Smartphones of the future could work in a completely different way thanks to 5G, and it means you’ll rarely have to upgrade

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Antonio Villas-Boas/Business Insider
  • Smartphones of the future connected to 5G networks will be able to stream our favorite apps instead of running them from our phones themselves.
  • That means smartphones won’t need powerful chips to run apps. They’ll essentially become slabs of glass screens with batteries attached to them, Qualcomm President Cristiano Amon told Business Insider.
  • It’s a nearly identical concept to Google’s Stadia game streaming service, where power-hungry games run from Google’s cloud computers, and the visuals are streamed over the internet like a YouTube or Netflix video.
  • There’s still much to be done before 5G networks and technology can reliably stream apps wherever we are, whenever we want.
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In the future, you won’t need to upgrade your phone as often because it’ll never get too old or too slow to run your favorite apps.

That’s because apps won’t have to be “bound by the processing power on your phone,” Qualcomm President Cristiano Amon told Business Insider. Instead, apps will run from massively powerful computers in the cloud, and they’ll be streamed from the cloud over fast and lag-free 5G networks.

Indeed, the smartphone of the future won’t need to be powerful anymore, and it won’t become obsolete as quickly; it’ll essentially become a slab of glass screen with battery attached to it, ready to stream our apps.

And our apps will be running and streaming from cloud computers that will always be updated, and will never become obsolete.

If not all the apps will be streamed over the cloud, apps that Amon calls “super apps” will. So far, we’re not sure what kinds of things “super apps” can do, but here’s one way to think about it: Popular apps like Instagram and TikTok would have been considered “super apps” back when the first smartphones were released.

Google's Stadia game streaming service.

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Google’s Stadia game streaming service.
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Crystal Cox/Photographer

The concept is almost identical to Google’s Stadia game streaming service, where power-hungry games run from Google’s cloud computers, and the visuals are streamed over the internet to a device like a Chromecast connected to a TV, a laptop, or a smartphone – just like how we watch a YouTube or Netflix video today.

Amon said “it’s not a coincidence” that Google released its Stadia game streaming service at the same time that 5G networks are becoming more widely available (albeit slowly).

5G networks promise faster data speeds and snappier performance than the 4G LTE networks we’ve been using since 2011. According to some of the 5G examples we’ve seen, it should essentially perform as well as your home’s WiFi network, if not faster.

Still, we need to give 5G and technology a chance to expand and advance before our smartphones become pieces of glass and batteries that stream apps – we’re nowhere near the point where we can rely on 5G right now.