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Sunday, February 5, 2017

Smartphone Sales Hit 1.5 Billion Units in 2017: What does this mean for Genealogy?

Genealogy is rapidly becoming technologically sidelined. Two interesting statistics point out the core reason for this phenomenon. First, during the last quarter of 2016, Apple sold 78.3 million iPhones and overall global smartphone shipments grew 3 percent to a total of 1.4 billion units out of a total world population of 7.5 billion. In other words, last year alone, about 18 percent of the world's population bought new smartphones during the year 2016. It is projected that by the end of 2017, 80 percent of all mobile phone users will be using smartphones.

What is a smartphone? It is a highly sophisticated computer attached to both the cellphone network and the internet.

The second interesting development is that, the world's largest e-retailer is spending $1.49 to build its first world-wide air cargo hub at the Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky Airport in Hebron, Kentucky. In short, Amazon is vertically integrating its worldwide sales and will be taking business away from UPS and FEDEX as well as the U.S. Postal Service.

How are these two facts related to genealogy? Both of these developments illustrate a major shift in the distribution of both information and actual physical goods. Genealogists are, for the most part, stagnated in the backwater of paper-based technology. Even though millions of original source records are being digitized every day, very few genealogists are aware of the magnitude of that digitization effort. Although a few genealogy software programs have "apps" that run on smartphones, most of those apps are limited to viewing data rather than processing it. Almost uniformly, all genealogical computer-based programs require the use of a desktop-based computer when the movement worldwide is to smartphones.

Can smartphones be used to do genealogical research? Right now, there are very few of the genealogically oriented programs that work adequately on smartphones. Most of the apps act as viewers rather than being interactive. Granted, most people find entering data into a smartphone to be awkward and slow. But those who use smartphones as their primary computer are more adept at quickly interacting with the small, usually virtual keyboards. Many of the apps available for smartphones are tied to downloadable, standalone programs that only run on desktop computers and many of the features of the standalone programs are not implemented in the apps for smartphones.

For example, the worldwide indexing program sponsored by does not yet run on smartphones or tablets. Perhaps it is time that the genealogy community starts to more aggressively incorporate smartphones in the process of doing genealogical research.

What does Amazon have to do with genealogy? Hmm. More and more of the world's commerce is moving to the internet. This major move by one of the largest retailers in the world illustrates that importance of being online. There are still a significant number of genealogy programs that do not have smartphone apps or do not operate at all well on smartphones. In addition, many genealogists are still using programs, such as Personal Ancestral File, that do not have any possibility of being incorporated into the online world of the internet. In addition, there are only a very small number of genealogy apps that are being distributed or sold through Amazon.

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