Ofcoms State of the Mobile Nation

24 per cent of UK households own a tablet computer, according to research from Ofcom, more than double last years figure, of 11 per cent – and nine per cent actually own more than one. 95 per cent of tablet owners use the device at least once a week, and two-third use it daily.

By comparison, 51 per cent of UK adults own a smartphone, up from 27 per cent two years ago, and seven per cent of households contain a smart TV, up from five per cent – but interestingly, only 77 per cent of those have used the TVs internet connection.

Half of people are second-screeners

Linear TV continues to dominate the living room – with 91 per cent of adults tuning into their households main set at least once a week – but the number of people taking part in second-screen activities has risen to 53 per cent.

25 per cent are regularly using this second-screen activity to do what Ofcom terms ‘media meshing’  – interacting with, or communicating about, TV shows as they watch – but 49 per cent are doing something completely unrelated, most commonly browsing the internet (36 per cent) or using social networks (22 per cent).

“Just a few years ago, we would be talking about last night’s TV at work or at school,” said James Thickett, Ofcom’s director of research. “Now, we’re having those conversations live while watching TV – using social media, text and instant messaging.”

Mobile shopping and messaging

21 per cent of mobile internet users have purchased goods or services from their phone, increasing five percentage points to between April 2012 and April 2013. Of the activities relating to retail that mobile internet users were asked about, the most popular was using their handset to find a retailers’ location (25 per cent).

Meanwhile, web-based forms of communication – including email, IM (Instant Messaging) or social networking – have overtaken SMS as the most popular method of communication for 16-24 year olds.

66 per cent of people in this demographic communicate through social networks on a weekly basis, and 48 per cent via IM. Individually, these lag behind SMS, which is used by 80 per cent – but 84 per cent of 16-24 year olds use at least one of these methods on weekly basis.

Northern Ireland

Ofcom also looked at mobile trends in the individual countries in the UK.

Northern Ireland has the highest tablet computer ownership in the UK, at 29 per cent of households, a number which has more than trebled in the last year.


Scotland saw a faster growth in mobile web access than any other UK country over the last year, rising 13 percentage points to 44 per cent.

This increase has been partly driven by the rise in smartphone ownership in the country, which is also up 13 percentage points among adults, to 45 per cent – but Ofcom also points out that Scotland has the highest satisfaction levels with the mobile internet. 93 per cent were satisfied with their ability to connect to the internet via a mobile network, compared to the UK average of 88 per cent.


23 per cent of households in Wales are mobile-only, significantly more than the UK average of 15 per cent. This is particularly marked in Cardiff, where adults are less likely to use their landline than those in other parts of Wales. 

Ofcom says this may be due to a higher take-up of internet-enabled mobile devices in Cardiff, with 61 per cent of adults owning one, compared with 42 per cent across the whole of Wales.

Rural Wales also saw the UK’s biggest increase in smartphone take-up, up 15 percentage points from last year to 48 per cent.