Infographic: Visualizing the Critical Metals in a Smartphone
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Visualizing the Critical Metals in a Smartphone

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A Breakdown of the Critical Metals in a Smartphone

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Visualizing the Critical Metals in a Smartphone

In an increasingly connected world, smartphones have become an inseparable part of our lives.

Over 60% of the world’s population owns a mobile phone and smartphone adoption continues to rise in developing countries around the world.

While each brand has its own mix of components, whether it’s a Samsung or an iPhone, most smartphones can carry roughly 80% of the stable elements on the periodic table.

But some of the vital metals to build these devices are considered at risk due to geological scarcity, geopolitical issues, and other factors.

Smartphone PartCritical Metal
Touch Screen indium
Displaylanthanum; gadolinium; praseodymium; europium; terbium; dysprosium
Electronicsnickel, gallium, tantalum
Casingnickel, magnesium
Battery lithium, nickel, cobalt
Microphone, speakers, vibration unit nickel, praseodymium, neodymium, gadolinium, terbium, dysprosium

What’s in Your Pocket?

This infographic based on data from the University of Birmingham details all the critical metals that you carry in your pocket with your smartphone.

1. Touch Screen

Screens are made up of multiple layers of glass and plastic, coated with a conductor material called indium which is highly conductive and transparent.

Indium responds when contacted by another electrical conductor, like our fingers.

When we touch the screen, an electric circuit is completed where the finger makes contact with the screen, changing the electrical charge at this location. The device registers this electrical charge as a “touch event”, then prompting a response.

2. Display

Smartphones screens display images on a liquid crystal display (LCD). Just like in most TVs and computer monitors, a phone LCD uses an electrical current to adjust the color of each pixel.

Several rare earth elements are used to produce the colors on screen.

3. Electronics

Smartphones employ multiple antenna systems, such as Bluetooth, GPS, and WiFi.

The distance between these antenna systems is usually small making it extremely difficult to achieve flawless performance. Capacitors made of the rare, hard, blue-gray metal tantalum are used for filtering and frequency tuning.

Nickel is also used in capacitors and in mobile phone electrical connections. Another silvery metal, gallium, is used in semiconductors.

4. Microphone, Speakers, Vibration Unit

Nickel is used in the microphone diaphragm (that vibrates in response to sound waves).

Alloys containing rare earths neodymium, praseodymium and gadolinium are used in the magnets contained in the speaker and microphone. Neodymium, terbium and dysprosium are also used in the vibration unit.

5. Casing

There are many materials used to make phone cases, such as plastic, aluminum, carbon fiber, and even gold. Commonly, the cases have nickel to reduce electromagnetic interference (EMI) and magnesium alloys for EMI shielding.

6. Battery

Unless you bought your smartphone a decade ago, your device most likely carries a lithium-ion battery, which is charged and discharged by lithium ions moving between the negative (anode) and positive (cathode) electrodes.

What’s Next?

Smartphones will naturally evolve as consumers look for ever-more useful features. Foldable phones, 5G technology with higher download speeds, and extra cameras are just a few of the changes expected.

As technology continues to improve, so will the demand for the metals necessary for the next generation of smartphones.

This post was originally featured on Elements

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The World’s Biggest Startups: Top Unicorns of 2021

Here are the world’s biggest startups with a valuation above $10 billion.

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The World’s Biggest Startups: Top Unicorns of 2021

Many entrepreneurs start businesses around the world, but only the most successful new companies become “unicorns”—the biggest startups with a valuation above $1 billion.

Some unicorns are little-known companies making quiet but impactful strides in software, healthcare, automotive, and other fields. Others have already become well-known industry leaders, like aerospace manufacturer SpaceX and game developer and publisher Epic Games.

In total, there are more than 800 unicorn startups globally. That said, this visualization specifically hones in on the world’s decacorns (unicorns with valuations above $10 billion) as of December 2021 according to CB Insights.

Private Startups Valued at Over $10 Billion

The world’s most prominent unicorns constantly see their valuations change as they enter different rounds of funding or maturity.

In December 2021, there were 35 startups with a valuation above $10 billion, spread out across different countries and industries.

