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BizReport : Mobile Marketing : August 10, 2015

UK: Smartphones overtake laptops and PCs for browsing Internet

The UK is now a smartphone society. In what is being called a "landmark shift", smartphones are now the preferred device to go online in the UK, according to a new report from Ofcom.

by Helen Leggatt

People in the UK now spend almost twice as long on their smartphones than on laptops and PCs, according to Ofcom. Adult mobile users were found to spend, on average, nearly two hours online each day using a smartphone (1 hour 54 minutes) compared to just over an hour on laptops and PCs.

"The key driver of this change is coming from age groups, particularly the young age groups," says Jane Rumble, director of market intelligence at Ofcom. "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," proclaimed Rumble.

4G, which allows video and streaming services to be watched on mobile devices, was first introduced to the UK in 2012 and, found Ofcom, subscriptions rose significantly from 2.7 million in the final quarter of 2013 to 23.6 million in Q4 2014. Almost two-thirds (62%) of 4G mobile subscribers told Ofcom they "couldn't live without it" compared to 52% of all smartphone users.

Smartphone users with 4G are doing more online than those without. They were found by Ofcom to be shopping online more than those without 4G (55% versus 35%), banking more online (55% versus 33%), watching more television and video clips online (57% versus 40%), making more face-to-face and voice calls over the Internet (28% versus 20%) and instant messaging more with services such as WhatsApp (63% versus 50%).

"4G has supercharged our smartphones, helping people do everything from the weekly shop to catching up with friends with a face-to-face video call," says James Thickett, Ofcom Director of Research. "For the first time, smartphones have overtaken laptops as the UK's most popular internet device and are now the hub of our daily lives."

Additional findings from the report include:

- Use of tablets for online access rose to 19% in 2015, up from 15% in 2014 and 8% in 2013;

- PCs now account for just 14% of Internet access;

- Total amount of time spent online rose from 9.9 hours per week in 2005, to 20.5 hours per week in 2014;

- A quarter of mobile Internet users now use their device to make a purchase or find a store location; and,

- At least one 4G mobile broadband service is now available to 89.5% of UK premises.

Despite the rise in Internet and mobile use, Ofcom found that traditional television remains the main source of entertainment. UK adults watched, on average, three hours and 40 minutes of television per day in 2014, 11 minutes less than in 2013. Last year was the second year in a row the television watching time declined.

"2015 is quickly shaping up to be the year that the smartphone takes over online commerce. Google kicked things off earlier this year by optimizing its search algorithm to favor mobile users, and today's news only confirms that mobiles have become peoples' go-to device for web access," said Kevin Dallas, Chief Product Officer at Worldpay eCommerce, in reaction to Ofcom's report.

"The smartphone lies at the center of our on-demand lifestyle, and companies that want to keep engaging online shoppers must adapt to this reality or risk becoming irrelevant."

Tags: Internet trends, mobile trends, UK

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