Know What's Cool? A Billion Smartphones. And They're Changing Everything

The first modern smartphone is generally considered to have been the Nokia Communicator, released in 1996. It was large and clunky, had a flip keyboard and a awkward antenna. Boy, how things have changed. Multiple companies now churn out increasingly amazing models with incredibly slick designs, intuitive features and hundreds of thousands of fun and useful apps. A billion people around the globe now have supercomputers in their pockets. The implications are dramatic and only beginning to be understood.

According to a new report from Boston-based Strategy Analytics, the global user base of smartphones surpassed one billion for the first time at the end of the third quarter of 2012. The report states that 1.038 billion smartphones in use, up from 959 million at the end of the second quarter and close to 300 million more than the 708 million counted at the end of the third quarter last year. 

Smartphone Growth Keeps Accelerating

It took 16 years from the advent of the first modern smartphone to hit the first billion users. Nearly all of that growth has come in the last five years as devices like the iPhone and various Android smartphones have come to dominate the market. And that global adoption continues to accelerate, with the next billion smartphone users predicted to be online by 2015, according to Strategy Analytics. 

“Today’s billion smartphones in use provide consumers around the world with an unprecedented level of connectivity to social circles, work, and infotainment. Smartphones are allowing on-the-go consumption and creation of content. Smartphones are connecting many people to the Internet for the first time in emerging markets,” said Alex Spektor, Strategy Analytics’ associate director of global wireless practice.

Another Billion Smartphones In Just 3 Years

According to Strategy Analytics reported growth rate, taking just three years to add the next billion smartphone users seems almost conservative. From the end of Q3 2011 to the end of Q3 2012, the global smartphone user base grew an average of 27.5 million users per month. Simply continuing that growth for 36 months gives us 990 million new smartphone users in three years. If the growth rate continues to accelerated, we could get there even sooner.

While smartphone adoption rates are booming globally, the same cannot be said about the United States. According to comScore, nearly 234 million people in the U.S. have cellphones, of which the majority are of the smart variety. Mobile analytics company Flurry predicts that there are 165 million smartphone users in the U.S., which would account for nearly 70% of the consumer base. Essentially, the U.S. has hit, or is very close to hitting, its smartphone saturation point.

Smartphone growth will come from countries like China, India, Brazil and the Middle East. According to Flurry, China is the fastest growing market for iOS and Android devices, increasing 401% between July 2011 and July 2012. By the end of the year, China will surpass the U.S. as the country with the most smartphone users. 

What Do Two Billion Smartphones Add Up To?

The implications of this massive smartphone adoption are clear: There are huge opportunities to be had for those able to seize them. The leaders in the smartphone race, especially Google, Apple and Samsung have the potential to create hundreds of billions of dollars in revenue. Companies like Facebook (which has strong mobile usage) need to learn to capitalize in a world where a connected computer is in virtually every pocket. Upstart mobile operating systems have a chance to make a dent, such as Mozilla’s OS that is expected to roll out in foreign markets in 2013. 

But those are only some of the obvious players. What are you going to do with the opportunity presented by the booming global mobile industry?

 

Image courtesy of Shutterstock.