Smartphones and tablets allow us to access the Internet from nearly anywhere, essentially letting us carry around the bulk of human knowledge in our pockets, or at least a tool to get to that knowledge. They are beginning to replace a great many things we formerly used all the time, and are introducing us to services that never existed before. Phone apps let you check email, play games, surf the net, create text documents, access product reviews, find directions and identify music that is playing at your location, among a great many other things. These highly portable devices can act as music players, cameras, GPS devices, video viewers and e-readers. With the built in calendar, to-do list, dictation and voice activated personal assistant programs, they could begin to reduce the need for live assistants. And how many people wear watches these days?
Smartphones with cameras have already taken a bite out of the consumer camera market. The higher end smartphones have resolutions and other capabilities that rival many digital cameras on the market. A study from 2011 found that even then, people were using their smartphones for more than half of their spur of the moment photos, although they were a little more likely to use a dedicated camera for vacation shots [source: Donegan]. Smartphones also have the added bonus of allowing us to quickly share our photos and videos on social networking sites, and there are even photo editing apps so you can tweak and retouch your image before you upload it.
Many people are cancelling their home phone service, and, to a lesser extent, their home Internet in favor of the cellular data plans of their smartphones. Mobile devices are also allowing the Internet to reach areas in developing nations where it would be cost prohibitive to get traditional online service to the home.
As their processors get more powerful and cellular Internet connections get faster, both smartphones and tablets are replacing laptops and desktop computers as peoples' day to day computing devices. They have already become more powerful than a lot of our old laptops from years ago, they don't require as much power, and 3G and 4G cellular networks and WiFi connectivity have brought them faster broadband speeds.
They can also be used for word processing and accessing business related sites on the road, although their small screens and slower processors don't make them ideal for some business uses.
You can also use your smartphone or tablet as a remote control for a myriad of devices, such a gaming systems and video streaming devices. You can even buy infrared (IR) devices that work with mobile device apps so that you can control your TV and other hardware that usually requires an IR remote.
Smartphones, too, might share some of the blame for reducing in person communication. It's what many of us are using to check e-mail and surf social media sites, after all, even sometimes when we're out with friends or family.
Sales of smartphones surpassed sales of laptops in 2007 [source:], and surpassed sales of personal computers in general in late 2010 [sources: Wingfield, Arthur]. Laptops and desktops are still necessary for certain types of computing, but there could be a day when you're just as likely to plug your phone into a keyboard and monitor as crack open a laptop.
Smartphones and tablets are also playing a major role in our next disruptive technology.