Ina Fried and Bonnie Cha

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Mobile World Congress: The Event You Don’t Want to Miss — Or Launch a Product At

barcelona_mwc_venueThere’s no question that Mobile World Congress is the biggest show in wireless and growing bigger every year.

But, as often happens as trade shows grow, that also means it is harder and harder to be heard through the noise, prompting many companies to avoid making their biggest announcements during the event. Between that and the expense, lots of companies are looking for other venues for their product launches.

HTC, for example, chose to launch its new One phone earlier this week in New York. Samsung hasn’t said when it will launch its next Galaxy S IV (though it’s rumored to be in March) but it for sure won’t come in Barcelona.

For its part, HTC said it will have a roughly similar presence in Barcelona. It will still have a big booth and approximately the same number of people attending the show, said Americas head Mike Woodward. However, it wanted its HTC One not to be just one of many products lost in the crush of news.

Google, meanwhile, is scaling back its massive booth presence, which in past years featured a giant slide, pin giveaways and a rotating sushi bar of Android devices. Also, for the first time in three years, Eric Schmidt, executive chairman of Google, will not deliver a keynote address at the show.

Similarly, Microsoft, which had previously used Mobile World Congress to unveil major products like Windows 8 and Windows Phone 7, does not have a major press conference planned.

Even many companies that are debuting products at the event are making announcements ahead of time. The major cellphone chip makers have all recently unveiled new products they will demo in Barcelona.

The strategy isn’t totally new. Last year, for example, LG seemed to announce a new phone each day ahead of the show — a practice the company is continuing this year. In the past couple of weeks, LG has already revealed the Optimus G Pro and Optimus L Series II.

But that’s not to say there won’t be tons of new products. Nokia, LG and Sony all have media events and are expected to launch new hardware.

Mobile World Congress remains a key place to see and be seen, especially for companies that are trying to make the case they are serious about mobile — chipmakers like Broadcom and Intel and device makers such as Huawei and ZTE.

The show officially kicks off on Monday, Feb. 25, and both of us will be there to report on all the action, so stay tuned for more.

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