Are we a nation of Smartphone addicts? New report from Ofcom published

New Ofcom research published today (4th August 2011) reveals the extent to which the UK has become “addicted” to smartphones. The Ofcom Communications Market report looks at the huge growth in smartphone take-up in the past 12 months – over one in four  (27 per cent) GB adults and almost half of teens (47%)  now own one – and how the devices have affected people’s lives. The rapid growth in the use of smartphones, which offer internet access, email and a variety of internet-based applications, is clearly changing the way many of us, particularly teenagers, act in social situations.

The report also looks at the rise in Internet use, TV, Radio  and other key market developments in the UK. The full document can be read here


Mobile Phone, Smartphones and Internet Access

  • Nine out of ten people own a mobile phone (36 per cent in 2000, 91 per cent in 2011) – and one in seven households are now mobile-only, as the penetration of landlines dropped from 93 per cent in 2000 to 81 per cent in 2011;
  • An average of five text messages per day were sent for every person in the UK last year.
  • Over a quarter of adults and now own a smartphone
  • 37 per cent of adults are ‘highly addicted’ to their Smartphone
  • 28 per cent of UK adults people use their mobile phones for internet access.
  • Over half (55%) of adults and three-quarters (74%) of teens have used their smartphone for social networking, with 40% of adults and 62% of teens doing this regularly
  • The majority of homes in the UK are now connected to the internet with  91% of households with children have internet access.


Teenagers use of Smart Phones

  • Nearly half of all teens (47%) now own a smartphone
  • 60 per cent of teens are ‘highly addicted’ to their Smartphone.
  • Teenage girls are more addicted to their phones than boys (53% say they have ‘high addiction’ across all mobile phones, compared to 38% among boys).
  • BlackBerry handsets are the most popular choice among teens (37%). Female teens, in particular, appear to have a preference for BlackBerry handsets (44%)
  • The top three activities/functions used regularly by teens on Smartphones are social networking (62%), listening to music (62%), and playing games (50%)
  • The most popular social networking site used by teens is Facebook (97%). Twitter comes in second (26%), followed by MySpace (13%) and Bebo (10%).
  • Eighty-three per cent of teen smartphone social networkers claim to access social networking via their smartphone at least once a day with 29% using it every couple of hours of more.
  • Forty per cent of teen smartphone users are on a contract (significantly lower than the 77% of adults) compared to 19% of teen standard mobile phone users. Most teens have their phone bills paid for by adults (82%), although nearly one in five (18%) claim to pay their phone bill themselves.
  • The majority of teens make calls every day (56% of smartphone users and 35% of regular phone users). But a significantly higher proportion of teens send text messages every day (80% of smartphone users and 57% of regular phone users).
  • 23 per cent of Teenagers claim to watch less TV and 15 per cent admit they read fewer books since owning a smartphone


In the bathroom and at the dinner table – use of Smartphones in daily life

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

Over half (51 per cent) of adults and two thirds (65 per cent) of teenagers say they have used their smartphone while socialising with others, nearly a quarter (23 per cent) of adults and a third (34 per cent) of teenagers have used them during mealtimes and over a fifth (22 per cent) of adult and nearly half (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.


Work/life balance

Ofcom’s research found that the line between work and social time is also becoming increasingly blurred.  Thirty 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 take part in work calls while on holiday or annual leave.  Seventy per cent say they have ever done so, with a quarter (24 per cent) admitting to doing so regularly, compared with just 16 per cent of ordinary mobile phone users.

71% of teens with smartphones generally have their mobile phoned switched on all the time. This compares to 51% of regular mobile phone users in the same age group.


“Generation App”

The research also looked at the popularity of applications, or ‘apps’, among smartphone users and found that just under half (47 per cent) of adult smartphone users have downloaded an app – with many people taking advantage of the availability of free apps.

Teenage smartphone owners are more likely to have paid for an app download (38 per cent) than adult owners, amongst whom just a quarter (25 per cent) had paid for an app.

Teenagers are most likely to part with their pocket money for games, with a third (32 per cent) having 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).


“Generation gap”

 Nine out of ten adults (90 per cent) aged 35-44 have the internet at home, this falls to just a quarter (26 per cent) of over 75s.

And while virtually all (99 per cent) 25-34s own a mobile phone, only half (51 per cent) of over 75s own a mobile, with this age group more likely to have a landline (94 per cent) than 16-24s (67 per cent).

When asked what media would be missed the most, people aged over 75 are also far more likely to miss their TVs the most (65 per cent), followed by radio (15 per cent) and newspapers/magazines (8 per cent).  The picture is very different for young adults aged 16-24 who would most miss their mobile phone (28 per cent), followed by the internet (26 per cent) and TV (23 per cent).

However, there is evidence that older age groups are catching up in the adoption of technology.  For the first time, over half (55 per cent) of those aged 65-74 have access to the internet at home while over three quarters (77 per cent) now have a mobile.




Some material adapted from


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