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Apple’s Party and the Things I Learned at Mobile World Congress

BARCELONA—Mobile World Congress makes headlines for announcements by companies like Google, Samsung Electronics and others, but the real action is always behind the scenes.

Wireless carriers from developing countries were busy finalizing deals for a new revenue source—extracting money from developers who are seeking to reach the carriers’ subscribers. Meanwhile, one conference goer spotted Dish Network Chairman Charlie Ergen, whose company recently won licensed spectrum in the U.S., discussing what he might do with it. Representatives of another upcoming entrant in wireless service—cable giant Comcast—were also there as it prepares to launch its own attack on incumbent U.S. wireless carriers like AT&T.  

Mobile advertising technology startups had a big presence this year as the needs of advertisers and publishers become more complex. Hardware makers like Huawei Technologies, which unveiled a smart watch to be launched in several months, got a tepid response, showing why Apple will dominate that nascent market for a long time. And Apple, which hasn’t formally participated in the conference since launching the iPhone, made a surprise appearance on the show’s sidelines that had attendees buzzing, then shrugging.

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