Weighing in at 431 pages of facts, stats, definitions and graphs, there’s no doubt Ofcom’s snapshot of the state of the communications market in 2015 is a mighty thorough piece of work, more of a long lens panoramic time lapse than a snapshot perhaps.
The section on “smartphone society” is worth paying close attention to, however, because it confirms the widely held conviction that the British, renowned for being early adopters where tech is concerned, now regard their smartphones as the device that they like most and the one they use for connecting to the internet more than any other.
The repercussions of this switch from desktop to mobile will be felt keenly by any number of digital companies, not least Google and other search engines, who will soon begin to find that the majority of internet browsing occurs in-app and search is used less and less. It is also highly significant for the apps themselves, which will need to provide optimal services and operating systems, and try to accurately predict exactly what content users want to see if they are to maintain their hard won advantage.
33% of users questioned in 2015 said that smartphone’s are their first choice, with 30% nominating their laptops, a significant reverse from 2014, when the figures were 23% and 40% respectively. Smartphones are also the most widely owned internet-enabled device (66% own one) narrowly overtaking laptops (65%).
Smartphones primarily remain a communications device, however, with users spending 72% of their time on them messaging, emailing and accessing social networks. They are twice as likely to be used to watch short video clips than full programmes (music to Facebook’s ears, no doubt, given their push into video ads), and a surprisingly high number of users (45%) say that they use their smartphones to make purchases online or for online banking.
Two thirds of adults own a smartphone, an increase of 27% over 3 years, and half of these are iPhones, substantially above the global average where iPhones represent just 15% of total smartphones owned.
Tecnophobes will no doubt be horrified by statistics which show that half of young people (aged 18-24) check their phones within 5 minutes of waking up, and two fifths check them less than 5 minutes before falling asleep; half of all smartphone users admit to being “hooked” on their devices, with 20% also admitting they have used them in a cinema or theatre. Is Benedict Cumberbatch not enough?!
The main culprits are young people who are 10 times more likely to say the device they would most miss if it were taken away from them is their smartphone than older folks (55 and over). 62% of users have downloaded a social networking app but, just to demonstrate our national identity is not becoming too unrecognisable, just as many have downloaded a weather app. Games related apps are the most popular amongst the younger age groups (16-24), with 72% penetration. Music apps, perhaps surprisingly, only place sixth in terms of popularity.
More evidence that smartphones are not quite the game changing, epoch shifting devices they are sometimes made out to be (including by this blog) can be found in the fact that email is still the most popular form of communication, while only 4 out of 10 people send photos and video by text (probably for cost reasons).
There is a good deal of evidence to suggest that trends around smartphone ownership and the extent to which we depend on them for services are irreversible, but email, surely one of the modern world’s more archaic practices, is not dead yet; long live email!