With 2017 Mobile World Congress kicking off this weekend in Barcelona some of the biggest players in mobile are primed to reveal the latest smartphone technologies and flagship devices.

I’m just about to board a flight to this year’s event — which is the industry’s largest talk fest and sets the agenda for the year ahead.

Here’s some of the innovations and advancements you can look forward to in smartphones in the year ahead – which are likely to take centre stage at this year’s Congress.

1. Pushing design boundaries with edge-to-edge screens

Us Aussies are voracious consumers of mobile video on the go. Previously we’ve seen smartphone manufacturers cater to the streaming video revolution by increasing phone sizes to give us a larger screen. This year they will push the boundaries with edge-to-edge screens, making the most of the real estate available on the device. This will make for an even more immersive experience when viewing video and using VR. It will also produce some very eye-catching designs.

Also, expect to see water and splash-proofing (a favourite amongst the active and clumsy smartphone alike) to become mainstream among high end smartphones – and the peace of mind feature will also start to find its way into mid-range smartphones.

Headphone jacks. Few topics stimulated more conversation in smartphone design last year than the future of the 3.5mm headphone jack. The attraction of switching to a single USB-C connection for charging and audio from a design perspective is clear – slimmer smartphones with more space to pack in new components. The question is which manufacturers will make this switch and how they will make the transition easy for customers.

2. Gigabit LTE

2017 has already seen Telstra usher in the gigabit LTE era, with this super-fast smartphone mobile data technology finding its way into smartphone models and the hands of our customers for the first time. It will bring us one step closer to 5G and the ultra-fast speeds will help us embrace things like immersive virtual reality and rich entertainment content experience such as 4K high definition video streaming.

3. Next-Gen Calling
Voice calling might not be the first thing that comes to mind when you think of smartphone trends for 2017, but Voice over Wi-Fi is the next step in giving customers a seamless calling experience, particularly those who live in areas affected by mobile black spots or experience poor mobile coverage in their home or apartment building.

Native Wi-Fi calling technology will be a standard feature for new smartphone devices launched in `17, and as the technology is rolled-out with smartphone operating software updates more of our customers will be able to make and receive calls wherever there is a Wi-Fi connection, including over 750,000 Telstra Air hotspots across Australia.

4. Virtual Assistants
Voice recognition technology has been around for years. But this year artificial intelligence and voice recognition will come together to turn more smartphone models into virtual assistants.  This means you’ll be able to have a natural conversation with your smartphone to get advice on day-to-day activities such as appointments and traffic as well as searching the world-wide-web using nothing but voice control. And expect to see a boom in integration between virtual assistants and third-party apps as ecosystems mature – making your smartphone an even more helpful companion.

5. Mobile in the Internet of Things

The Internet of Things (IoT) has the capacity to transform our lives from the home, to the office and beyond. By 2020 the average Australians is expected to have 29 or more connected devices, and this is the year that IoT will start to scale. Many IoT applications will be accessible from your smartphone screen. Take ‘trackables’ as an example. With this IoT technology you’ll soon be able to attach a mobile locator the size of a 50c piece to your pet’s collar, your keys or your luggage when travelling and keep tabs on it from your smartphone.

This is just a taste of the innovations I expect to see at this year’s World Congress. No doubt there will be plenty of surprises to share.

We’ll be providing updates on the biggest announcements and reveals from Mobile World Congress. You can keep up to date by following us @Telstra_news.