right, 5 billion devices doesn't sound nearly as bad. there's 7 billion or so people on earth, right? Say every first world person has a phone and half a tablet, and every other new tv in their multi-tv household is a smart tv, and a good chunk of them have an NAS device or an Apple TV or some other such thing. Then figure every second world person gets a smartphone, and add in a few people coming up with a crazy inventions that catch on and require hundreds of millions of chips, like say paving the road with intelligent sensors (https://www.indiegogo.com/projects/solar-roadways), and it really doesn't seem so much. it does seem a bit much that first world countries might pave their roads with chips while third world people wouldn't even get a smartphone though.
They are getting smartphones. 2013 shipments exceeded 1Bn, and this year expect to pass 1.25Bn. If you assume the average phone lasts 2 years, that is about half the adults in the world and climbing. Then go look at a featurephone like the Nokia Asha and you will see it would have been considered a smartphone just a few years ago.
It is because of those plants you describe. Each fab ships around 250M sq cm of functional silicon per year and the most profitable sq cms are the most modern devices. There is a lot of pressure to stop running old designs down the line and figure out how to market modern devices at low margins on better distribution chains. Plus, the display makers have tons of capacity at lower resolutions suitable for smartphones with visible but quite useful pixels and ordinary levels of brightness and contrast. Meanwhile, no-one in their right minds would go to the expense of building phone towers and then not putting 4G chips in them (just a fraction of the total cost) and that includes refurbishing older towers on, what, about a 5 year cycle at most? They need refurbishing to meet capacity demands everywhere.
Actually, in some ways 3rd or at least 2nd world courntries are leaping past the 1st. In the USA people still approach phablets with mistrust and apprehension. Take a ride on the subway in China and they are in every second hand.
Microelectronics is one of the most levelling of technologies. It has spread far wider than the automobile, and the difference between the capabilities in the hand of a billionaire or a poor farmer is merely 10 to 1 (sometimes in reverse, if the billionaire has one of those jewelled featurephones).
Wow ... sorry for that drop... thanks for the correction.
That said; I hope I am wrong, and everyone is right. After all, I am making my living off the same pursuit and believe that if we build, they will come. However, Qualcomm still ships a lot of 28nm bulk poly-silicon based modem & processors. So the 10nm transition, when it occurs will not be a wholesale migration of 100% of world's phones. Using China's rapid adoption to the smart-mobile world underestimates how much the eastern coastal of China is more of the "developed" part of the world than the rest of China, and much of the Africa. Again, I hope they adopt LTE as soon as we do. But if they don't, and the 10nm takes 10 years to recoupe the investment, how would the landscape of semiconductor look?
Thanks for the complement; i don't deserve it. Much as I like to say Smartphones don't matter, it will still ship over 1B per year. The level of innovation will continue, but will never seem quantum as when iPhones first shipped. The Fire itself is not my interest, but it's what Amazon will do that really intrigue me. I am writing a fiction with my son, and having a "smarter" Amazon+ would be very helpful. So I would never write off what Smartphone can do for the civilization, I just don't think we will incrementally spend more & more to keep 10mm fabs full for long enough to generate the profit for the foundries. Not like before ...