Did you hear that? A billion smartphones shipping by 2016

Mobile phone makers collectively will ship a whopping billion smartphones a year by 2016, according to NPD Group’s DisplaySearch group. In comparison, the total number of smartphones shipped will be around 567 million, the research group says. These shipment numbers include new and replacement devices. With a billion devices, I wonder if there will be such a thing as a feature phone by 2016? The impact of those shipments is going to be profound on everything from the chip business, to sensors, to the amount of data we create and bandwidth we consume. I can only imagine how a billion computers in our hand will transform societies.

By the way, a big chunk of those shipments will come from Apple (a AAPL), which is slotted to introduce a new iPhone model later today.   Apple sold about 140 million iPhones in 2010 and 2011. DisplaySearch expects a newer higher resolution retina display that is slightly larger –  a 4-inch versus the current 3.5-inch screen. People are widely expecting that the touch sensors will be integrated into this screen, making the phone thinner.