Twitter, as a community, has a tendency to lose its mind over just about anything—but this time, the reason really is quite mind-blowing. In a short Twitter exchange, Elon Musk pointed out that over 80% of the world’s population owns a smartphone. Are these numbers really that high, and more importantly, has anyone ever expected this to happen?
Elon’s tweet was succinct, but it still caused a bit of a meltdown in the reply section. Musk’s comment was posted as a reply to Lex Fridman, whose initial tweet commemorated the fact that 15 years have passed since the unveiling of the first iPhone. We’ve come a long way since then—Fridman states that there are now at least 6.3 billion smartphone users on the planet.
Unsurprisingly, the response to Musk’s tweet was instantaneous, and for the most part, filled with memes. The fact that the owner of Tesla was interested in smartphones in the first place spurred rumors about a possible smartphone launch in the future. However, Musk has already refuted such claims in the past, claiming on Twitter that “smartwatches and phones are yesterday’s technology, Neuralinks are the future.”
Is Elon Musk correct in his statement, and are the next years really going to bring a decline in the overwhelming smartphone world domination? Let’s take a closer look at the numbers and see whether Twitter is right to have a meltdown.
Numbers prove smartphones rule the world
Lex Fridman’s and Elon Musk’s numbers do check out: According to Statista, there were around 6.378 billion smartphone users in 2021. The last few years have seen massive growth in the smartphone industry, and the number of smartphones has nearly doubled since 2016. Back in 2016, only 3.668 billion people owned a smartphone, and as the world’s population was around 7.424 billion at the time, this adds up to just a bit over 52%.
The projected world population in 2021 was around 7.87 billion (via Statistics Times), so Elon Musk is not wrong: Over 80% of the population owns a smartphone. It’s impossible to deny that smartphones opened up the door to a digital revolution. Although computers and various other technological innovations have been around for many years, smartphones offer unprecedented accessibility. While many families may have never owned a PC or a laptop, they may still own a smartphone.
Smartphones grant access to the internet, let users stay in touch with their families, and can be used for both work and entertainment. It’s not all TikTok and other social media apps–for many people, smartphones are absolutely essential. While not many other pieces of tech can boast the kind of reach that smartphones command, there are still places on Earth where these numbers may grow. Statista is predicting that these numbers may grow by several hundred million in the next few years.
Does that mean that Elon Musk is wrong in saying that smartphones are already one foot out the door and Neuralink is the future? Not necessarily, but the two don’t have to be mutually exclusive. While Neuralink has boundless potential, smartphones and other mobile devices are likely to continue dominating the market for the years to come.