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An Apple employee adjusts an iPhone X on display in London in November. Photo: Luke MacGregor/Bloomberg via Getty Images

You don't have to wait until 2018 to get a good sense of what next year's smartphones will look like.

What to expect: Because the chips that power such phones have already been designed, we already know that high-definition displays, augmented reality capabilities and support for faster networks will be key among the key features. Also on tap for next year: more competition from Chinese brands and advances in facial recognition technologies.

More bandwidth: Qualcomm executive VP Christiano Amon says to expect more phones with 4K resolution displays as more video is being delivered in mobile format and more network providers have the bandwidth to support it.

  • To that end, one nerdy-but-important feature will be support for gigabit LTE — a faster version of today's 4G networks and a piece along the road to the next version of cellular networks, known as 5G.
  • "Many devices have already come out, but it will become mainstream with all top handsets coming out next year," mobile strategy consultant Chetan Sharma told Axios.

Cameras and sensors: Qualcomm has already said that its new high-end chip will feature improved security as well as support for two features found on the latest iPhones — a portrait mode camera and the use of facial recognition for unlocking the device.

  • Current Analysis' Carolina Milanesi says the better facial recognition is an easy outgrowth of companies wanting to put improved sensors on the front-facing cameras to support augmented reality.
  • Speaking of which, Google is looking to add augmented reality support to more Android phones. (Currently ARCore, its rival to Apple's ARKit, is supported only on the Pixel 2 and a couple popular Samsung models.) Look for a lot of next year's high-end phones to support that as well.

More choices: You can also expect more brands in the mix, especially some Chinese brands that have been popular outside the U.S. "Chinese players – Huawei and Xiaomi — are likely to make a big push for the U.S. market," Sharma said.

AI hits the phone: Artificial intelligence will also make its way deeper into the operation of smartphones. "Consumers will feel this in more personalized and better performing apps," Sharma said.

The X factor: Given its more open ecosystem, it's easier to see what's coming to the Android world. Less clear is what Apple will bring when it updates the iPhone in the second half of the year.

  • That said, one likely trend is to see iPhone X features like facial recognition make it to more of the lineup. Apple has also said it sees augmented reality as a big deal, so expect to see advances on that front as well.

Go deeper

Biden's pick to lead major banking regulator drops out

Saule Omarova, nominee for Comptroller of the Currency, at a confirmation hearing on Nov. 18. Photo: Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images

President Biden's pick to head one of the country's most powerful banking regulators is dropping out of consideration for the post, according to a statement from Biden that accepted the withdrawal.

Why it matters: Saule Omarova, nominated to lead the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency, faced a tough path to confirmation — with opposition from Republicans and moderate Democrats.

Judge temporarily blocks Biden vaccine mandate for federal contractors

President Biden delivers remarks at the White House on Dec. 6 in Washington, D.C. Photo: Chip Somodevilla via Getty Images

A federal judge on Tuesday temporarily blocked President Biden's vaccine mandate for federal contractors nationwide.

Why it matters: It's the latest setback in the Biden administration's rollout of COVID vaccine requirements. Federal judges in two states temporarily barred the administration from enforcing mandates for millions of workers last week.

Biden threatens Putin

Photo: Kremlin Press Office/Handout/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

In a video call that lasted for just over two hours on Tuesday, President Biden warned Russian President Vladimir Putin that if Russia invades Ukraine the U.S. will impose unprecedented sanctions and provide additional weaponry to the Ukrainians, national security adviser Jake Sullivan said.

Why it matters: Russia's military activity on the border with Ukraine has triggered alarms from the U.S. and its European allies of a potential large-scale Russian invasion in early 2022. Sullivan said Biden made clear to Putin that, "things we did not do in 2014, we are prepared to do now."