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After a relatively ho-hum 2018 for mobile phones, 2019 is looking to be a gangbuster year for smartphones and the whole wireless industry.

In addition to the launch of foldable phones, 2019 also promises to see the debut of the world’s first devices that can connect to next-generation 5G wireless networks.

Current smartphones use 4G LTE networks to send and receive all the photos, videos, texts, social media updates, emails, phone calls and other types of information that we consume on our trusty devices. While 4G networks have gotten faster and more reliable since their debut in 2009, technology innovations continue to move forward and the entire industry is on the verge of a once-a-decade generational shift to the next “G” – hence 5G.

And 5G promises to bring with it not just faster connections to the mobile telecom networks offered by AT&T, Verizon, T-Mobile, and Sprint – although that’s certainly an important part of it – but the ability to create new types of experiences as well.

From more immersive virtual and augmented reality applications to telemedicine and autonomous cars, 5G is expected to unleash an exciting array of new products and services, many of which haven’t even been invented yet. (For point of reference, it took the debut of 4G networks to enable cloud-based services like Uber, Lyft, Spotify, Airbnb and others that quickly became commonplace, but weren’t conceived of prior to the last wireless generation shift from 3G.)

First published in USA Today by Bob O’Donnell