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The Decade in Review: Smartphones Have Changed and How

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Last Updated: December 24, 2019, 13:33 IST

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In less than a decade we have become dependent on our smartphones for hailing a cab, ordering food, playing games, listening to music or shopping.

When the first Apple iPhone hit the market in 2007, not everyone was convinced it would supplant the flip-phone. When Google’s Android software system arrived a year later, Blackberry still seemed to have a bright future. But with the iPhone 4 in 2010, featuring a high-resolution display, sleek design and front-facing camera, our collective fate was sealed. Here are 10 ways the smartphone has made its mark over the decade.

Access Everywhere

Today some five billion smartphones are in use around the world, according to Canalys Research. The total number of internet subscriptions has soared to 7.2 billion globally from 1.3 billion in 2010, the vast majority of the mobile subscriptions, International Telecommunications Union data shows. The explosion in connectivity has been especially dramatic in the developing world, where there are now more mobile connections than people.


Apple Inc, once a niche computer company, is now one of the world’s most valuable companies thanks to the iPhone. The five largest Fortune 500 technology companies - Apple, Amazon, Google, Microsoft and Facebook - currently boast a market cap of $4.7 trillion, compared with about $800 billion for the top five in 2010. Not all of that is due to the smartphone, of course, but the mobile-related technologies and services accounted for nearly $4 trillion in economic activity in 2018, according to trade group GSMA.

There’s an App for That

Whether we’re hailing a cab, ordering food, playing a game, finding a date, listening to music or shopping for just about anything, there’s a good chance we’ll be doing it with a smartphone app that didn’t exist in 2010. Many of the most popular apps are free, but consumers are still expected to spend more than $120 billion in app stores during 2019, according to App Annie, a mobile apps analytics firm.

Feed Me

The endless scroll on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and other social media apps now consumes 34 minutes of every US adult’s day, according to Nielsen. Fewer people are sitting on the sofa to watch live TV at set times, and advertisers are following. Mobile ad spending surpassed TV for the first time in 2018 in terms of percentage share of the US market, according to research firm eMarketer. We can also thank the smartphone for Instagram influencers, “sextortion,” and fake news.

Smile for the (Smartphone) Camera

Global shipments of digital cameras dropped from their 2010 peak of 121 million to just 19 million units in 2018, according to the Camera and Imaging Products Association (CIPA). Meantime the latest phones pack as many four camera lenses and cutting edge software that makes it easier than ever to get that perfect shot. The front-facing camera might be the busiest: Google reports that its Android devices take 93 million selfies every day.