Analysts at the firm view the world's first modern smartphone as being the Nokia Communicator, a brick-clamshell hybrid device targeted mainly at business users, which kept the Finnish telecom company at the head of the pack until Apple released the iPhone in 2007.
“The iPhone revolutionized smartphone design and it catalyzed industry growth," said Strategy Analytics Senior Analyst Scott Bicheno. "By the third quarter of 2011, we estimate there were 708 million smartphones in use worldwide. After a further year of soaring demand, the number of smartphones in use worldwide reached 1.038 billion units during the third quarter of 2012.”
Source: Strategy Analytics
The study's findings are consistent with a statement made by Google's Eric Schmidt during an interview last week, though the executive went further and said Android alone is on pace to see one billion users within the next year.
While Strategy Analytics fails to breakdown the distribution of users by operating system, the sheer rate at which smartphones are being adopted is staggering.
The firm's executive director, Neil Mawston, estimates that 1 in 7 of the world's population owned a smartphone in the third quarter of 2012, and notes market penetration is still low.
“Most of the world does not yet own a smartphone and there remains huge scope for future growth, particularly in emerging markets such as China, India and Africa," Mawston said. "The first billion smartphones in use worldwide took 16 years to reach, but we forecast the next billion to be achieved in less than three years, by 2015.”