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Worldwide smartphone user base hits 1 billion

A year ago, the total installed base for smartphones had reached 708 million, according to Strategy Analytics.

Apple's iPhone 5.
Apple's iPhone 5.
CBS Interactive

The smartphone industry has reached an important milestone.

During the third quarter, the total installed base for smartphones worldwide hit 1.04 billion, jumping from the 959 million smartphones in use during the second quarter, research firm Strategy Analytics announced today. Just a year ago, the total worldwide smartphone installed base was 708 million.

It took 16 years for smartphones to reach the 1 billion mark. The Nokia Communicator, a device that first launched in 1996, is widely viewed as the first smartphone to hit store shelves. Since then, a host of smartphone makers have jumped into the fray.

"Nokia remained a dominant force in smartphones for over a decade until the arrival of Apple's iconic iPhone in 2007," Strategy Analytics senior analyst Scott Bicheno said today in a statement. "The iPhone revolutionized smartphone design and it catalyzed industry growth."

Neil Mawston, Strategy Analytics' executive director, estimates that one in seven people around the world owned a smartphone during the third quarter. However, he noted that penetration is still "relatively low," creating a huge market opportunity for vendors.

"Most of the world does not yet own a smartphone and there remains huge scope for future growth, particularly in emerging markets such as China, India and Africa," Mawston said today in a statement. "The first billion smartphones in use worldwide took 16 years to reach, but we forecast the next billion to be achieved in less than three years, by 2015."

Research firm Ovum earlier this year also said that it believes smartphone ownership will soar in the coming years. That company reported that smartphone shipments hit 448 million units last year and will jump to 1.7 billion by 2017.