This week, it was announced that the smartphone industry has hit another major milestone. Before you get too excited, it's not the first phone that can read your mind or do your work for you (though this surely can't be far off), but that the number of gadgets sold surpassed a billion units for the first time in 2013.
What this means is almost one in seven people around the world bought a smartphone last year, in addition to those already in use. This is further proof, if it were needed, that this is the one technology that it's now impossible to do without.
The figures come from research firm International Data Corporation's latest Worldwide Quarterly Mobile Phone Tracker, which found a total of 1,004.2 million smartphones were sold in 2013. This was more than double the amount sold just two years previously, while the percentage of the overall market going to smartphones has also jumped, from 41 per cent of total mobile sales in 2012 to 55.1 per cent last year.
Of course, what the numbers don't show is just how big an impact the devices have had on our lives, to the point where the thought of going without our trusty companion for even a few hours is enough to bring many people out in cold sweats.
But now there's a small mountain's worth of smartphones in use around the world, what's next for the sector and what new innovations can we expect in the coming years to excite a public that may already be getting bored with the same old annual updates? Read on for our tips on what the next billion smartphone buyers will have to look forward to.
Bigger numbers for everything
Four. 55. 64. No, they're not last week's lottery numbers, they're just some of the numbers that you can expect to hear a lot more about in the smartphone sector in the next few years.
You may have already heard of 4K displays or seen them in action in electronics stores. With four times the quality of standard high-definition, these provide ultra-sharp pictures and stunning colour. At the moment, you're most likely to find this tech on huge, 55-inch plus TVs with price tags to match, but there are suggestions they could make an appearance on smartphones as early as this year.
Meanwhile, 64-bit processors are already turning up in high-end devices and should give a significant power boost to gadgets. The size of camera sensors is also on the rise, with Qualcomm senior director of marketing Michelle Leyden Li telling TechRadar recently 55 megapixel cameras will already be possible with the latest processor technology – and this could only be set to rise in the coming years.
What to wear
You could barely turn around at this year's CES event without bumping into someone touting their latest wearable technology that they promise will revolutionise the tech industry and by now, you might be thinking this is getting a bit old hat – even the ones that are actually hats. After all, we've been told for years that this is coming, but it never quite seems to get beyond the 'good idea' stage.
But this year is set to change that, and the more widespread availability of smartphones will have a key role to play. Devices like smart watches will need to be paired with a smartphone in order to make the most of them – but this will mean that provided you have compatible devices, no more rooting around in a bag every time you get a text alert or social media notification. There are also a wide selection of other smart gadgets, such as headphones that can monitor a person's physical activity, will also need demand smartphone apps to work as intended.
Clash of the titans – Apple vs Samsung
Even though there are an ever-growing number of smartphone makers clamouring for attention, one thing that seems certain is the two biggest players, Apple and Samsung, will continue loom large market as they try to outdo the other for innovation and flashy new features, which the rest of the industry will have to keep a close eye on.
Apple may no longer be the market leader it once was, with IDC estimating it accounts for 15.3 per cent of the market, as opposed to Samsung's 31.3 per cent, but its features such as the Siri voice recognition app and the new fingerprint scanner on the iPhone 5S have been widely copied. And you can expect its most magpie-like rivals will be on the lookout for the next shiny idea to implement in their own phones.
Samsung, meanwhile, has been adding features to its devices like it's going out of fashion recently, with everything from eye-scrolling that can detect what you're looking at to curved displays that it claims are more immersive. So what these two get up to in 2014 could set the stage for the entire industry in 2014 and beyond.