Today, one in five owns a smartphone but give it just a few more years and the gadgets will be ubiquitous.
By 2015, smartphone ownership will surpass 80% in the U.S., up from 17% of the population today, research firms Frost & Sullivan and Forrester Research estimate. Worldwide, 1 billion people will own smartphones in 2013, according to a forecast from Informa Telecoms & Media. Smartphone sales are already outpacing those of PCs, Gartner’s research shows, and a number of analysts predict that by the end of the decade they will be the primary point people use to stay connected.
1st Thing we Pick After Car Keys: “These devices are becoming the center of our lives,” says Will Stofega, analyst at IDC. “Smartphones are bringing an immediacy and an availability of the Internet that has changed and transformed the way people access information. They’re the first thing we pick up right after our car keys, and they’re changing our behavior.” That new connectivity wave is reshaping the tech field. A boom in hyper-personal applications opens up huge growth opportunities for new business models — and might wash out some of the industry’s current giants.
Very Personally Yours: PCs and laptops can be shared among multiple family members or coworkers, but a smartphone is the one connected device that is truly yours. That makes it very, very personal. Already, the typical smartphone user is downloading hundreds of mobile applications to customize their mobile device — and stuffing it with personal data. Apps store passwords, health information, financial transactions, daily calendars, to-do lists and detailed e-mail trails, plus games and vast entertainment libraries of books, movies and music.
Mobile to Control our Lives: Analysts see mobile phones becoming the remote controls for our digital lives. We’ll still use PCs, iPods, laptops, tablets and many more devices — get ready for the connected fridge — but the mobile phone will be the brain at the heart of each individual’s gizmo galaxy. “Every device out there is something that consumers will start interacting with and using to connect to the Web,” says Dmitriy Molchanov, analyst at Yankee Group. “The smartphone is the device that will be at the hub of that connectivity.” When you leave for work, your smartphone will know; based on the time of day and your location — that you’re ready to go on your commute. It knows the weather is expected to be snowy, so it will suggest alternate routes for your drive. It will have “talked” to your connected car, and will remind you that you need gas, then suggest which station on your route has the cheapest fuel. And if a friend is grabbing breakfast at a coffee shop on the way, your mobile phone will let you know.
Smartphones Shaping Tech-future: DVDs, USB memory sticks and even printers could be headed for extinction. You can already wirelessly stream movies from your iPhone and watch them on your Apple TV, and you can send what’s on your desktop screen straight to your Android mobile phone with a click of a button. So much will change in the coming decade that it’s way too early to call the winners. We’re in the primordial stage of the tech future smartphones are shaping.
Competition in Smartphone Business: Just like the iPhone helped launch Apple to the most-valuable tech company in the world, smartphones have revitalized companies like Motorola, Samsung and HTC. Microsoft, Intel and Dell have staked their reputations on the primacy of the PC.and are trailing way behind competitors that got into the mobile business. Hewlett-Packard may be the savviest of the entrenched players. It’s been reangling for years around the idea of “the connected you,” despite its position as the world’s largest PC maker. Its purchase of Palm earlier this year indicates that it sees the handwriting on the wall: Palm’s fast-fading technology may not be a survivor, but like Apple, HP is committing to controlling both the hardware and software for its mobile gadgets.