mobile phone train

Internet dependency on the rise in the UK as voice calls drop for the first time

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Most people in the UK are dependent on their digital devices and need a constant connection to the internet, according to research published by Ofcom.

The regulator’s annual Communications Market Report also found that 75 per cent of smartphone owners consider using a mobile for phone calls to be important, compared with 92 per cent who think using the device for internet browsing is important. The findings also tally with findings that the number of phone calls made has fallen for the first time as users flock to alternative methods of communication such as WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger.

Total outgoing mobile call volumes dropped by 2.5 billion minutes last year to 148.6 billion minutes, the first decrease since data collection started, Ofcom said.

In contrast to just 10 years ago, most people now say they need and expect a constant internet connection wherever they go, with 64 per cent of adults describing it as an essential part of their life.

Half of all UK adults (50 per cent) say their life would be “boring” without the internet, around a third say they feel cut off or lost without it and 17 per cent find it stressful without a connection.

“Over the last decade, people’s lives have been transformed by the rise of the smartphone, together with better access to the internet and new services,” said Ian Macrae, Ofcom’s director of market intelligence. “Whether it’s working flexibly, keeping up with current affairs or shopping online, we can do more on the move than ever before. But while people appreciate their smartphone as their constant companion, some are finding themselves feeling overloaded when online, or frustrated when they’re not.”

Three quarters of people said their smartphones helped keep them close to friends and family, Ofcom found. But conversely 54 per cent said connected devices interrupted face-to-face conversations with the same people, while more than two in five also admitted to spending too much time online.

Overall, people claim to spend an average of 24 hours each week online - double the amount of time spent in 2007. While A fifth of British adults now spend more than 40 hours a week online. Two in five adults (40 per cent) first look at their phone within five minutes of waking up, rising to 65 per cent of those aged under 35, while 37 per cent of adults check their phones five minutes before lights out, again rising to 60 per cent of under-35s.

The study revealed disagreement between older and younger generations about acceptable smartphone use around others, and many admitted that the way they behave in public on their smartphones is unacceptable “in principle”.

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