Ofcom report reveals UK addiction to smartphones

Ofcom research reveals Britons 'highly addicted' to smartphones

The latest Ofcom research has revealed the extent to which the UK has become addicted to smartphones.

Over a quarter of adults and almost half of teenagers now own a smartphone, which includes devices such as the iPhone, Blackberry and Android phones. Fifty-nine per cent got their smartphone over the past year.

The Ofcom report found that smartphone users made significantly more calls and sent more text messages than regular mobile phone owners and they also reported cutting back on activities such as reading books and newspapers and watching TV since buying a smartphone.

Smartphone owners were more likely to have their phones switched on 24 hours a day and were more inclined to flout requests to switch the devices off in cinemas and theatres than regular mobile phone users, the report found. Owners of the devices were also more likely to use their phones during social occasions, at mealtimes and even in the bathroom and toilet.

Ofcom’s report also found evidence of smartphones blurring the divide between work and holidays with 30 per cent of smartphone owners regularly taking personal calls during working hours. Leisure time was also affected, with 24 per cent of smartphone owners regularly taking part in work-related phone calls on holiday, rising to 29 per cent who accessed work emails.

The top three activities used regularly by teenage smartphone owners were social networking, listening to music and playing games, with emails, internet surfing and social networking the most popular activities for adult smartphone owners.

A total of 18 per cent of adult smartphone users said they had used their phone in a venue such as a cinema or theatre where they had been asked to switch it off compared to 10 per cent of regular mobile phone users. This figure rose to 27 per cent of teenage smartphone owners compared to 17 per cent of their contemporaries who used ordinary mobiles.

The findings come from face-to-face interviews with 2,073 adults and an online survey of 521 12 to 15-year-olds conducted in March.

Smartphones were described in the survey as allowing users to easily access emails, download files and applications as well as view websites and surf the internet.

The Apple iPhone is the most popular brand overall, Ofcom said, but BlackBerry handsets are the most popular choice among younger consumers, according to Ofcom.

James Thickett, director of research for Ofcom, said the higher levels of willingness to keep smartphones switched on in venues such as cinemas and theatres raised issues about “social etiquette and modern manners and the degree to which we as a society are tolerant of this behaviour”.

“I think what we have found before is that teenagers have always been more likely to use mobile phones in cinemas and theatres. What we are finding now is that for smartphone users, it is much, much higher, but adult smartphone users as well. So it is not just about adults and teenagers having different values, it is about technology driving the values towards the way you behave in social situations.”

Other findings in the Ofcom report include:

- A majority of homes are connected to the internet, from 25 per cent in 2000 to 76 per cent in 2011.

- Nine out of 10 people own a mobile phone and one in seven households are now mobile-only.

- The majority of homes have adopted multi-channel TV, from 36 per cent in 2000 to 93 per cent in 2010.

- The number of minutes people spent talking on the mobile phone - voice minutes - has grown by 250 per cent over the past decade from 35 billion to 125 billion a year.

- The number of text messages sent increased by 2,000 per cent in the same period, from seven billion to 129 billion.

- Average radio listening hours fell from three hours and 24 minutes in 2000 to three hours and 12 minutes a day in 2010.

- TV has proved resilient over the past decade - with viewers currently watching just over four hours a day, up by around 18 minutes over 10 years.

- Despite growth, the digital revolution has passed some people by. Nine out of 10 adults, or 90 per cent of the 35 to 44 age group have the internet at home, but this falls to just over a quarter, 26 per cent, of over 75s.

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