Smartphones have utterly transformed the electronics industry. Over the last decade, smartphones have replaced or dampened the demand for most other types of ICT or media electronics. As the CPUs, GPUs, digital signal processors and sensors in smartphones have grown more powerful and their screen sizes have expanded, they have incorporated much of the functionality of other types of electronics. A plethora of electronic devices have been incorporated into one handy device, so it is no longer necessary to buy a separate cellular phone, music player, video player, camera, camcorder, voice recorder, GPS navigation device, personal digital assistant, electronic dictionary, handheld gaming console, wristwatch, transistor radio, alarm, pager, etc.
IDC predicts that global production of smartphones will grow to 1.52 billion devices in 2016, or one for every five people on the planet. Smartphones now outsell every other type of electronic device on the planet, including the 1.2 billion wristwatches sold every year. In the year 2015, 3 smartphones were produced for every feature phone, 13 for every desktop PC, 9 for every notebook PC, 7 for every tablet, 40 for every camera, 77 for every camcorder, 27 for every portable media player and 150 for every handheld gaming console.
The advent of the smartphone has obviated the need for whole classes of devices, such as MP3 players, personal digital assistants and electronic dictionaries, and has turned other devices such as digital cameras, camcorders into niche devices, that focus on specialty markets. Since yesterday’s point-and-shoot camera is incorporated into every smartphone, most digital cameras sold today are high-end devices with a better optical zoom or a replaceable lenses. Likewise, camcorder sales are now mostly relegated to professional models with a bigger lens and better optical zoom than can be incorporated on a smartphone. Most of the growth in camcorder sales in recent years has come from body-cams which are smaller and lighter than smartphones and are designed to capture action video.
|Global Production of Electronic Devices (millions of units shipped)
||Desktop PCs & x86 servers
||Tablets & 2-in-1 hybrids
||Portable media players
||Handheld gaming consoles
||TV gaming consoles
|Compound Annual Growth Rates
|§ Estimated. † Calculated from reported annual growth rate. ‡ Based on counted pixels in published graph.
Notes: Handheld gaming consoles includes Nintendo GameBoy Advance, DS and 3DS and Sony PlayStation Portable and Vita. TV gaming consoles includes Nintendo GameCube, Wii & Wii U, Microsoft Xbox 360 & Xbox One, and Sony PlayStation 2-4. Peripheral printers are connected to a computer.
Sources: Gartner (phones); IDC (PCs, tablets, wearables, peripheral printers, portable media players in 2006-7); IHS iSuppli (TVs); CIPA (cameras); DT Consulting (camcorders in 2007-8); Frost & Sullivan (camcorders in 2010-15); Statista.com (portable media players in 2009-14, Sony & Microsoft gaming consoles in 2008-15); Nintendo (gaming consoles in 2006-15); Sony (Playstation 2 & Playstation Portable in 2006-7); Microsoft (Xbox 360 in 2006-7).
The evolution in smartphone functionality can be measured by when demand for other types of devices has peaked. Global production of PDAs (including handheld computers) appears to have peaked in 2006 at 17.74 million devices, which is the year is when global production of smartphones started to skyrocket. Global production of personal media players, GPS navigation devices and digital still cameras peaked in 2008. Likewise, production of handheld gaming devices peaked in 2008, since smartphones can serve as direct replacements for the Nintendo 3DS and Sony Vita. Production of camcorders peaked in 2010 as the digital signal processors, memory, lens and pixel resolution on smartphones improved to rival low-end camcorders. Global production of mobile feature phones peaked in 2011, and is now in rapid decline. The decline in feature phones is directly related to the fall in the average selling price of Android phones which peaked at $441 in 2010 and has since fallen to $216 in 2015.
One of the most surprising aspects of smartphone growth is how it has effected PC and tablet sales. In 2009, global shipments of notebook PCs surpassed desktop PCs, yet shipments of notebooks peaked in 2011. It was widely predicted in the electronics industry that tablets would become the new PC when tablet shipments surpassed notebooks in 2013.
What wasn’t anticipated, however, is that global production of tablets would peak in 2014 and go into decline as they were replaced by phablets, which combine the functionality of a smartphone with a tablet. The average screen size of new smartphone models has grown from 2.59 inches in 2007 to 4.86 inches in 2014. The first phablet was Dell’s Streak which sported a 5.0 inch screen in 2010, but they didn’t become widely popular until the introduction of the Samsung Note in October 2011. According to the gmsarena.com database, 82.5% of the smartphone models introduced in the year 2016 have screens 5 inches or larger, which indicates how rapidly smartphones are evolving into replacements for tablets. At the same time that screen sizes have increased, screen resolutions have also increased. The percentage of new smartphone models which have 300 pixels or greater screen resolution has increased from 2.0% in of smartphones have increased dramatically making it possnumber of The majority of people now use their smartphones as the primary means to view web content from sites such as Facebook and consume video from sites such as Youtube.
