UK: Mobile Consumer 2015: The UK Cut - Game Of Phones

Last Updated: 24 September 2015
Article by Deloitte LLP

Most Read Contributor in UK, August 2017

FOREWORD

With every year the smartphone becomes yet more ubiquitous and pervasive: 76 per cent of adults in the UK now have one, up six percentage points from last year. 32 million smartphones – one for every other person in the country – are forecast to ship this year. Collectively UK consumers glance at their smartphones over a billion times every day.

But the most fascinating aspect of the adoption of the smartphone is the extent to which it has become not just our primary access to digital, but an ever more comprehensive and capable remote control for life.

As we head home on a typical British autumnal day on a bus stuck in rush hour traffic and with rain streaking the windows, we can use our smartphones to look up the forecast for the weekend (grim) and contrast this with the outlook for a Mediterranean city (great). An algorithm could serve us an ad on our phones offering last minute flights to that destination for that weekend, payment for which we could authorise with a fingerprint.

As our current wardrobe may predominantly consist of wet-weather gear, we could browse for shorts and T-shirts from our favourite retailer, then select to have this delivered to a click-and-collect locker the following day, using a code sent to the smartphone.

To celebrate the trip we could agree to go for a meal with our partner using instant messaging (IM), and reserve a table via an app.

We could get directions to the eatery via our smartphone, or abandon the bus and use an app to locate and summon a taxi. The same device could display an estimated time of arrival, rate a driver, make a payment and receive a receipt.

At the restaurant, our phone can show the menu, order the food, post a photo of each course to a social network, and at the end of the meal, pay the bill.

And at no time, from bus to bill, would we have had to utter a word.

We hope you enjoy this year's Deloitte mobile consumer survey, UK edition, whose 4,000 respondents are part of a 30 country review of mobile usage spanning 49,000 respondents.

BRITAIN, DISTRACTED

The modern, touchscreen-based smartphone is a mere eight years old and is more embedded in our lives than ever.

For tens of millions of UK consumers, it has become the most personal, most coveted of companions, rarely leaving our side. It has become essential: it accompanies and participates in many of our daily rituals; it is the conduit for and the catalogue of our conversations.1 Collectively, UK consumers look at their smartphones over a billion times a day.2

Every couple of years, as our smartphones become sluggish and increasingly lack the energy to make it through the day, we trade up for a younger, sleeker, more powerful model, which we convince ourselves we got for free. In the UK, more than 32 million smartphones are purchased every year; a further six million are handed down.3

Most UK consumers use their smartphones at every opportunity. Two-thirds of smartphone owners use their devices while on public transport; 60 per cent while at work and almost half while meeting a friend (see Figure 1). For younger age groups, usage intensity is higher still: 80 per cent of 18-24 year-olds use their devices on public transport; a fifth when crossing the road.

The smartphone is our companion on special occasions. Almost a third of us (and 43 per cent of 18-24 year-olds) use our phones while eating in a restaurant. At the theatre, as the curtain descends for the interval, smartphones light up as we check on distant friends – prior to chatting to adjacent ones. At sports days and prize-giving ceremonies, some parents choose to observe their children via the miniscule prism of a smartphone screen, trading a full-screen view for digitised posterity. Holidays of a lifetime are captured and communicated by smartphones in real-time in words, photos and, increasingly, videos.

Figure 1. Usage of smartphones while doing other activities
Question. How often, if at all, do you use your smartphone while doing the following?

Note: Respondents for whom a particular activity does not apply have been excluded from this analysis (e.g. respondents who do not work have not been asked if they use their phone in a business meeting).
Weighted base: Respondents who own or have access to a smartphone (3,039)
Source: UK edition, Deloitte Global Mobile Consumer Survey, May-Jun 2015

One in ten smartphone owners reaches for his or her device immediately upon waking (and not just to turn the alarm off), and within 15 minutes, 55 per cent have done so (see Figure 2). Almost half of 18-24 year-olds, but only 16 per cent of 65-75 year-olds, check their smartphones within five minutes of waking. Upon waking, we reach for our devices to see who has communicated with us, looking principally for texts, emails and social network updates. The ritual is repeated at bedtime: more than a quarter check their smartphone within five minutes before turning off the light (see Figure 2).

