Its Official: Were Addicted to Smartphones

The UK is becoming “addicted to smartphones”, according to new research from telecoms regulator, Ofcom. People interviewed as part of the study confessed to using them everywhere from the dining table to the bathroom and the bedroom.

27 per cent of adults and almost 47 per cent of teenagers now own a smartphone, according to Ofcom’s latest Communications Market Report. 59 per cent of smartphone owners have acquired their smartphone over the past year.

Smartphone users make significantly more calls and send more texts than regular mobile users. 81 per cent of smartphone users make calls every day compared with 53 per cent of ‘regular’ users. Teenagers, in particular, are ditching more traditional activities in favour of their smartphone, with 23 per cent claiming to watch less TV, and 15 per cent admitting they read fewer books. And when asked about the use of these devices, 37 per cent of adults and 60 per cent of teens admit they are “highly addicted”.  

81 per cent of smartphone users have their mobile switched on all of the time, even when they are in bed, with 38 per cent of adults and 40 per cent of teens admitting using their smartphone after it woke them.

51 per cent  of adults and 65 per cent of teenagers say they have used their smartphone while socialising with others. 23 per cent of adults and 34 per cent of teenagers have used them during mealtimes, and 22 per cent of adults and 47 per cent of teenage smartphone users admitted using or answering their handset in the bathroom or toilet. Teenagers are also more likely to use their smartphone in places they’ve been asked to switch their phone off, such as the cinema or library – with 27 per cent admitting doing so, compared with 18 per cent of adults.

Ofcom’s research also found that the line between work and social time is becoming increasingly blurred. 30 per cent of smartphone users say they regularly take part in personal phone calls during working hours, compared with 23 per cent of regular mobile phone users. However, smartphone users are more likely to make or take work-related calls while on holiday or annual leave. 70 per cent say they have ever done so, with 24 per cent admitting to doing so regularly, compared with just 16 per cent of ordinary mobile phone users. 

The research also looked at the popularity of apps among smartphone users and found that 47 per cent of adult smartphone users have downloaded an app. Teenage smartphone owners are more likely to have paid for an app download (38 per cent) than adult owners, amongst whom only 25 per cent had paid for an app.

32 per cent of teenagers have paid for at least one game. Music is the next most popular genre amongst teens, with 22 per cent having paid for a music-based app. Adults are also most likely to pay for games (15 per cent) and music (8 per cent) apps, with maps/navigation following close behind (7 per cent).

Some other useful stats from the research:

  • The number of mobile voice minutes has grown by 250 per cent over the past decade from 35bn to 125bn per year
  • The number of text messages sent has increased by 2,000 per cent from 7bn to 129 bn per year.
  • The volume of mobile data transferred over the UK’s mobile networks increased 40-fold between 2007 and 2010
  • 91 per cent of people own a mobile phone, compared to 36 per cent in 2000
  • 99 per cent of 25-34s own a mobile phone, compared to only 51 per cent of over-75s 
  • 81 per cent of homes have a landline, compared to 93 per cent in 2000 
  • 76 per cent of homes are connected to the internet, compared to 25 per cent in 2000
  • 93 per cent of homes have multi-channel TV, compared to 36 per cent in 2000
  • 60 per cent of households own an HD-ready TV, with 33 per cent saying they receive hi-def TV channels

“Ofcom’s 2011 Communications Market Report shows the influence that communications technology now has on our daily lives, and on the way we behave and communicate with each other,” says Ofcom director of research, James Thickett. “Our research into the use of smartphones, in particular, reveals how quickly people become reliant on new technology, to the point of feeling addicted.”

Neil Armstrong, Marketing director at Timico, a unified communications provider that delivers provide mobile services to leading UK businesses and charities, believes the Ofcom stats present an opportunity for businesses struggling to cope with the trend of employees bringing their own phones into the workplace. He says: “Today’s consumers, as well as the vast majority of businesses, are now upgrading to smartphone devices. As a result employees are unsurprisingly demanding to bring and use their own devices into the workplace, precisely because they have become an extension of themselves – from calendars and email to social networks and media. They don’t want to have to learn to use different devices depending on whether they are in work or play mode.

“Businesses could look to actually cut costs by enabling staff to use one, combined mobile connected device for both work and play. There’s an opportunity for employers to accept and embrace this development, rather than fight what looks increasingly like a losing battle. Security or management concerns have led to blanket bans on personal devices in the past, but there is now a wealth of effective management tools and support which means that businesses of all sizes can benefit from reduced new device spend and improved productivity, without exposing themselves to the perceived risks or problems.”

And Shaun Gregory, MD at O2 Media, says: “The mobile phone has become the remote control in the life of the consumer. However, its also becoming the unique access point for brands to talk to customers. Its is the only advertising opportunity that is with the consumer at all times, and as this research points out, the only form of Media that remains always on. This is why you can deliver unparalleled targeting opportunities, coupled with things like location.
“The report from Ofcom merely validates what we all know, and will only accelerate the adoption of mobile as a primary advertising platform. Theres also little doubt in my mind that mobile and data will eventually re-draw the wider advertising eco-system. Advertisers deserve to know what works, and what doesnt.”