For most people on the planet, the smartphone now serves is their primary media device and computer, despite the limitations of the tiny on-screen keyboards and the lack of a mouse pointer. It is not that smartphones have entirely replaced Desktop PCs, notebooks and tablets, since all these devices still serve their niches, but the smartphone has become the primary device for consuming media and for communication via voice, text or video. According to eMarketer, the average time that a US adult spent using the non-voice functions of mobile devices grew from 46 minutes per day in 2011 to 2 hours and 54 minutes per day in 2015. During the same time period, desktop and notebook PC usage dropped from 2:30 to 2:12, TV viewing dropped from 4:34 to 4:11, radio listening dropped from 1:34 to 1:27, and reading print media dropped from 0:46 to 0:30.
In this context, it is not surprising that global TV production peaked in the year 2011. It is not that people no longer own TVs, but they see less reason to buy multiple TVs when they can carry a smartphone into every room in the house which reproduces videos and so much video content is available on the internet or via a wireless streaming device such as Roku or Chromecast.
For the same reason, people see less reason to buy new video game consoles, such as the PlayStation 4, Xbox One and Nintendo Wii U, since they can now game anywhere with their smartphones. Newszoo estimates that gaming on smartphones will generate $36.9 billion in revenues in 2016, making it the largest segment in the $99.6 billion global largest gaming market. While revenue from smartphone games is growing 27% per year,
Even the sales of printers have dropped, partly because people are buying fewer PCs, but also because there is less reason to print out documents, when they can be viewed anywhere using a smartphone. Global production of peripheral printers peaked in 2008. According to CIPA, global shipments of photo printers (size 4A paper and smaller) dropped from 2.32 to 0.91 million units between 2006 and 2013. The world is not only buying fewer printers, it is also printing less. Global production of graphic paper dropped from 157.4 to 131.1 million tonnes between 2007 and 2014, while at the same time packaging paper and other types of paper continued to rise.
The rise in smartphone production has both good and bad consequences for the planet. On the one hand, the decline in unifunctional devices like GPS navigation devices, digital voice recorders, MP3 players and digital cameras, means that people now buy just one device, instead of half a dozen devices. The consolidation of multiple devices into the smartphone has helped checked the growth in silicon manufacturing, which is one of the most energy and resource intense activities on the planet. Between 2000 and 2010, global silicon production for semiconductors grew 5.4% per year, whereas that growth has slowed to 2.2% per year after 2010.
Checking the growth in silicon is significant because silicon manufacturing is one of the most energy and resource intensive industrial processes on the planet. According to a study conducted in 2007, 1.53 kWh of electricity and 35 grams of chemicals are consumed per cm2 of a silicon wafer, in an older fab using 150mm wafers. A 2011 industry survey which included new fabs with more efficient 300mm wafers, found electricity usage was roughly 1.0 kWh per cm2. In addition, each cm2 of silicon produces 8.0 grams of toxic waste, emits 0.060 grams of volatile organic compounds, and consumes 7.8 liters of water, of which 6.5 liters are ultrapure water, which require extra energy to purify.
One of the negative aspects of the rise of smartphones is the fact that they have replaced devices which are less transistor density and less space constrained. The modern cellphone often contains more transistors than the desktop PC, notebook, tablet, video game console, Blu-ray player, or TV. Apple claims that its new A10 processor in the iPhone 7 contains 3.3 billion transistors, which would give it an incredible density of 26.4 million transistors per mm2 on its 125 mm2 die. In comparison, Intel’s Broadwell-U CPUs for laptops have 1.3 or 1.9 billion transistors (depending on the model of GPU). Based on a density of 15.9 million transistors per mm2 in the Broadwell-U, we can guesstimate that a 2 core Intel Skylake-Y with GT2 graphics and a 98.5 mm2 die has 1.6 billion transistors and the 4 core Skylake-K with GT2 graphics and a 122.4 mm2 die has 1.9 billion transistors.
Although PCs generally have more RAM and more Flash memory, smartphones often have more transistors because they have a number of elements that PCs generally lack, such as digitizers for the touch screen, advanced digital signal processors for the front and back cameras, cellular baseband modems and a plethora of sensors (accelerometer, gyroscope, barometer, light sensor, compass, GPS, proximity, temperature, humidity, fingerprint and even heart rate). 80.0% of the 2016 smartphone models listed in the gsmarena.com database have screen resolutions of 720×1280 or higher and 36.7% have 1440×2560 or higher, meaning their graphics processors have to drive as many pixels as a standard laptop. The hardware in smartphones is advancing very rapidly, with smartphones today being sold with 4K screen resolutions (Sony Xperia Z5 Premium), 6GB of RAM (Vivo Xplay5 Elite), 256GB of Flash memory (Asus Zenfone 3 Deluxe), 10 core application processors (MediaTek Helio X20) and 41 megapixel cameras (Nokia Lumia 1020).
The environmental cost of producing such complex devices is taking a tremendous toll on the planet. According to Apple, its iPhone 6 Plus with a 5.5 inch screen emits 110 kg of CO2-equivalent over a 3 year lifetime, with 81% of those emissions coming from manufacturing, 4% tremendous problem is that producing 1.5 billion complex devices The processing power in are evolving very rapidly improving to the point that they are starting to rival the p the environmental cost of manufacturing smartphones is rising rapidly.
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