The number of smartphones in use around the world today is staggering. An exact number is difficult to estimate, but analysts put the number at around 3.8 billion, with millions more people going online with a smart device every year.
For a technology that has only been around for a couple of decades, the smartphone has had a bigger and faster impact than almost any other consumer technology in history. Business have needed to adapt to today’s mobile-first reality to survive. Many businesses have struggled, but the smartphone revolution has been a boon to a number of sectors, with the always-on device we carry around with us everywhere we go the perfect tool to improve for engagement and sales.
Here are three industries that have thrived over the last decade in a large part thanks to the rapid growth of the smartphone.
Uber, Lyft, Free Now, and all the other app-based ride hailing apps could not exist without the smartphone. The always connected devices in our pockets include GPS, so drivers know where to pick us up, and payment processing so that we can pay for our rides without the friction of trying to find the right change.
Beyond ride-sharing, the smartphone has also revolutionised how we book tickets for trains, planes, and just about everything else. No longer do we need to plan well in advance to book tickets to our destination. Thanks to the smartphone we can buy our train tickets on the way to the station and scan the QR code at the ticket gates – no need to print off the tickets at home or get to the station earlier enough to print the tickets there.
Staking a bet on your favourite team to win the FA Cup or the jockey with the best jersey to win the Grand National has long been a British pastime, but it is the the smartphone that has brought sports betting into the mainstream. The online betting industry continues to grow at a rapid rate, with sports fans enjoying the ability to gamble at a moment’s notice without the friction of needing to visit a shop.
The flip-side to the rapid growth of online sportsbooks is the rapid decline in the high street, where bookmakers are closing at a rate of around eight per cent per year. Those that were quick to embrace online and particularly mobile betting have grown into billion point companies like Bet365, leaving many smaller offline operators in their wake.
The music world was turned on its head by the internet and the advent of Napster. Album sales tumbled and recording industry profits were evaporating throughout the 2000s until streaming services like Spotify and Apple Music emerged to offer people a huge music collection always available from the device in their pocket. People had enjoyed music on the move since the launch of the Sony Walkman in 1979, and Apple improved in this experience with the iPod in 2001, but Spotify on a smartphone gives you access to almost any song ever recorded instantly anytime. And that invention has made Spotify into a business worth more than $67bn.