According to the latest research from our Wireless Smartphone Strategies (WSS) service, the number of smartphones in use worldwide surpassed the 1 billion-unit mark for the first time ever in the third quarter of 2012. It has taken 16 years for the smartphone industry to reach this historic milestone.
The world’s first modern smartphone, the Nokia Communicator, was introduced in 1996. Nokia remained a dominant force in smartphones for over a decade until the arrival of Apple’s iconic iPhone in 2007. The iPhone revolutionized smartphone design and it catalyzed industry growth. By the third quarter of 2011, we estimate there were 708 million smartphones in use worldwide. After a further year of soaring demand, the number of smartphones in use worldwide reached 1.038 billion units during the third quarter of 2012.
We estimate 1 in 7 of the world’s population owned a smartphone in the third quarter of 2012. Smartphone penetration is still relatively low. Most of the world does not yet own a smartphone and there remains huge scope for future growth, particularly in emerging markets such as China, India and Africa. The first billion smartphones in use worldwide took 16 years to reach, but we forecast the next billion to be achieved in less than three years, by 2015.