Ofcom research shows that our smartphones are now our primary way of getting online

Smartphones become most popular Internet access device

Smartphones are now the UK's most popular device for getting online, according to research from telecoms regulator Ofcom.

The phones unseated laptop computers as the most popular device for using the Internet, with the larger devices falling from 40 per cent of online connections in 2014 to 30 per cent in 2015.

The multi-purpose handsets however have risen from 23 per cent last year to 33 per cent this year, with younger users the main driver behind the change, said Ofcom's 2015 Communications Market Report.

The change was attributed to the expansion of high-speed 4G data networks by the report, which allows users to watch video on the go. It also found that two-thirds of adults now have a smartphone, up from 39 per cent in 2012, and the amount of time we spend using them to go online has risen to one hour and 54 minutes per day.

Jane Rumble, director of market intelligence at Ofcom, said: "You can see these devices are becoming more and more an important vital hub of information and communication throughout the day, with smartphone owners spending almost two hours (on them) each day, almost double the amount of time that those people are spending on their laptop or desktop.

"The key driver of this change is coming from age groups, particularly the young age groups. Those aged 16 to 24 are much more likely, as well as 25 to 34s, to say their smartphone is the most important device to get online, whereas for the older age groups, they are much more likely to be sticking with their laptop. This is a landmark shift.

"Interestingly, you can also see amongst the 55 to 64s there has been growth as well, so half the older age group now own a smartphone too."

The report found that 52 per cent of all smartphone users told Ofcom they "couldn't live without it", rising to almost two-thirds (62 per cent) of 4G phone owners. Subscriptions to 4G, which was first introduced in the UK in 2012, rose eightfold from 2.7 million in the last quarter of 2013 to 23.6 million in the last quarter of 2014.

"It really is becoming an important and vital device throughout the day. The increase in 4G subscriptions has been very stark in the last year," Rumble added.

The research also found that tablet use had risen to 19 per cent in 2015, up from 15 per cent in 2014 and just 8 per cent in 2013. Conversely traditional desktop computers now accounting for just 14 per cent of Internet use.

But despite the total amount of time people spent online rising from 9.9 hours per week in 2005 to 20.5 hours per week in 2014, television is still the top form of entertainment. The average adult watched three hours and 40 minutes of television per day in 2014, 11 minutes less than in 2013, though last year was the second year in a row the watching time had declined.

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