“Nearly a decade after taking off, the smartphone is at a turning point,” Betsy Morris reports for The Wall Street Journal. “Advances in hardware have become incremental, and growth in handset sales has largely stalled. But the development of software and services on the phone is booming, driven largely by advances in artificial intelligence, expanding what the devices are capable of and making them increasingly indispensable.”

“It is the reason Apple — famed for its hardware — is boasting about growth in its services,” Morris reports. “While phone makers lately have added features like second camera lenses and waterproofing, few analysts expect major new hardware advances that could drive sales growth beyond single digits in the foreseeable future.

“‘The question is: can there be something else to get sales going again,’ said analyst Gene Munster, who recently left Piper Jaffray to start a venture-capital firm,” Morris reports. “Some features that could juice demand are still likely years away, such as truly foldable glass displays that would allow a phone-tablet combination to fit in your pocket, or a dramatic improvement in augmented reality that would take it beyond rudimentary games and into practical uses like figuring out if a chair you want to buy would fit into your living room.”

“While hardware advances have been less exciting, software is changing at head-spinning rates, driven by advances in how computers process giant amounts of data using artificial-intelligence techniques,” Morris reports. “Those have enabled big leaps in vision and speech-recognition software that have led, among other things, to much improved versions of virtual assistants such as Apple’s Siri, Amazon.com Inc.’s Alexa, and Alphabet Inc.’s Google Assistant.”

Read more in the full article here.

MacDailyNews Take: It’s the software, stupid.

The first big thing in smartphones? The software. As in: iOS (née iPhone OS).

Apple is famed for their software.

The fact that Apple’s hardware is thoughtfully designed, beautiful, and offers rock-solid build quality are just bonuses. Without macOS, Macs are just pretty boxes (or cylinders). Without watchOS, Apple Watch is just another stupidwatch. Without iOS, iPhone is just another phone and iPad is just another tablet.

[Thanks to MacDailyNews Reader “Nine” for the heads up.]