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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

Justice Department drops insider trading inquiry against Sen. Richard Burr

Sen. Richard Burr (R-N.C.) walking through the Senate Subway in the U.S. Capitol in December 2020. Photo: Stefani Reynolds/Getty Images

The Department of Justice told Sen. Richard Burr (R-N.C.) on Tuesday that it will not move forward with insider trading charges against him.

Why it matters: The decision, first reported by the New York Times, effectively ends the DOJ's investigation into the senator's stock sell-off that occurred after multiple lawmakers were briefed about the coronavirus' potential economic toll. Burr subsequently stepped down as chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee.

Netflix tops 200 million global subscribers

Illustration: Rebecca Zisser/Axios

Netflix said that it added another 8.5 million global subscribers last quarter, bringing its total number of paid subscribers globally to more than 200 million.

The big picture: Positive fourth-quarter results show Netflix's resiliency, despite increased competition and pandemic-related production headwinds.

Janet Yellen plays down debt, tax hike concerns in confirmation hearing

Treasury Secretary nominee Janet Yellen at an event in December. Photo: Alex Wong via Getty Images

Janet Yellen, Biden's pick to lead the Treasury Department, pushed back against two key concerns from Republican senators at her confirmation hearing on Tuesday: the country's debt and the incoming administration's plans to eventually raise taxes.

Driving the news: Yellen — who's expected to win confirmation — said spending big now will prevent the U.S. from having to dig out of a deeper hole later. She also said the Biden administration's priority right now is coronavirus relief, not raising taxes.