive. Our man Shu certainly liked some things about it during his first hands-on with the new foldable.
The biggest win for Samsung this week, however, relates to our loser of the week. With the coronavirus affecting the supply chain for so many manufacturers, its decision to get out in front of the MWC has proved to be a good one. There are now hundreds of journalists, influencers and YouTubers who have nothing else to write, tweet, and post about other than the new Samsung's. Expect to see these new mobiles all over your feeds for weeks to come.
Loser of the week: MWC 2020, and everyone involved
Perhaps the easiest loser of the week we've ever had to pick, the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona was officially canceled on Wednesday evening due to health concerns surrounding the worldwide coronavirus outbreak. The official pulling of the plug followed a spate of drop-outs from manufacturers, telecoms companies and network providers. With just a week to go before the world's largest mobile trade show was due to start, the news that it won't be happening this year affects everyone involved.
It's not just the manufacturers who suffer as a result of this situation, although they will certainly be paying the highest price - trade shows are not cheap for OEMs, and there are sunken organizational and marketing costs that probably cannot be recovered - but the non-MWC 2020 is bad news for the GSMA, the press, and fans of mobile tech too.
Reports suggested that the MWC organizer was pleading with the city of Barcelona to declare a health crisis so that it could claim insurance for the cancelation of the show. This didn't happen, and it first looked like the GMSA would press ahead with the show as a result. However, as exhibitors dropped out one by one, the MWC became almost impossible to put on. After all, what's the use of a trade show if there is nobody there to do business?
Media outlets are also set to lose out here. Whilst it is true that many in the media are invited to these shows on the manufacturer's dime, for a big show like MWC, publications also send staff to Barcelona with their own money. There are a lot of non-refundable flights and hotels that are now going to waste, and that's before you factor in the loss of income-generating content that publications were hoping to produce at the show. We at AndroidPIT are also losers in this sense.
It remains to be seen how this will play out from here. As manufacturers scramble to organize last-minute events in other cities, or at other venues in Barcelona (a percentage of journalists will certainly still travel to the Spanish city), the future of the Mobile World Congress looks uncertain. What do you think will be the long-term fallout of the cancellation? Let us know below the line.