CompanyValuationCountryCategory
Bytedance$140BChinaArtificial intelligence
SpaceX$100.3BU.S.Other
Stripe$95BU.S.Fintech
Klarna$45.6BSwedenFintech
Canva$40BAustraliaInternet software & services
Instacart$39BU.S.Supply chain, logistics, & delivery
Databricks$38BU.S.Data management & analytics
Revolut$33BUKFintech
Nubank$30BBrazilFintech
Epic Games$28.7BU.S.Other
Chime$25BU.S.Fintech
FTX$25BChina (Hong Kong)Fintech
BYJU's$21BIndiaEdtech
Xiaohongshu$20BChinaE-commerce & direct-to-consumer
J&T Express$20BIndonesiaSupply chain, logistics, & delivery
Fanatics$18BU.S.E-commerce & direct-to-consumer
Yuanfudao$15.5BChinaEdtech
DJI Innovations$15BChinaHardware
SHEIN$15BChinaE-commerce & direct-to-consumer
Checkout.com$15BUKFintech
goPuff$15BU.S.E-commerce & direct-to-consumer
Plaid Technologies$13.4BU.S.Fintech
Grammarly$13BU.S.Internet software & services
Devoted Health$12.6BU.S.Health
Faire$12.4BU.S.Artificial intelligence
Brex$12.3BU.S.Fintech
SenseTime$12BChinaArtificial intelligence
Bitmain Technologies$12BChinaHardware
Biosplice Therapeutics$12BU.S.Health
JUUL Labs$12BU.S.Consumer & retail
GoodLeap$12BU.S.Internet software & services
ZongMu Technology$11.4BChinaAuto & transportation
Global Switch$11.1BUKHardware
Celonis$11BGermanyData management & analytics
Weilong$10.9BChinaConsumer & retail

Many of the most valuable startups are already giants in their fields. For example, social media company Bytedance is the developer behind video network platform Douyin and its international version, TikTok, and has amassed a valuation of $140 billion.

Financial services and payment software company Stripe jumped from a valuation of $36 billion to $95 billion over the course of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Even less universally prominent names like Swedish fintech Klarna ($45.6 billion) and Australian graphic design platform Canva ($40.0 billion) are well known within their respective fields.

But private valuations don’t last forever. Many eventually go public, like electric vehicle maker and Tesla competitor Rivian, which had a valuation of $27.6 billion before listing on the NASDAQ.

The Biggest Startups by Industries and Countries

Breaking down the world’s biggest startups by industry highlights that tech is still king in most investing circles.

More than 77% of unicorns valued above $10 billion are categorized directly in tech-related fields, primarily in financial and commerce software.

Startups Valued Above $10B By IndustryNumber
Fintech9
E-commerce & direct-to-consumer4
Artificial intelligence3
Hardware3
Internet software & services3
Consumer & retail2
Data management & analytics2
Edtech2
Health2
Other2
Supply chain, logistics, & delivery2
Auto & transportation1

And many of the unicorns categorized in non-tech fields are still technology companies at their core. In fact, Indonesia’s logistics and package delivery company J&T Express is one of the few unicorns not directly in tech, though it still uses automated sorting in its warehouses.

It was one of the few startups to come from somewhere other than the U.S. or China, which together accounted for over 70% of the 35 biggest startups. The UK (3) was the next most-frequently listed headquarters, while Australia, Brazil, Germany, India and Sweden each had one of these unicorns on the list.

With constantly fluctuating valuations and technological breakthroughs always around the corner, the next $10 billion unicorn could come from almost anywhere.

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Ranked: The World’s Most Popular Social Networks, and Who Owns Them

When it comes to social networks, Meta is the dominant player, with a combined total of 7.5 billion MAUs across its four platforms.

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The World’s Most Popular Social Networks, and Who Owns Them

Currently, there are over 4.5 billion people around the world who use some form of social media—about 57% of the global population.

Yet, while social media’s audience is widespread and diverse, just a handful of companies control a majority of the world’s most popular social media platforms. Meta, the tech giant formerly known as Facebook, owns four of the five most widely used platforms.

This graphic highlights the biggest social networks across the globe, measured by their monthly active users (MAUs).

Note: We’ll be using terms like “social network” and “social platform” interchangeably to refer to various messaging, video, and image-sharing platforms that have social attributes built in.