Figure 2. Interval between waking up and looking at smartphones and between preparing to sleep and looking at smartphones
Question. Typically how long is the interval between waking up and looking at your phone for the first time (not including turning off your phone's alarm clock)?

Note: Respondents who answered "Don't know" have been excluded from this analysis
Weighted base: Respondents who own or have access to a smartphone (3,039)
Source: UK edition, Deloitte Global Mobile Consumer Survey, May-Jun 2015

UK consumers look at their smartphones 400 billion times a year with the most frequent glancing undertaken by younger age groups (see Figure 3). While the cost of a handset worth £700 owned for two years is approximately £1 a day, for the sixth of smartphone owners who look at their devices 50 times or more a day, the cost per glance is a mere two pence. And that is before allowing for trade-in value.

Figure 3. Frequency of looking at smartphone on a daily basis
Question. How many times would you estimate you look at your smartphone in a day?

Weighted base: Respondents who own or have access to a smartphone (3,039)
Source: UK edition, Deloitte Global Mobile Consumer Survey, May-Jun 2015

Historically, people often reach for their phones reactively, for example when alerted to an incoming message or call. But increasingly, they are checking their phones unprompted, to see whether any messages or updates have arrived since the last glance, or to seek out information. Thirty per cent do this "very often" or "almost always", with almost half of 18-24 year-olds doing this (see Figure 4).

Figure 4. Unprompted checking of smartphones
Question. Thinking about a typical day, how often, if at all, do you tend to check your smartphone without being prompted by a notification?

Weighted base: Respondents who own or have access to a smartphone (3,039)
Source: UK edition, Deloitte Global Mobile Consumer Survey, May-Jun 2015

More UK consumers are subject to distraction by a smartphone as penetration continues to rise. As of May 2015, 76 per cent of UK adults had one, a six percentage point increase on the prior year and 14 percentage points higher than two years ago.

However, rising ownership of smartphones has not caused the abandonment of other devices (see Figure 5). Laptops, for example, have maintained a penetration rate close to 80 per cent. Tablet penetration has continued to increase, reaching 60 per cent this year. This accumulation of devices should not surprise: each is optimised for a different task and each is its own bundle of compromises. There are good reasons why we would, for example, keep our laptops (for their keyboard, power and screen) or buy more tablets (for their larger screen and lower price).

Figure 5. Laptop, smartphone and tablet ownership among UK adults, 2012-15
Question. Which, if any, of the following devices do you own or have ready access to?

Weighted base (2012/2013/2014/2015): All respondents (2,060/4,020/4,000/4,000)
Source: UK edition, Deloitte Global Mobile Consumer Survey, May-Jun 2012, May 2013, May 2014, May-Jun 2015

While penetration rates may either be maintained or rise, the usage profile of each device is changing. The utility of smartphones is deepening as it consolidates its role as the portable – and increasingly central – portal to a widening range of aspects of our lives, from ordering takeaways to capturing memories, from communicating with our colleagues to making bank transfers to keeping abreast of world news.

In recent years, the smartphone has assumed the mantle of the general purpose digital tool that the PC had a decade back. While a PC may have been shared by a household, the smartphone is personal; the laptop can be carried, but cannot be slipped into a pocket or purse. Over time, the smartphone's usage may become more general, while the PC's may become increasingly specialised.

A decade ago, the PC was the default to every digital interaction and played a central role in delivering the online revolution. Computers relieved us, for example, of the need to meet or call a travel agent to book a flight. They allowed us to check-in for a flight and choose a seat. But now the smartphone can do most of this, and can do it better. It is the boarding pass. It nudges us to head for the gate.

PCs have long been used to book a restaurant. But now a smartphone can easily do this, and also direct us, turn by turn, to the location. At the restaurant, the smartphone can become the menu, and the till too, saving us the time to request, check and pay the bill.4

The smartphone revolution is not yet ten years old, and its work is certainly not done. Imminent device and connectivity innovations should tempt us into becoming yet more reliant on, wedded to and distracted by our smartphones.

