People are buying vastly more smartphones (and tablets) than they ever bought conventional PCs, and they're using them in new ways that wouldn't have made sense with older computing platforms.
Benedict Evans, an analyst at the venture capital firm Andreessen Horowitz, recently put together a presentation on how smartphones are changing our lives. Here are five charts that illustrate the huge impact of these pocket-size devices.
1) Sales of smartphones and tablets now dwarf sales of conventional PCs
The PC business is huge. Manufacturers of conventional desktop and laptop computers sold about 300 million units in 2014. But as this chart shows, the market for smartphones and tablets is way bigger. By the end of 2014, consumers were buying 300 million Android and iOS devices per quarter. And unlike the PC business, the mobile device business is still growing.
This is going to have a big impact on how software is developed in the future. When smartphones were new, people focused on building great desktop or web software and often treated mobile as an afterthought. But the massive popularity of smartphones is forcing software developers to rethink that attitude.
2) Microsoft has gone from a dominant force to a niche player
A decade ago, Microsoft dominated the personal computing device market — which Evans defines to include conventional PCs as well as tablets and smartphones. But Microsoft's mobile operating systems haven't caught on with consumers the way Android and iOS have. So as the mobile market has grown, Microsoft has grown less and less significant to the overall personal computing landscape.
Microsoft will continue to be hugely important in the business world, where Windows PCs are still an industry standard. But the future of the internet belongs to companies like Google, Apple, and Facebook.
3) Mobile ads have become hugely important
A few years ago, Facebook (like most internet companies) generated the bulk of its ad revenue from desktop users. But in the past three years, mobile advertising has surged. Today, Facebook's suite of mobile apps generates about twice as much ad revenue as the Facebook website.
As audiences move to mobile platforms, media and technology companies are going to have to follow them. Companies that stick to a desktop-only strategy will struggle.
4) Kids are ditching email and phone calls in favor of mobile messaging
The stereotype of teenage girls spending hours on the phone is obsolete. Today, teenagers in Britain (and, presumably, other rich countries) prefer to communicate using mobile apps. That's very different from British adults, who are still heavy users of the telephone and email.
5) Smartphones are destroying the market for digital cameras
Fifteen years ago, digital cameras revolutionized the photography market, destroying the market for conventional film cameras. But then, after a decade of rapid growth, digital camera sales started to decline sharply. The reason: Everyone now has a smartphone, and their built-in cameras are good enough that most people don't feel a need for a standalone camera.
The result: We're taking more pictures than ever before, but the quality of these pictures isn't always great. While smartphone cameras have been getting better, there are inherent limits to the quality of photographs you can take with the tiny, non-zoomable lenses you find in smartphone cameras.