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This article is published in collaboration with Statista

by Katharina Buchholz


The speed of global innovation has become evermore swift, with new inventions themselves often facilitating the quick spread of new ideas around the world. A comparison of the adoption speed of the telephone and the mobile phone exemplifies what is true for many areas of technology and innovation. While the telephone, patented by Alexander Graham Bell in 1875, took 50 years from market readiness to reaching 50 million users, the mobile telephone took only 12 years to achieve the same feat.


Despite the first mobile phones - sold starting in 1984 by Motorola - were off to a slow start due to their large size, high price and limited functionality, the technology nevertheless took off in the 1990s and is still producing a steady flow of innovations today.


While the first cellphones ran on a network now dubbed 0G, today's smartphone users can enjoy the much faster 5G technology, which is expected to reach one billion users in just 3.5 years, according to a Statista report. For comparison, the precursors 4G and 3G needed four and twelve years to reach the same number of people.


The data aggregated by Visual Capitalist and used for this chart has more such staggering comparisons: While it took 64 years from the inception of air travel to 50 million people worldwide having become airline customers, the television managed to reach as many people just 22 years after hitting markets. With the inception of the internet - taking seven years to reach 50 million - the spread of technology became even faster. Facebook took four years on the road to 50 million users, WeChat needed just one year and - finally - the global craze Pokemon Go achieve it in just 19 days in 2016.


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