4 cool things to expect from the phones of 2018

It's set to be quite a year in mobile

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If you've not yet decided on your New Year resolutions for 2018, now's the time - there are only a few days of 2017 left, which means thoughts are naturally turning towards 2018 and what might be in store. As you would expect, we're most interested in the tech of 2018.

Unfortunately, we're not privy to the plans of Apple, Samsung or Google, but we do know our mobile phones, and that means we can make some educated guesses as to what 2018 might bring in mobile - and which of the current handsets have the best future-proofing.

1. Advanced biometric security

The iPhone X ushered in truly advanced, 3D face scanning for mobile devices and it looks likely that Touch ID will completely disappear from Apple's line-up of handsets in 2018.

Android devices are likely to follow suit, with sophisticated facial recognition technology built into the Qualcomm Snapdragon 845, the chip expected to be in many an Android flagship phone during 2018. It sounds like you'd better get used to unlocking your phone with a glance rather than the press of a finger.

Fingerprint sensors won't go away completely though, at least not in 2018 - the Samsung Galaxy S9 is expected to have one, and manufacturers say the tech is now available to build fingerprint scanners into the front display of a phone.

You can expect the phones of 2018 to know more about us than ever, and that's a process that's already underway right now of course, with digital assistants and activity tracking and all the other data that Android, iOS and the top apps collect.

Biometric security capabilities are pretty tightly tied to the handset in question, so the best way of getting these upgraded features in 2018 will be to buy a new device. The most likely phones to get extra features via an update are the flagships that launched in 2017, such as the iPhone X, the Google Pixel 2, and the Samsung Galaxy S8.

2. Better augmented reality

AR hit phones in a big way in 2017 thanks largely to the ARKit feature added into iOS 11, and you can definitely expect more of the same over the next 12 months, with more apps and more phones gaining the ability to blend computer graphics with the real world.

One of the reasons ARKit is so impressive is that it works with the cameras already built into iPhones from 2015, 2016, and this year, so the likes of the iPhone 6S and iPhone SE are supported by the tech.

As for Android, Google recently shut down Project Tango in favour of ARCore, an augmented reality platform that's almost exactly like ARKit, enabling developers to plug augmented reality features into their apps quickly and easily. Expect to see it launch fully in 2018 with the arrival of Android 9.0, which doesn't have a name yet but will almost definitely start with the letter P.

Of the current crop of Android devices, Google is testing ARCore on the Google Pixel 2, the Google Pixel 2 XL, the Samsung Galaxy S8, and the Samsung Galaxy S8+, so if you buy yourself any one of those devices, you should be set.

3. Smaller bezels, bigger screens

We certainly spent a lot of 2017 waving goodbye to the bezels on the front of flagship phones, a trend that kicked off with the LG G6 and then just didn't stop. If the rumours are to be believed, the Galaxy S9 will have even smaller bezels in 2018.

There have been a few bumps on the road along the way, and Apple engineers and iOS developers are still working out the best approaches to get around that distinctive notch, but you can expect to see very few phones with noticeable bezels show up over the course of the next 12 months.

As usually happens, the design technology will trickle down to mid-range and even budget phones before next year is out, so you won't have to spend hundreds of dollars or pounds just to get your hands on these big, beautiful displays. Already we're seeing affordable phones such as the OnePlus 5T adopt the look.

Some phones seem content to stick to the standard 16:9 widescreen aspect ratio for the moment, though Samsung, LG and Apple are extending that to 18:9 and beyond: this is one area where we might continue to see some variation for a while yet.

4. Better AI processing means faster phones

Artificial intelligence is now almost everywhere on your phone, even though you might not realise it: it helps suggest websites you might want to visit, recognises who's in your photos, and helps your digital assistant of choice understand what you're trying to say.

Next year, all of this is going to ramp up, too - Huawei and Apple now have dedicated AI components on their processing chips, and the recently unveiled Qualcomm Snapdragon 845 is more AI-aware than ever - that's the chip that's likely to be powering many of the Android flagship phones of 2018.

This increase in AI power means more processing can be done on your phone rather than having to refer back to servers in the cloud, so think faster face unlocking and more intelligent image processing for your photos even while you're still framing the shot.

In terms of phones you can buy today, the iPhone X, iPhone 8 and iPhone 8 Plus all have Apple's latest AI smarts, while Huawei's AI-ready Kirin 970 processor comes inside any of the Mate 10 handsets. Google's Pixel 2 and Pixel 2 XL, meanwhile, feature advanced AI processing for your photos.