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The Apple event is not really about the iPhone

Apple’s Senior Vice President of Worldwide Marketing, Phil Schiller, introduces the iPhone X during a launch event in Cupertino, California, USA September 12, 2017. REUTERS/Stephen Lam – HP1ED9C1I90DE

This year is an important year for smartphones. Sales down worldwide, due to a lack of innovation; smartphones are fairly mature now. That does not mean that they go away, but we have not seen a radical new use for them because Snapchat and Uber.

Apple defined the smartphone era, and I’m looking for tips of what it provides for the next act, when I head to Cupertino on Sept. 12. There, we expect three new iPhones, possibly called the 9, the Xs and Xs Max. If the rumors are true, Apple will eschew visible changes in the hardware as well as in-display fingerprint sensors and the pop-up menus. Instead, the phones’ biggest step forward in their A12 processor, which can be up to 40 percent better graphics capabilities.

That is the first hint. I will look to see how much that graphics options go to new augmented reality technology. Apple iOS-12 will be a new version of ARKit, and I think that some features are held back to show off the new chipset. AR is a part of Apple’s possible 5G strategy. A plate with a notch is that not interesting—what Apple is going to do in a 5G world is really interesting.

4G Phones in a World 5G

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Steve Jobs defined Apple’s role in the 3G-and 4G, which first the mobile web, mobile social networking and video chat to the masses. Now it is Tim Cook’s world, where he is investing in services, such as the Apple Music, ideas, such as connected health, and moonshots as connected cars and augmented-reality glasses. That are all 5G bets, which is why it’s nice that they haven’t really coalesced yet.

The next big things in the electronics will be enabled by the 5G networks the wireless carriers will begin to roll out at the end of this year. The wild, fun thing about this is that nobody actually knows what is going on with this high-speed, low-latency, ubiquitous networks.

Lived by the 2G, 3G, and 4G transitions, I can tell you that predictions before a network is implemented, are always wrong. We thought 2G would be about the quality of the connection; it was about the SMS. We thought 3G would be on the video chat; it was about the web and apps. We thought that 4G would be about the laptops; it was about mobile social networking, and streaming media.

That means a powerful visionary company that controls a large platform will be able to send 5G applications in the directions it wants. Apple controls the largest real uniform mobile platform in the world. If Apple wants to go 5G, it will go 5G; Google will herd cats.

So if Apple pushes augmented reality apps may be checked by future AirPods and AR-glasses, not even necessarily by a phone—and that would be a real idea of Apple’s next five years.

If Apple decides that 5G is in the section on always-connected sensors that monitor your health, such as the Apple-Watch-Series 4—that is also a clue. Apple will, finally, an Apple Watch that does not require an iPhone? 5G means networks of semi-independent, cloud-connected devices. The Watch is an important part of that vision.

The strengthening of the Cloud

I also hope to hear about a much better Siri. Google understands that voice interfaces are going to be a very big deal in the 5G world, because we are dealing with a lot of screenless devices. Samsung understands that, and that is why it is so hell-bent on forcing people to use Bixby.

One of Apple’s prejudices hold Siri back: the company does not like to do a lot of the actual computing, compared to storage in the cloud. Apple historically acts as a hardware company, not a services company—services exist to sell hardware—but Tim Cook has tried to do that ship, with limited success.

of Apple’s limitation here is virtuous: it is of the opinion that your information must be on your device, owned by you. But in the 5G world, where the future AirPods can actually be your primary mobile device, connected with the cloud voice interfaces that access to cloud data will rule. Siri is absolutely crucial.

Apple will not bring on the 5G, because it is waiting for standards to settle and networks are deployed. I expect that Apple’s first 5G device to come to the end of 2020, possibly with the help of Apple’s own 5G modem, which the company has developed year.

The iPhone Xs, as the last album, running iOS may not be as a big shock. Don’t look at it for what it is. Look at it for what it says could be.

This article originally appeared on PCMag.com.

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