Mobile, the Metatrend of the Decade

Four billion people are buying new smartphones every two years, massively outpacing the PC industry (where we buy 1.6 billion PCs every five years).

Our desire for the most powerful, newest tech in our pocket is the beginning of a symbiotic merger between human and machine.

This post is about this metatrend.

Check out the explosive growth curves below. They demonstrate why tech will infiltrate you, your business, your family, and every aspect of your life.

How many of us don’t let our mobile phones get out of our sight? How often are they more than a meter or two from our grasp?

The data comes from a fantastic presentation by Benedict Evans from Andreesen-Horowitz called “Mobile is Eating the World.”

Growth of smartphones vs. PCs

Graph Above: Growth of smartphones vs. PCs

Smartphones and tablets now take up half of the consumer electronics industry.

Growth of mobile as a percent of consumer electronics

Graph Above: Growth of mobile as a percent of consumer electronics

Infinite Computing & Sensing

The power of smartphones comes from the unique mix of connectivity, computing and sensors it brings into our lives. Let’s take a look.

With a glimpse of what’s to come, Sprint has already demonstrated an over-the-air speed of 1 gigabit per second at their Silicon Valley lab.

  1. Connectivity: As I discuss in my next book BOLD (February 2015), consider that in 1991, early 2G networks clocked in at a hundred kilobits per second. A decade later, 3G networks hit one megabit per second, while today’s 4G networks sport up to eight megabits per second. But in February 2014, Sprint’s CEO Dan Hesse (now retired) announced plans for Sprint Spark, a super-high-speed network capability able to deliver 50 to 60 megabits per second to your mobile phone.
  2. Computing: Just three or four decades ago, if you wanted to access a thousand core processors, you’d need to be the chairman of MIT’s computer science department or the secretary of the U.S. Defense Department. Today the average chip in your cell phone can perform about a billion calculations per second. Yet today has nothing on tomorrow.As MIT Technology Review points out, “Generations of chip-making technology are known by the size of the smallest structure they can write into a chip. The current best is 14 nanometers, and by 2020, in order to keep up with Moore’s Law, the industry will need to be down to five nanometers.This is the point where IBM hopes nanotubes can step in. The most recent report from the microchip industry group the ITRS says the so-called five-nanometer ‘node’ is due in 2019.”

    Beyond the processing power in your phone (a super computer by all standards), your smartphone has access to truly infinite computational power on the cloud over its multi-megabit linkage.

  3. Sensors: Sensors are the real magic. The growing suite of sensors in our phones is extending our abilities, slowly making us superhuman. The smartphone is our future JARVIS, making us future Tony Starks. For example, in an iPhone, the basics include a proximity sensor, ambient light sensor, accelerometer (senses the orientation of the phone), magnetometer (measures the strength and/or direction of the magnetic field), and a gyroscope.Of course we also have an incredible 8-megapixel camera and microphone to look and listen.Beyond what’s packed into the phone, your device can connect to the Internet of Everything surrounding you, extending its “sensing capabilities” by orders of magnitude.

    What’s next? Sensors that measure your blood chemistries, the quality of the air your breathing, the nutrient content of the food you’re eating, even the DNA of the food you’re eating (is it shark or swordfish?).

Every new sensor creates a new business.

The Android app store has 1.3 million apps.

Apple’s app store has 1.2 million.

While a significant portion of these apps are useless, more and more truly powerful apps are being developed that take advantage of the sensing and computing capabilities of smartphones.

And these apps are sticky.

We spend a lot of time on them.

Heck, today there’s more time spent on mobile apps than on the entire Web.

Time spent on Mobile Web vs. Apps vs. Desktop

Chart Above: Time spent on Mobile Web vs. Apps vs. Desktop

Small teams can leverage this platform in big ways

I often talk about exponential organizations – small teams of people leveraging exponential technologies and resources to scale quickly and disrupt slow-moving incumbent businesses.

Mobile and infinite computing are one of the core drivers allowing this to happen.

Instagram was acquired for a $1 billion with a team of 13 employees.

There are 1.5 trillion SMS messages sent between smartphones globally every year.

WhatsApp, an app that was built by a team of 30 people and acquired by Facebook for $19 billion, processes 7.2 trillion messages a year.

In 2000, a business with 100 employees would need to raise $10 million to reach 1 million people.

Today, we see many examples of teams of around 10 people raising $1 million and reaching 10 million people.

Or, in the case of the silly app “YO,” one person raises $0 and reaches 1 million people in months.

How are you leveraging these platforms?

The opportunity these technologies present to solve the world’s grand challenges are incredible.

Don’t build dumb apps. Build problem-solving apps.

At XPRIZE, we’ve launched a $15M Global Learning XPRIZE to incentivize teams to create a piece of software on a tablet that can teach any child anywhere in the world how to read, write, and do basic math.

Today teams are competing to win the $10M Qualcomm Tricorder XPRIZE to build a mobile device that can diagnose you better than a board-certified doctor.

This is really just the beginning.

[image credit: mobile phones courtesy of Shutterstock]

Peter H. Diamandis, MD
Peter H. Diamandis, MD
Diamandis is the founder and executive chairman of the XPRIZE Foundation, which leads the world in designing and operating large-scale incentive competitions. He is also the executive founder and director of Singularity University, a global learning and innovation community using exponential technologies to tackle the world’s biggest challenges and build a better future for all. As an entrepreneur, Diamandis has started over 20 companies in the areas of longevity, space, venture capital, and education. He is also co-founder of BOLD Capital Partners, a venture fund with $250M investing in exponential technologies. Diamandis is a New York Times Bestselling author of two books: Abundance and BOLD. He earned degrees in molecular genetics and aerospace engineering from MIT and holds an MD from Harvard Medical School. Peter’s favorite saying is “the best way to predict the future is to create it yourself.”
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