Top Social Platforms by Monthly Active Users

To measure each platform’s MAUs, we dug into various sources, including the most recent company SEC filings, and quarterly earnings reports.

A majority of Meta’s user base comes from its most popular platform, Facebook—the social media giant currently has around 2.9 billion MAUs worldwide.

RankPlatform nameParent companyCountryMonthly active users, in millions
#1FacebookMeta🇺🇸 U.S.2,910
#2YouTubeAlphabet🇺🇸 U.S.2,291
#3WhatsAppMeta🇺🇸 U.S.2,000
#4MessengerMeta🇺🇸 U.S.1,300
#5InstagramMeta🇺🇸 U.S.1,287
#6WeChatTencent🇨🇳 China1,225
#7KuaishouKuaishou🇨🇳 China1,000
#8TikTokBytedance🇨🇳 China1,000
#9TelegramTelegram🇦🇪 UAE600
#10QzoneTencent🇨🇳 China600
#11QQTencent🇨🇳 China591
#12WeiboSina🇨🇳 China566
#13DouyinBytedance🇨🇳 China550
#14SnapchatSnap🇺🇸 U.S.538
#15TwitterTwitter🇺🇸 U.S.463
#16PinterestPinterest🇺🇸 U.S.454
#17RedditReddit🇺🇸 U.S.430
#18LinkedInMicrosoft🇺🇸 U.S.310
#19QuoraQuora🇺🇸 U.S.300
#20SkypeMicrosoft🇺🇸 U.S.300
#21TiebaBaidu🇨🇳 China300
#22ViberRakuten🇯🇵 Japan250
#23TeamsMicrosoft🇺🇸 U.S.250
#24imoPageBites🇺🇸 U.S.212
#25LineNaver🇰🇷 South Korea169
#26PicsartPicsart🇺🇸 U.S.150
#27LikeeBigo Live🇸🇬 Singapore150
#28DiscordDiscord🇺🇸 U.S.140

Where in the world are Facebook users located? The platform’s biggest user base comes from India, with an audience size of almost 350 million. Its second-largest user base is the United States, with 193.9 million users, while Indonesia comes in third with 142.5 million.

But Facebook isn’t the only social giant in Meta’s network of platforms. WhatsApp has approximately 2 billion MAUs, making it Meta’s second-largest platform, and the third-largest social network overall.

Like Facebook, a significant number of WhatsApp users are located in India, with roughly 390 million users. Brazil has a large portion of WhatsApp users as well, with an audience size of 108 million.

The Billion Users Club

Meta currently dominates the social network landscape, with a combined total of 7.5 billion MAUs across all four of its platforms. However, a few other companies also hit the one billion MAU mark across all their platforms on the list:

RankParent company# of companies on the listCountryCombined MUAs
1Meta4🇺🇸 U.S.7.5 billion
2Tencent3🇨🇳 China2.4 billion
3Alphabet1🇺🇸 U.S.2.3 billion
4Bytedance2🇨🇳 China1.6 billion
5Kuaishou1🇨🇳 China1 billion

After Meta, Tencent has the second-highest reach thanks to its three platforms—WeChat, Qzone, and QQ. Of the three, WeChat is currently the most popular. On average, WeChat users send about 45 billion messages a day.

Third on the list is Alphabet, thanks to its one platform, YouTube. Founded in 2005, this video streaming platform currently has over 50 million content creators, who share approximately 500 hours of video content every minute.

Close behind Alphabet is Bytedance, with a combined 1.6 billion MAUs across its two platforms—Douyin and its international counterpart TikTok. While the apps share a lot of similarities, they function as completely separate entities, with different registration, content policies, and regulations.

Global Social Networks? Not Always

While social media networks often transcend country borders, it’s worth noting that the online realm does not completely escape the constraints and regulations of our physical world.

Since 2009, Facebook has been banned in China for not complying with censorship rules. Facebook was also blocked in Iran and Syria around the same time and has been blocked sporadically since.

In 2020, the Trump administration tried to enact a similar ban against TikTok, but the order was blocked by a federal judge and eventually revoked by the Biden administration a year later.

Despite various bans and roadblocks, it’s clear that social media platforms have seeped into the lives (and onto the screens) of users across the globe. And as internet access worldwide continues to grow, so too will the number of social media users.

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