Barcelona is a beautiful place to visit at any time of year. You can relax on the miles of beaches and enjoy the warm waters of the Med, check out the famous Sagrada Familia church or even watch Lionel Messi strut his stuff at the Camp Nou. But this month, the attractions on offer will be of a very different nature, as all the big names in the tech world descend on the city for the annual Mobile World Congress (MWC).
It's only a couple of weeks until the event, which kicks off on 24th February and lasts for four days, so by now you should be able to feel the excitement building. And if not, you should be, as there are many reasons to be looking at the event with interest. The new gadgets and technologies on show for the first time will be in your pocket in the coming months, so if you want to be the first to know what's big in the mobile world in 2014, this is the place to be.
But with so many exhibitors flocking to the Catalan city – over 72,000 people attended last year's event – how do you know where to start? Read on for our guide to what's hot, what's not and what's what at MWC 2014.
RSVP – Who's going to be there?
Almost every big name in the mobile business is set to be showing off something at MWC. All the familiar brands – such as Samsung, Sony, LG and HTC – will be hoping their big, colourful booths will attract attention. Even BlackBerry is set to show up to demo its next Foxconn-made budget devices, if it can scrape together enough change from down the back of the sofa for the airfare. But there are also hundreds of smaller companies all hoping their app or accessory will be the next big thing to capture the imagination.
Away from the product reveals and tech demos, Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg will be giving a keynote speech, which will no doubt explain why you need to be social networking on your mobile. Meanwhile, Gavin and Stacey actor James Corden will be on hand to present the prizes at the Global Mobile Awards. Apparently Tom Cruise wasn't available.
In fact, the only big name that won't be there is Apple, which always shuns these big gatherings that would have to see it share the spotlight with lesser brands. Expect it to wait until it has the floor all to itself before it announces its next gadget.
Ah yes, the gadgets – what's on show?
It wouldn't be an MWC event without more smartphone and tablet launches than you can shake a stick at, whatever that means. And 2014 promises to be no different, with almost all the attendees set to take the wraps off their flagship phones for the year ahead.
Leading the pack, as ever, is Samsung, which this week teased tech journos with invitations to an event on the opening day of the MWC. It's not saying what it's for, but the figure 5 included on the notice means it doesn't take Einstein to connect the dots and conclude that this will be the unveiling of its much anticipated Galaxy S5 phone.
If so, it'll be a break from recent tradition for the Korean brand, which has taken to throwing big, Apple-style launches on its own terms in the last few years, but all signs point to the S5 at MWC.
Elsewhere, Sony has also sent out invitations to its own event, where it's expected that its Xperia Z2 will surface for the first time, Nokia is said to be lining up at least two new Lumia devices and HTC is also expected to reveal the successor to its One device – though it's been playing its cards closer to its chest than many of its rivals.
Spoiled for choice then – but what else is there?
Away from the hardware, one big theme this year will be boosting connectivity and performance for mobile gadgets. Now that 4G has arrived in a big way, this is something that many firms will be showing off.
It was recently revealed by Cisco that almost 70 per cent of mobile data traffic will be streaming video by 2018, so this is an area many firms will be focusing on. After all, we won't truly have arrived in the future until we can watch cat videos on YouTube wherever we are without the dreaded spinning circle and 'buffering' message.
Fixing this won't be as simple as just improving 4G coverage though, because as these networks grow, they'll become more congested – much like how you used to be able to drive down the M6 in relative freedom, until the number of cars got so great that you'd be lucky to get above five miles an hour on a weekday morning.
Therefore, a lot of what's on show at this year's MWC will be behind-the-scenes tech to help boost network experience and prioritise traffic. It might not be the most thrilling for consumers, but you'll almost certainly be relying on the innovations shown at the event in the coming months and years.