Nielsen is reporting today that by 2011, smartphone users will catch and surpass feature phone users. If the data in their surveys and their estimate is accurate, it will be a monumental shift in the way americans connect with media, the Internet, mobile apps and each other.
Currently they estimate that 21% of mobile subscribers in the USA are smartphone users. This puts the current number of smartphone users around 60 million (based on CTIA's numbers that there are 285.6 million mobile subscribers in the US at the end of 2009).
Today, 91% of Americans are mobile phone subscribers. Lets assume that mobile penetration is totally saturated (100%) and there is zero new subscribers between now and 2011 (which is probably not going to be the case but lets keep the calculation conservative).
Based on Nielsen's estimate, 50% of mobile subscribers will be smartphone users. That works out to 142.8 million total smartphone users by 2011.
If we subtract the 60 million smartphone users we have now, that comes to 82.8 million NEW smartphone users in America by 2011.
This obviously doesn't take into consideration the sophistication level of smartphones the existing 60 million have or handset lifecycles etc.
It doesn't much matter though. The fact is (if Nielsen's projections are correct), there is going to be an absolute explosion in the number of people that can, and will take advantage of mobile online services, mobile web, data, music, video, sharing, social networking, communication, ecommerce and general connectedness.
Lets also go out on a limb and assume that this same trend is going to take place at a similar pace in other first world countries like Australia, Canada, UK, Spain, France, Italy, Germany, etc. We should also add in other countries like Russia, Brazil, India, China and many more. We can't say that smartphone growth is the same pace for these latter countries however. It will likely take many more years for smartphones to surpass feature phones there but there will be growth for sure.
In the next two years we are going to see a mobile revolution. It has been discussed in detail for the last 10 years but has failed to fully materialize until now.
Innovation is going to pick up pace and thrive. New exciting technologies and services will help, entertain, teach, sell to, service and enhance the lives of hundreds of millions of people.
Now that is exciting.