More than half (53 per cent) of 16-75-year-olds in the UK use their smartphones while walking – the equivalent of around 22 million people – according to the latest research from Deloitte. For younger consumers aged 16-24, the proportion rises to 74 per cent. Worryingly, more than 4.5 million people (11 per cent of respondents) also admit to using their smartphones while crossing the road. This proportion almost doubles for 16-24-year-olds (21 per cent).
Deloitte’s seventh annual Mobile Consumer Survey, State of the smart, which analyses the mobile usage habits of 4,150 people in the UK, has found that 85 per cent of 16-75-year olds now own or have access to a smartphone. This is an increase of four percentage points from 2016 and 33 percentage points from 2012. For 18-24-year-olds, market penetration is at a record 96 per cent.
“Most people can relate to ‘smartphone zombies’, either through being one or bumping into one,” noted Paul Lee, head of research for technology, media and telecoms at Deloitte, comments. “But this is just one indication of just how infatuated we are with these devices, for better or worse. While we may be glued to our smartphones, it is important to acknowledge that these devices are also, increasingly, the glue that is binding society together, and will soon become the primary way to communicate, interact and transact with customers and fellow citizens.”
Deloitte’s research shows that the UK’s continued love of smartphones continues to affect almost every aspect of daily life, including night-time. Among 16-19-year-olds, two-thirds (66 per cent) check their phones in the middle of the night, double that of all UK respondents (33 per cent). More than a quarter of ‘screenagers’ (26 per cent) actively respond to messages they receive after falling asleep at night.
More than a third (34 per cent) of respondents look at their smartphones within five minutes of waking, and over half (55 per cent) do so within a quarter of an hour. At the end of the day, more than three-quarters (79 per cent) check their smartphones within the last hour before going to sleep.
Deloitte’s research also reveals that half of all UK meals taken at home with friends or family, approximately 20 million per week, are disrupted by individuals using their smartphones.
“If the first 10 years has been about changing our social lives, the next 10 years will be about changing our working lives,” predicted Dan Adams, UK lead partner for telecoms at Deloitte. “The smartphone’s attractiveness lies in the fact that it is the definitive multi-purpose consumer device: a digital Swiss Army knife with a set of tools that is millions of apps deep.”
“Importantly, what goes on behind the smartphone’s screen is only getting smarter through machine learning, facial recognition and other technological advancements, so it is a device that will continue to offer an ever-widening array of benefits and challenges for years to come.”
Call to attention: awareness of usage
For the first time, this year’s research has captured smartphone owners’ self-awareness of their device usage. Two-fifths (38 per cent) of respondents believe that they are using their phone too much –around 15.5 million people. Significantly, this perception is most apparent among younger consumers: 56 per cent of 16-24-year-olds believe they are overusing their phone. By comparison, just 16 per cent of those aged 55-64 think they use their phone too much.
In addition, 60 per cent of parents believe their children use their phone too much, and 41 per cent of respondents in a relationship think their partner is spending too much time on their phone.
Of respondents who believe they use their phone too much, 14 per cent are making an effort to control their usage, and are usually succeeding; 34 per cent are making an effort, but are not normally succeeding and a quarter (26 per cent) are not trying to control their usage, but would like to.
“With every year the smartphone is becoming easier and more enticing to use,” added Lee. “The question is: are we at the point at which smartphones have become almost too good for people to cope with, and if so, what remedies might be required? Interestingly, the steps that people are taking to control smartphone usage have a common theme: removing temptation.”
Smartphones: the short form video star
According to the research, more people are watching video content on their smartphones than ever before. More than half (58 per cent) of smartphone owners watch at least one form of video content on their smartphones every week. In 2012, the proportion was just 18 per cent.
Short videos, live posts and stories are watched by 17 per cent of respondents daily, and skews much higher among younger age groups: 54 per cent of 16-19-year-olds watch short form on smartphones at least once a day, and a further 25 per cent do so at least weekly. Longer video content, such as films and TV shows, is viewed weekly by 15 per cent of all respondents, with a fifth of 16-19-year-olds doing so on a daily basis.
“The smartphone is becoming more important for video,” advised Adams. “Mobile and fixed operators will need to ensure that their networks are configured to be able to cope with the expected demands that higher video consumption will place. As network bandwidth improves, video could increasingly be streamed into cars, buses and trains for passengers’ consumption, mirroring what has happened with audio streaming.”
The smartphone generation game
Smartphone adoption among 55-75-year-olds in the UK has now reached 10.3 million, or 71 per cent. Indeed, adoption in this age group has grown 19 per cent CAGR since 2012, making 55-75-year-olds the fastest-growing adopters of smartphones over the last five years.
Lee concludes: “There is a growing population of ‘silver swipers’ who are demonstrating similar smartphone behaviours to that of 16-19-year-old ‘screenagers’, which is indicative of the smartphone’s ability to narrow the generation gap. However, whereas smartphone adoption has reached saturation point for younger consumers, we expect device ownership and usage intensity among 55-75-year-olds to rise steadily over the medium term.
“Older consumers will become an increasingly important segment of the mobile industry: they are no longer a fringe group whose smartphone usage remains confined to calls and messages. Armed with proportionally higher disposable income and an increasing awareness of technology, the ‘silver swiper’ may well become a major contributor to future growth in the industry”.