Data speeds should continue to increase, thanks to greater 4G network roll-out, upgrades to the more rapid LTE-Advanced and faster WiFi networks. New services, such as Voice over LTE (VoLTE), and emerging apps, such as Periscope, will enrich our communication options. Smartphone photography should get better, too, bolstered by better lenses and software. Falling prices for solid state memory will encourage us to store more of our digital baggage, in the forms of conversations, photos and videos.5 Advances in glass technology should make screens more responsive and more resilient. There is plenty to look forward to – and there is ample further distraction.

Bottom line

The cellular network is core to the appeal of the smartphone. The more the network develops, in terms of reach, reliability and speed, the more useful devices can become. For example, as shown in Figure 6, those on faster networks (4G) are more likely to use their phones while on public transport. Higher speeds enable a smartphone to be used more diversely and make existing applications more enjoyable. Fast networks make mobile commerce pages a pleasure to flick through, rather than a stream of 'waiting for network' notices, and can enable photos to upload to a social network in an instant. Uninterrupted and fast internet connectivity will continue to be a core differentiator for network operators.

Current 4G network performance is now double that of 3G and over 250 times faster than GSM networks' top speed of 58 Kbit/s.6 This increment in performance may appear excessive; arguably users should be content with 3G. But consumer response suggests otherwise: in the year to May 2015, the proportion of 4G customers leapt from eight to 25 per cent.

Suppliers should always remember that the smartphone is at core a communications tool. Mainstream consumers are likely to use higher speed to communicate more, and more richly. Two years ago, when just three per cent of respondents had 4G, the most common used application was watching video. Last year, when eight per cent had 4G, this fell to seventh, and this year, with a quarter of respondents having 4G, it fell further, to eighth. Two of the three more frequently used applications this year were communication tools: email and social networks.

Figure 6. Impact of faster networks on usage of smartphones while on public transport, by 4G ownership
Question. How often, if at all, do you use your smartphone while doing the following (using public transport)?

Note: Respondents who do not use public transport have been excluded from this analysis
Weighted base: Respondents who own or have access to a smartphone (3,039)
Source: UK edition, Deloitte Global Mobile Consumer Survey, May-Jun 2015

To read this Report in full, please click here.

Footnotes

1. To learn more about apps that collate and display (and conceal if/as needed) every smartphone related conversation with another individual, see Love in the time of technology: an app to record every digital moment, The Guardian, 9 August 2015: http://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2015/aug/09/love-in-the-time-of-technology-affairs-apps-deleting

2. The options given to this question were: "Never", "Under 10 times", "Between 11 and 25 times", "Between 26 and 50 times", "Between 51 and 100 times", "Between 101 and 200 times", "Over 200 times" and "I don't know". To calculate the average number of times people look at their device, a mid-point has been taken for all the options in our question with the exception of "Never" where a value of zero has been used and 'Over 200 times' where a value of 250 has been used. Respondents who answered "I don't know" have been excluded from this calculation. An average has been calculated for each age group and then multiplied with the number of smartphone owners in that age group. An estimated value has been used for the 14-17 and 75+ age groups.

3. The estimate for the number of smartphones sold in the UK is a Deloitte estimate based on industry knowledge and publicly available sources. The estimate for the number of smartphones handed down has been calculated by multiplying the total number of smartphones sold in the UK by the proportion of respondents who gave their old phone to a family member or friend (20 per cent).

4. Pizza Express was one of the first restaurants to offer payment via smartphone. See The Pizza Express App: Pay for your meal via PayPal!, Mobile Industry Review, 16 June 2011: http://www.mobileindustryreview.com/2011/06/the-pizza-express-app-pay-for-your-meal-via-paypal.html

5. SSD Prices In A Free Fall, NetworkComputing, 19 June 2015: http://www.networkcomputing.com/storage/ssd-prices-in-a-free-fall/a/d-id/1320958

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