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Smartphone innovation is far from dead — in fact, we’re about to enter a renaissance

Smartphone innovation isn't dead. We're about to enter a new era of smartphones that may drastically change the industry the same way the original iPhone did in 2007.

It's fair to have assumed that smartphone innovation had plateaued. Over the past few years we've seen only small annual upgrades to our smartphones. Mobile payments finally became a thing thanks to Apple Pay. Fast charging is now possible thanks to Qualcomm. Curved screens hit the market because Samsung dared to try bending glass. While those were small iterations that, as a whole, paint a rather innovative picture, we're on the cusp of really huge smartphone innovations that'll change the industry as we know it.

Here are a few areas where they're about to blossom.

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Todd Haselton | CNBC

Phones that anticipate your needs. Apple, Google, Amazon, Samsung and Microsoft are all battling to build smarter mobile artificial intelligence solutions. Your phone will know to turn off the lights because you're home and it's 10 p.m. and you're in bed. It'll automatically bring up directions to work when you get in the car at 7 a.m. because it knows that's what you do every weekday. This isn't science fiction. Phones are already nearly capable of making those decisions, they just need a small dose of situational awareness. We'll be there in a year or less.

Lenovo Tango
Lenovo

Augmented reality. We've seen a lot of reports that Apple is going to build augmented reality functions into its next iPhone, making it possible to superimpose computer-generated images on top of video of the real world. AR isn't new, but true mobile AR will be, and Apple thinks it's going to be more valuable than virtual reality, where you're totally immersed in a digital world.

Imagine walking through a museum with a loved one, pointing your phone at an exhibit, and getting information all about the art piece right on your smartphone. Lenovo and Google are already doing this with Tango, now available on a Lenovo smartphone. Apple will no doubt put its own spin on the tech, thanks to acquisitions of two AR companies, Metaio and PrimeSense.

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Devin Hance | CNBC
CNBC: Galaxy S8 2

Logging on with your eyes. Fingerprint readers were unique just a few years ago. Now they're commonplace on even the most affordable smartphones. Get ready for even more secure options that take advantage of your eyes.

The new Galaxy S8 packs an iris scanner, for example. Princeton Identity, which provides the sensor inside the Galaxy S8, explained that iris recognition is 100,000 more resistant to false positives compared to other biometric security options, like fingerprint readers. Apple is rumored to adopt similar technology on the iPhone 8.

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Devin Hance | CNBC
CNBC: Galaxy S8 6

Amazing displays. Smartphone display innovation is also moving at a rapid pace, largely led by firms such as Samsung. The company is among the first to include HDR support on mobile screens, allowing you to view the same type of quality video that you would on an expensive 4K TV at home. They're ultra sharp, too, with Quad HD resolutions that are required for the best virtual reality experiences. AMOLED technology, long used by Samsung and rumored to eventually hit the iPhone 8, also provides a brighter and more colorful picture than LCD displays, often with a savings on battery life.

As displays get better, phones are evolving to become 100 percent display, with almost no blank space on the front, including the new Samsung Galaxy S8 and, according to rumor, the next iPhone.

A Samsung Galaxy S8 sits in the docking station called Dex. It can be connected to a monitor or TV effectively turning it into an Android-run PC.
Arjun Kharpal | CNBC
A Samsung Galaxy S8 sits in the docking station called Dex. It can be connected to a monitor or TV effectively turning it into an Android-run PC.

If the smartphone is a canvas, each of these innovative technologies represents a new brush stroke you can expect this year.

The Galaxy S8 will lead the way with the most advanced smartphone display, new biometrics and a smart new AI named Bixby. Apple's rumored to follow suit with the iPhone 8, also expected to pack a next-gen display, AR and fresh new AI features packed into Siri.

The smartphone we know today is about to look as dumb as an old Motorola DynaTAC.

Watch: First look at Galaxy 8