Phones overtake laptops for going online

August 6th 2015

A new research study by communications regulator Ofcom has revealed some interesting developments in the UK’s online habits and use of mobile devices. The key statistic is that smartphones have overtaken laptops as the most popular device for getting online.

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Two thirds of people now own a smartphone, using it for nearly two hours every day to browse the internet, access social media, bank and shop online, according to Ofcom's 2015 Communications Market Report. 33% of internet users see their smartphone as the most important device for going online, compared to 30% who are still sticking with their laptop.

The rise in smartphone surfing marks a clear shift since 2014, when just 22% turned to their phone first, and 40% preferred their laptop.

Smartphones have become the hub of our daily lives and are now in the pockets of two thirds (66%) of UK adults, up from 39% in 2012. The vast majority (90%) of 16-24 year olds own one; but 55-64 year olds are also joining the smartphone revolution, with ownership in this age group more than doubling since 2012, from 19% to 50%.

The surge is being driven by the increasing take-up of 4G mobile broadband, providing faster online access. During 2014, 4G subscriptions leapt from 2.7 million to 23.6 million.

We now spend almost twice as long online with our smartphones than on laptops and personal computers. On average, adult mobile users spent nearly two hours online each day using a smartphone in March 2015 compared to just over an hour on laptops and PCs.

But this is still only half of the 3 hours and 40 minutes we spend in front of the television each day.

Ofcom Chief Executive Sharon White, said: “Today's report shows just how important reliable, fast internet access is to millions of consumers and businesses. Improving the coverage and quality of all communications services across the UK is a priority for Ofcom, for people at work, home or on the move.”

Director of Research James Thickett added: “4G has supercharged our smartphones, helping people do everything from the weekly shop to catching up with friends with a face-to-face video call. For the first time, smartphones have overtaken laptops as the UK's most popular internet device and are now the hub of our daily lives.”

More interesting facts about today’s mobile device usage

– Smartphones now take more photos than any other device, including digital cameras, with 60% of adults saying they use it most to take a snap, rising to almost nine in ten (89%) of 16-24 year olds. Just over one in five adults (22%) mostly use their digital camera.

– People in the UK took an estimated 1.2 billion ‘selfies' in the past year. Nearly a third (31%) of UK adults admit to taking a selfie, with one in ten doing so at least once a week.

– One in three adults 34%) turn over and check their phones within five minutes of waking up. For young people, checking social media messages before breakfast is even more crucial – around half (49%) of young people aged 18-24 check their phones within five minutes of waking up.

– Over half of people (55%) think it's unacceptable to pick up your phone alongside your knife and fork. Yet four in ten people admit to checking their phone at the dinner table.

– Increasing take-up of smartphones and tablets is boosting time spent online. Over half of UK households (54%) now have a tablet, a rapid rise in popularity from just 2% in 2011.

– Internet users aged 16 and above said they spend nearly 10 hours (9 hours and 54 minutes) online each week in 2005. It had climbed to over 20 hours and 30 minutes in 2014.

– 2014 saw the biggest increase in time spent online in a decade, with internet users spending over three and a half hours longer online each week than they did in 2013 (20 hours and 30 minutes in 2014, compared to 16 hours and 54 minutes in 2013).

– People's growing reliance on smartphones and tablets appears to be affecting TV viewing. Most 16-24 year olds are watching on-demand and catch up programmes on computers and smartphones rather than on a TV connected to a set-top box.

– Nearly six in ten young people (57%) regularly watch on demand and catch-up TV on their laptop or PC. Almost half (45%) watch on a smartphone, and four in ten (40%) switch on a set-top box. But, despite the growth in online viewing, TV still reaches the overwhelming majority of people. Over 90% (92%) watch TV each week, down slightly from 93% in 2013.

– Despite our increasing mobile use, birthday greetings still require more than a text message. The traditional card sent through the post remains the most popular way to say ‘Happy Birthday', with two fifths (38%) of people choosing to hand write their birthday wishes, compared to 15% using social media and just 7% sending a text message.


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