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The biggest phone launch event of 2021 just got delayed by four months

Mobile World Congress organizers hope the delay will make it safe to hold an in-person event.

Published onSeptember 23, 2020

  • Mobile World Congress 2021 has been delayed from early March to the end of June.
  • This could push back phone launches for brands that depend on MWC.
  • Organizers hope the COVID-19 pandemic will no longer be a safety issue by then.

Phone makers usually flock to Mobile World Congress in late February or March to introduce their latest devices, but you might be waiting a while longer to see those products. The GSMA has delayed MWC 2021 from March 1 to June 28, or nearly four months later than expected.

It won’t surprise you to hear the reasoning. Just as the GSMA cancelled this year’s Mobile World Congress over COVID-19 pandemic concerns, organizers aren’t convinced they can hold the 2021 event safely in February. This increases the chances of having the “unique, unmissable experience” of an in-person gathering, the GSMA said.

There will still be online components to the show to “complement” the physical event, the association added. MWC Shanghai 2021 has also been delayed to February 23.

Read more: The best phones of MWC 2019

This could lead to delays for some phone launches. Brands like LG, Sony, and Nokia (HMD Global) frequently introduce hardware at Mobile World Congress to maximize its impact — they now have to choose between waiting until June 2021 or releasing phones without as much fanfare. They might just wait if any planned phones aren’t going to ship right away. The early spring could be quiet, in other words.

It won’t be surprising if some phone makers ignore the delay and release phones sooner, even if the launch events have to be virtual. HUAWEI and Samsung likely won’t mind. They’ve often held separate introductions weeks before or after MWC. Still, don’t be surprised if much of the usual phone launch cycle is delayed by a few months — assuming the pandemic doesn’t lead to further delays or another cancelled show.

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