Survey: Australians’ increasing mobile usage

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Australians are holding onto their mobile phones for longer, using more data, watching more TV  ‘in the hand’, and are, increasingly, being influenced by digital giants such as Google, Amazon and Apple as smartphones tighten their grip on their every-day lives.

The 2018 Deloitte Mobile Consumer Survey shows almost a quarter of all Australians are already watching live TV shows on their phones each week, and with 5G around the corner, world trends suggest the smartphone could rival the traditional TV set for viewing attention.

Australians are also trading passwords for fingerprints, with a 23 per cent lift in the number taking up biometric fingerprint authentication on their phones. This includes a 53 per cent lift in the number using fingerprint technology to authorise payments and purchases, and a 67 per cent lift in the number using fingerprint technology to authorise money transfers to other people.

While the overall number of people using their mobile phones for in-store transactions remains stable at 26 per cent, the further integration of fingerprint technology could be the key to greater ‘phone-uptake’ at the cash register by offering increased security with the convenience of multiple cards in one smartphone ‘wallet’.

The 2018 Deloitte survey suggests saturation point may have been hit in terms of market penetration of smartphones, with 89 per cent of Australians (88 per cent in 2017) now owning one.

While Australians seem prepared to pay more for handsets (as much as the cost of a laptop) when we do buy them, the number of people with new phones (less than 18 months old) has fallen to 58 per cent from 61 per cent in 2016 and more of us have older phones (aged between 18-30 months).

Deloitte Partner and National Telecommunications lead, Peter Corbett, said this did not mean Australians’ obsession with the smartphone was wavering in any way. “Over the last 10 years, the story of mobility has focused on access – the proportion of phone users is now unlikely to rise significantly.”

“What we are seeing now is a shift to understanding the many ways we can interact with mobile technology and the influence it has on human behaviours. The extent to which smartphones occupy our lives is growing, and overseas comparisons suggest we are far from peak usage.”

“The smartphone is becoming even more central to the way we work (70 per cent of us use smartphones for work, while 90 per cent of businesses rank a connected work place in their top priorities), the way we access entertainment and how we carry out our daily lives.

“A consumer’s choice of phone impacts their access to the cloud, the expanding world of voice assistants, streaming services, smart home technologies, the ways people pay for goods and services, and even the ways they monitor their daily health.

“The impact of replacing a handset can now have significant influence on the services we access, which is another reason people are changing phones less often.”

The survey notes third party analysis that Apple’s services division grew by 30 per cent to May 18 (US$9.2bn) while its phone sales grew by only 3 per cent.

Thirty-nine percent of Australians think they use their phones too often. Of these, 26 per cent are successful in limiting their use, while 34 per cent are trying but not succeeding.

The temptations to reach for the phone are only going to get stronger as faster download speeds and increased reliability from 5G networks could see Australia move closer to experiences in China where researchers have indicated that the average Chinese consumer spends more time watching content on their smartphones (2hrs 39 minutes per day) than their TVs (2hrs 32 minutes per day). Thirty-nine per cent of Australian users say they would switch to a 5G network as soon as it was available, or upon hearing good reports about its performance.

Deloitte consulting partner Kate Huggins said that the rise of ‘telco-tainment’, the bundling of video TV streaming and entertainment services with phone contracts, unlimited data plans, and mobile enabled streaming services, is encouraging Australians to watch more long-form video content on their phones.

“There is a lot more room for growth here – streaming services continue to grow their subscriber bases, unlimited plans have only just hit the market, and 5G is around the corner; simultaneous streaming within the home will be an important use case,” Huggins said.

“We are also starting to see sports content that was historically blacked out for streaming become available – for example Channel Nine acquired the digital rights to the NRL in 2018 and included the rights to live stream three games each week of the regular season, including the Grand Final.

“All of which is going to increase our thirst for data. But while our smartphones themselves are achieving luxury status and pricing to match, the data which is their lifeblood is increasingly commoditised. Pricing and business models will be one of the most vexing areas for telcos in the year to come.”

The survey shows consumers already upgrading to larger data plans with 42 per cent opting for 5GB or more, compared to 29 per cent in 2017. Just 4 per cent of mobile consumers are on unlimited data plans.

Other key survey findings:

  • Only 22 per cent of smartphone users regard their existing mobile network as ‘always good enough’ during commutes
  • 23 per cent of smartphone users watch live TV each week (19 per cent in 2017, 6 per cent in 2016)
  • 23 per cent of smartphone users stream films or TV shows each week (18 per cent in 2017)
  • 19 per cent of smartphone users watch catch-up TV (15 per cent in 2017)
  • More Australians are buying their phones outright, despite rising prices for new technologies. Only 53 per cent of iPhone X purchasers in 2018 bought phones through plans compared with 63 per cent of iPhone 7 customers in 2017. Samsung’s S9 release drew a similar response with 69 per cent purchasing through contracts in 2018, compared with 81 per cent for the S8 the previous year
  • More Australians (58 per cent) are choosing to purchase their smartphones in-store, predominantly from mobile operators or electronic retailers (54 per cent in 2017) where they can receive user advice
  • Voice technology is also becoming louder, of the 42 per cent of users aware of voice capabilities on their phones, 54 per cent now use the function each week
  • An overwhelming majority of Australians (84 per cent) remain concerned about how companies use, store and share their personal data and 76 per cent (a 15 per cent increase from 2017) of smartphone users believe that companies share their personal data with third parties all or most of the time
  • Eighteen to twenty-four year olds are becoming increasingly aware of privacy risks with  67 per cent (up from 55 per cent in 2017) believing companies share their data with third parties all or most of the time, but they are not as aware as over 45s where the figure is 78 per cent
  • At the same time 52 per cent of all respondents ‘almost always’ fail to read privacy terms and conditions, 50 per cent do not clear their browsing histories and 43 per cent do not adjusting privacy settings on social media sites.

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