UK public are ‘glued to their smartphones’

  • Survey of 4,150 16-75-year-olds reveals UK smartphone owners’ device usage habits.
  • 85% of respondents – 41 million people – now own or have access to a smartphone.
  • More than half admit to using their phone while walking; 4.5 million while crossing the road.
  • Quarter of 16-19-year-olds respond to messages they receive in the middle of the night.
  • 55-75-year-old ‘silver swipers’ are the fastest-growing adopters of smartphones.

More than half (53%) 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%. Worryingly, more than 4.5 million people (11% of respondents) also admit to using their smartphones while crossing the road. This proportion almost doubles for 16-24-year-olds (21%).

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% 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%.

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%) check their phones in the middle of the night, double that of all UK respondents (33%). More than a quarter of ‘screenagers’ (26%) actively respond to messages they receive after falling asleep at night.

More than a third (34%) of respondents look at their smartphones within five minutes of waking, and over half (55%) do so within a quarter of an hour. At the end of the day, more than three-quarters (79%) 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.

Dan Adams, UK lead partner for telecoms at Deloitte, said: “If the first 10 years has been about changing our social lives, the next 10 years will be about changing our working lives. 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.”

For the first time, this year’s research has captured smartphone owners’ self-awareness of their device usage. Two-fifths (38%) 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% of 16-24-year-olds believe they are overusing their phone. By comparison, just 16% of those aged 55-64 think they use their phone too much.

In addition, 60% of parents believe their children use their phone too much, and 41% 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% are making an effort to control their usage, and are usually succeeding; 34% are making an effort, but are not normally succeeding and a quarter (26%) are not trying to control their usage, but would like to.

Smartphone adoption among 55-75-year-olds in the UK has now reached 10.3 million, or 71%. Indeed, adoption in this age group has grown 19% CAGR since 2012, making 55-75-year-olds the fastest-growing adopters of smartphones over the last five years.

Lee concluded: “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”.


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