The internet’s global expansion is entering a new phase, and it looks decidedly unlike the last one.
Instead of typing searches and emails, a wave of newcomers—“the next billion,” the tech industry calls them—is avoiding text, using voice activation and communicating with images. They are a swath of the world’s less-educated, online for the first time thanks to low-end smartphones, cheap data plans and intuitive apps that let them navigate despite poor literacy.
Incumbent tech companies are finding they must rethink their products for these newcomers and face local competitors that have been quicker to figure them out. “We are seeing a new kind of internet user,” said Ceasar Sengupta, who heads a group at Alphabet Inc.’s Google trying to adapt to the new wave. “The new users are very different from the first billion.”
A look at Megh Singh’s smartphone suggests how the next billion might determine a new set of winners and losers in tech.
This story originally appeared in The Wall Street Journal.