One Billion SmartphonesA genre of products that can date its origins back to the early days of mobile communication has reached a giant milestone in the evolution of personal computing. The smartphone, which began as a simple tool for organizing your schedule and making calls has now become the way a giant percentage of the world experiences the Web and accomplishes many of the tasks once exclusively handled by desktop computers.

Just six years ago, smartphones were widely assumed to be a luxury for the business professional on the move. Using one for much more than checking your email or getting simple updates was often difficult and frustrating. Advances in the smartphone world had been at a crawl since the initial introduction of IBM Simon in 1994 and Nokia 9000 Communicator in 1996. Smartphones were useful, but only to a small number of people.

The iPhone came along and gave birth to a renewed interest in the consumer market for a genre of mobile devices that (at the time) was considered too expensive and underpowered for any real productive tasks. Consumers latched on to the idea of having the Internet in your pocket, and the frenzy began.

Shortly after, Android bridged the gap between the Apple sphere of influence and the general market. Even devices like the Palm Pre contributed to the transition in what would eventually change the way the world interacted with one-another.

Today, it’s hard to find someone who doesn’t have a smartphone in their pocket. Data plan prices have dropped, and companies are practically giving these things away in hopes of making their money back over the course of a contract.

The report, by Strategy Analytics, indicates that we have finally crossed the billion user mark as of Q3 2012. Another prediction made by the group would put us at two billion smartphones within the next three years. That’s a pretty significant number considering the current active smartphone numbers would place one in the hands of one out of seven people, worldwide.

If you’re reading this, there’s a good chance that you’re one of them. You may know a few technological holdouts that prefer using phones to make calls (sounds crazy, right?) and reserve the portable computing properties for other devices. Not everyone wants to carry an Internet-capable computer in their pocket.

How Have Smartphones Changed Our Lives?

Smartphones are indeed prevalent in modern society, but have they changed the way we live? One might argue that smartphones have enabled us to get more done away from home. The reality for many others is that they’ve become something of an electronic leash that keeps us constantly checking our email, social network accounts, and text messages. Are smartphones tearing us away from reality, or making it easier to get out an experience it?

Everyone has their own tastes regarding technology and it would be difficult to quantify a single genre of devices as something that changes lives. It may have certainly changed our financial priorities as many smartphone owners cancel their home phone service or traditional mobile accounts in favor of data-heavy subscriptions and text messaging.

What about you? Do you feel that smartphones have improved your life? Are you still a traditional phone holdout? Where do you see smartphones in five years?

Teenager With Smartphone by Petr Kratochvil